Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Olmsted room, Mandelle Hall
Join the 2022 GLCA New Writers Award winner for Creative Non-Fiction,
Melissa Valentine, as she gives a talk and reads from her award
winning book, The Names of All the Flowers.
Writing Through Trauma
Melissa Valentine will talk about the process of writing her memoir, The Names of All the Flowers. She’ll discuss some of the themes of the book, including: growing up in a biracial family in Oakland, CA, the school-to-prison pipeline, trauma, grief, and making meaning out of all of it. How can you write through trauma? What happens on the other end? We will talk craft, courage, and writing about hard things.
Melissa Valentine is an award-winning writer from Oakland, CA whose work explores themes of race, trauma, and healing. Her debut memoir, The Names of All the Flowers, was the winner of the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize. She has been an artist fellow of the New York Foundation for the Arts in Nonfiction Literature. The Names of All the Flowers was selected as the 2021 winner of CLMP’s Firecracker Award in Nonfiction. In 2020 she was visiting professor at University of California at Santa Cruz. Melissa’s writing has appeared in New York Magazine, Guernica, Jezebel, and Apogee among others.
Melissa and her older brother Junior grow up running around the disparate neighborhoods of 1990s Oakland, two of six children to a white Quaker father and a black Southern mother. But as Junior approaches adolescence, a bullying incident and later a violent attack in school leave him searching for power and a sense of self in all the wrong places; he develops a hard front and falls into drug dealing. Right before Junior’s twentieth birthday, the family is torn apart when he is murdered as a result of gun violence.
The Names of All the Flowers connects one tragic death to a collective grief for all black people who die too young. A lyrical recounting of a life lost, Melissa Valentine’s debut memoir is an intimate portrait of a family fractured by the school-to-prison pipeline and an enduring love letter to an adored older brother. It is a call for justice amid endless cycles of violence, grief, and trauma, declaring: “We are all witness and therefore no one is spared from this loss.”
“In this poignant, painful, and gorgeous memoir, Melissa Valentine bravely explores what faces black boys and men, through the eyes of a black woman, sister, daughter, and member of a family whose lives are altered forever, time and time again. The Names of All the Flowers encourages us to be brave too; brave enough to imagine a world that loves black people, in all of our complexities.” —Alicia Garza, cofounder, Black Lives Matter