Thomas Glave was a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall from 2012–13. Having recently been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Nottingham and become Associate Editor of Wasafiri, he offers a glimpse into his life and career to date
I was born in the Bronx, New York, and grew up there and in Kingston, Jamaica.
I graduated from Bowdoin College and Brown University in the USA, and was awarded my first Fulbright Fellowship in 1998, for a year of study and writing in Jamaica. During that year in Jamaica I worked on issues of social justice with other local activists, and helped to found the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays, which to this date remains one of the few major human rights advocacy organisations in the Caribbean region.
I’m the author of four books and the editor of an anthology; Whose Song? and Other Stories (2000), Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent (2005, Lambda Literary Award winner), The Torturer’s Wife (2008, Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist), Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles (2008, Lambda Literary Award winner), and Among the Bloodpeople: Politics and Flesh (2013). I have been Martin Luther King Jr Visiting Professor at MIT, Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Warwick, and was just awarded my second Fulbright Fellowship for 2021–22 at the University of Nottingham, in addition to having just been named an Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Liverpool.
I’m presently completing a book about the year I spent at Clare Hall, as well as another long work of fiction.
In 2021 I’ve led ‘Writing through Covid’-themed workshops for Writing West Midlands (UK) and Wasafiri, and have taught masterclasses at the University of Liverpool. I’ve recently published work in Transition and Wasafiri, and have new work forthcoming in The White Review. I was invited to join the Wasafiri staff of associate editors in 2017, after having worked for 13 years as a book review editor and contributing editor for another literary journal I loved and still love, Callaloo (based in the US). Wasafiri, like Callaloo, is a visually gorgeous literary journal, published quarterly. We celebrated the journal’s 30th year of publication in 2019 with a moving, historical literary gathering at the British Library. Wasafiri has consistently been dedicated to finding and publishing the best international creative writing out there, and has featured marvellous fiction, poetry, nonfiction and life writing from every continent and many countries.
Our passionate work for Wasafiri […] comes from our love and respect for it and the wide presence it has made in the world for writing from previously overlooked contexts
Although I’ve long admired Wasafiri from elsewhere, I never thought that I would one day work as one of its editors.
An editor and trustee one day invited me, without warning, to join the journal, and I gladly accepted. It has been especially fascinating to work with the other Wasafiri editors within a structure completely different from Callaloo’s, but with a similar remit (Callaloo seeks the best creative and scholarly work from and about African America and the African diaspora). Our passionate work for Wasafiri, almost entirely unremunerated, comes from our love and respect for it and the wide presence it has made in the world for writing from previously overlooked contexts.
There have been numerous Wasafiri highlights, so to speak; the principal one, apart from working with the other editors and taking great pleasure in each new issue which we know we helped to produce, is attending our meetings during which we talk about future journal projects. Wasafiri’s most recent issue (Spring 2021) is titled ‘After Grenfell’. The title opens a wide door into fascinating and provocative discussions within the issue. If I haven’t yet made it clear, Wasafiri is a seriously phenomenal journal of which to be a part, and I feel privileged to be one of its editors.
What I especially enjoyed about my time at Clare Hall was living at West Court —
which made all the difference during my time in Cambridge, green and quiet and almost sylvan as the Court is. I loved getting to know Clare Hall’s porters and gardeners, and dining with them during lunch (which I noticed Visiting Fellows and lecturers/tutors often didn’t do), which taught me much more about the British class system and to some degree how it operated within Cambridge University — of particular interest to me as someone of Jamaican background, with a history impacted by the former British Empire; and I really enjoyed getting to know some of my fellow Visiting Fellows, some of whom have remained friends. Being Black at Clare Hall, and at the University of Cambridge, also taught me an enormous amount, as I quickly learned that I couldn’t take for granted some of the realities that other (white) Cambridge people could. I’ve written about some of this in my in-progress manuscript about the Clare Hall year, and two essays in my last book Among the Bloodpeople also dealt with this subject.
Something I appreciated about Clare Hall was its (usually) egalitarian atmosphere in daily Visiting Fellow life, eschewing high tables, etc (which I experienced in the several other Cambridge colleges that I visited and where I had and still have friends, and also at Oxford). During the Clare Hall year I got to know a few people at King’s College in particular, among them Malachi McIntosh, who at the time was a King’s Fellow and lecturer in the Faculty of English, and is now Wasafiri’s editor in chief! We dined as each’s guest in each’s college. Some years after my Clare Hall time I interacted with the renowned Latin American scholar and Clare Hall Emeritus Fellow, Professor David Brading, whom I didn’t know when at the College. These are examples of the rich experiences made possible by my Clare Hall year. (Add to that my annual participation in the Cambridge half marathon!)
At Liverpool and Nottingham in 2021 and 2022, I intend to write, to write, and to do some more writing, and a lot of reading.
I’d like to complete two more books apart from those in progress and mentioned. I also want to return, in a hopefully safer Covid time, to running marathons and half-marathons.
Learn about Wasafiri via their website at https://www.wasafiri.org