Guest Post by Kevin Brown
Tajja Isen’s collection Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service draws from her background as a Canadian woman of color. However, her writing doesn’t try to explain her pain or oppression, as she asserts in “This Time It’s Personal,” an exploration of the personal essay focusing on who tells their stories (and are allowed to tell their stories) in ways that reinforce that pain. Instead, she examines the systems she’s most familiar with — voice actors in animation, the literary canon and publishing, law, affirmative action, protest, nationality — and points out the ways they cause the pain and oppression individuals endure. She integrates her experiences, and she then critiques the hierarchies and structures that have led to those experiences. Her work reminds readers of the reality behind personal essays, pointing out that lives and essays don’t occur in a vacuum. Instead, people in power (mainly white males) design systems to reinforce their power and to keep other people (primarily people of color, especially women) from obtaining any power of their own. If, like me, you think you already know that to be true, Isen’s essays will help you see it in places you don’t expect and in ways you often overlook.
Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service by Tajja Isen. Atria, April 2022.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.