My interview with D. Watkins got off to an awkward start. When he arrived for our appointment, I was standing in the street with tears pouring down my face and a copy of The Baltimore Sun in my hand–the cover of the Arts and Entertainment section featured an unflattering story about me under the headline “BURN BOOK” and a large photo captioned with a quote from D himself: “Marion’s not trying to win any popularity awards.” It was an odd choice to pluck that line out of this story about our time working together in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore, but that was just the beginning of the things that made me sad about this article.
Fortunately, my former student was the perfect person to help me get through my rocky morning. On the eve of publication of his third book of essays, “We Speak for Ourselves: A Word from Forgotten Black America” (Atria, 188 pp, $25), he’s learned a lot about dealing with the ups and downs of publicity. So that’s where our talk about his new book began. It was held over brunch at Johnny’s–chosen because we thought it would be quiet on a Sunday morning. We forgot about the Easter Bunny, who was brunching there as well, along with half of Roland Park and their kids.