Past Years' Faculty

2009 Faculty

Photo of Major Jackson by Erin Patrice O'Brien

Major Jackson

Major Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry: Hoops (Norton: 2006) and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia: 2002), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Hoops was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literature - Poetry. His third volume of poetry Holding Company is forthcoming from W.W. Norton.

Jackson is a recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He served as a creative arts fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and as the Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence at University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Major Jackson is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at University of Vermont and a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. He serves as the Poetry Editor of the Harvard Review.

2008 Faculty

Victor LaValle

LaValle was raised in Flushing and Rosedale, Queens. He graduated from Cornell University with a degree in English and received his M.F.A. in Fiction from Columbia University. He has been a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. His books include the story collection, Slapboxing with Jesus, winner of the Pen Open Book Award, and the acclaimed novel, The Ecstatic. He lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing at Columbia University.

Tonya Cherie Hegamin

Hegamin is the author of a young adult novel, M+O 4EVR (Houghton-Mifflin Co., June 2008), a middle grade 'poetic novel', Pemba's Song: A Ghost Story (Scholastic Books, November 2008) and the picture book Most Loved in All the World (Houghton-Mifflin Co., December 2008). She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School University and is an alumna of both Cave Canem and Hedgebrook Retreat.

Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar is Associate Professor and Poet-in-Residence at Central Connecticut State University and the founding editor of the international online journal of the arts, Drunken Boat ( He has published a book of poems, Instrumentality (Cherry Grove, 2004), named a finalist for the 2005 Connecticut Book Awards and a collaborative chapbook, Wanton Textiles (No Tell Motel, 2006). Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he is the co-editor of Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond (W.W. Norton & Co.) available now.

2007 Faculty

Chris Abani

Chris Abani's prose includes the novels The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007) GraceLand (FSG, 2004/Picador 2005), Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985) and the novellas, Becoming Abigail (Akashic, 2006) and Song For Night (Akashic, 2007). His poetry collections are Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon, 2006), Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004), Daphne's Lot (Red Hen, 2003), and Kalakuta Republic (Saqi, 2001). He is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Riverside and the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award & the PEN Hemingway Book Prize. Source:

Kimiko Hahn

Kimiko Hahn was born in 1955 in Mt. Kisco, New York, the child of artists, a Japanese American mother from Hawaii and a German American father from Wisconsin. She received an undergraduate degree in English and east Asian studies from the University of Iowa, and a master's degree in Japanese literature from Columbia University in 1984. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, including The Narrow Road to the Interior (W.W. Norton, 2006); The Artist's Daughter (2002); Mosquito and Ant (1999); Volatile (1998); and The Unbearable Heart (1995), which received an American Book Award.

Hahn is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize, and an Association of Asian American Studies Literature Award. She is a Distinguished Professor in the English department at Queens College/CUNY and lives in New York. Source: Poets & Writers.

Jimmy Santiago Baca

Jimmy Santiago Baca was born in New Mexico of Chicano and Apache descent, and raised first by his grandmother and later sent to an orphanage. A runaway at age thirteen, Baca learned to read and write and found his passion for poetry while serving a five year sentence in a maximum security prison at the age of twenty-one. He is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award, the National Poetry Award, and, for his memoir A Place To Stand, the prestigious International Award. His other books include The Importance of a Piece of Paper; Winter Poems Along the Rio Grande; Healing Earthquakes; C-Train & Thirteen Mexicans; Black Mesa Poems; Martin & Meditations on the South Valley, and Immigrants in Our Own Land. Sources: and Wikipedia

2006 Faculty

Jeffrey Renard Allen

Jeffrey Renard Allen is an award-wining author who has published two books, Harbors and Spirits (Moyer Bell), a collection of poems, and the novel, Rails Under My Back (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000), which won The Chicago Tribune's Heartland Prize for Fiction. His essays, reviews, fiction, and poetry have appeared in several anthologies and numerous publications, including Triquarterly, Ploughshares, Bomb, The Antioch Review, StoryQuarterly, African Voices, African American Review, Callaloo, Other Voices, and The Literary Review. In fall of 2006, Moyer Bell will publish his second collection of poems, Stellar Places. Currently an Associate Professor of English at Queens College, CUNY, and an instructor in the graduate writing programs at New School University and Columbia University, Jeffery Renard Allen was born in Chicago in 1962 and holds a Ph.D. in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Allen is presently at work on the novel Song of the Shank, based on the life of Thomas Greene Wiggins, a nineteenth century piano virtuoso and composer who performed under the stage name Blind Tom.

E. Ethelbert Miller

E. Ethelbert Miller is author author of eight books: Andromeda (1974); The Land of Smiles and the Land of No Smiles (1974); Migrant Worker (1978); Season of Hunger/Cry of Rain (1982); Where are the Love Poems for Dictators? (1986, reprinted in 2001); First Light (1994) Whispers, Secrets and Promises (1998); Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (2000); Buddha Weeping In Winter (2001); How We Sleep On The Nights We Don't Make Love (2004). He is also the editor of four anthologies, including the critically acclaimed, In Search of Color Everywhere , winner of the 1994 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Winner of numerous awards, including the O.B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize, Miller considers himself a "literary activist" and serves on the boards of many organizations, include the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the Writer's Center and the African American Literature and Culture Society. He was Director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University and has been a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. For more information on E. Ethelbert Miller go to his webpage:

Faculty 2005

Photo by Paul Shoul

Martin Espada (Poetry)

Martin Espada is a nationally renowned poet. Hailed by some critics as "the Latino poet of his generation," Espada has won numerous awards for his poetry, including the Gustavus Myers Center Outstanding Book Award, The Pen/Revson Fellowship, the Pateson Poetry Prize, an American Book Award for Imagine the Angels of Bread, which also was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award. He is a Professor in the Department of English at UMASS, Amherst, where he teaches creative writing, Latino poetry, the literature of the Spanish Civil War and the work of Pablo Neruda. For more information on Martin Espada, see his website

Photo by Jackson-Opoku

Sandra Jackson-Opoku (Fiction)

An award-winning poet, fiction writer, scriptwriter, and journalist, Jackson-Opoku has written five books, including the critically acclaimed novel, The River Where Blood is Born, which won the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award for Fiction in 1998.Her other awards, for fiction and non-fiction, include the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, a Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines-General Electric Fiction Award for Younger Writers, and a Ragdale Foundation U.S.-Africa Writers Fellowship. A world traveler, Ms. Jackson-Opoku has lived in parts of West Africa and lived in Nigeria for many years. For more information on Sandra Jackson-Opoku, see the following website:

Patrice Gaines

Patric Gaines is the author of two books, Laughing in The Dark: From Colored Girl to Woman of Color: A Journey from Prison to Power, and Moments of Grace, Meeting the Challenge to Change. She worked for several newspapers during her career as a fulltime reporter, spending the last 16 years as a reporter for Washington Post. While at the Post, she won awards for journalism and for her contributions to the community. She has been a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show and was featured on a segment of Dateline. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Essence Magazine. She has been a commentator on National Public Radio and Pacifica Radio. Today, Gaines is a freelance journalist, writing teacher and motivational speaker.

Faculty 2004

Indira Ganesan

Indira Ganesan was born in Srirangam, India. She was educated at Vassar College and the University of Iowa, and now teaches in the Humanities Division at Southampton College of Long Island University. In 1997 she was awarded a Fellowship at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe. She has held previous fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and at the MacDowell Colony and was a finalist in Granta's Best Young American Novelists contest for her first novel, The Journey. Her novel, Inheritance, was published by Alfred A. Knopf, as was the first. Her writings have appeared in such periodicals as Antaeus, Glamour, Seventeen, and the Women's Review of Books, and in anthologies, such as, Half & Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial & Bicultural.

Tony Medina

Tony Medina is the author of 12 books, including No Noose is Good Noose, DeShawn Days, Love to Langston, Committed to Breathing, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam and Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art. His poetry and fiction appear in over 20 anthologies and two CD compilations. Born in the South Bronx, Medina is currently visiting creative writing professor at Howard University. He has taught English at Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Poetry and American and African American literature from Binghampton University.

Sonia Sanchez

Sanchez is the winner of numerous awards for her work as an activist, a poet, children's author and playwright. She is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems; Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems; Does your house have lions?, which was nominated for both the NAACP Image and National Book Critics Circle Award; Wounded in the House of a Friend; Under a Soprano Sky; and Homegirls & Handgrenades, which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; Her published plays include Black Cats Back and Uneasy Landings and I'm Black When I'm Singing, I'm Blue When I Ain't. Among the many honors she has received are the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began teaching in 1977, and held the Laura Carnell Chair in English there until her retirement in 1999.

Contact Information

If you would like more information about the North Country Institute for Writers of Color, please contact

Center for Black Literature

Dr. Brenda M. Greene
Medgar Evers College, CUNY
1650 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11225

SUNY Plattsburgh

Dr. Jose L. Torres-Padilla
Beaumont Hall 418A
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, N.Y. 12901