Asheville’s nonwhite literary scene, past and present, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at a history of discrimination and policies, such as urban renewal, that marginalized the voices of nonwhite writers in Asheville and throughout Appalachia. Educational institutions — or lack thereof — impacted that suppression of diverse literature, including the Asheville area’s lack of a historically black college or university. And, while efforts are now being made to address diversity in education, there are still shortfalls.

Asheville High School was integrated in 1969 — nearly 50 years ago — but local author, poet and playwright Monica McDaniel says she only remembers having four black teachers when she was a student, and her teenage daughter has only had one.

At the same time, local author Meta Commerse, who recently published The Mending Time, taught for four years at an area community college but found the experience to be difficult. “I was the only woman of color,” she remembers. “It was very isolating, very challenging.”

She continues, “I had some great times overall with my students, but I definitely had, most of the time in my classes, students who pushed back. I taught true history … and they weren’t used to that.”

Lesson plans

TO TELL THE TRUTH: Author and Story Medicine program director Meta Commerse was hired for a time, by a well-intentioned department head, to teach “in an indigenous voice,” at a local college. “I don’t think either of us realized what the cost of that would be,” she says. Photo courtesy of Commerse