In this episode I talk with Yahdon Israel, one of Under the Gum Tree’s previous contributors. Yahdon is 27-year-old writer from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, who has written for Avidly, The New Inquiry, Brooklyn Magazine, LitHub, and Poets & Writers. He graduated from the MFA Creative Nonfiction Writing program at the New School. He is the Awards and Membership VP of the National Book Critics Circle. He runs a popular Instagram page which promotes literature and fashion under the hashtag Literaryswag, and hosts a web show for writers called LIT. Yahdon’s essay “Dorian” appears in the January 2017 issue of Under the Gum Tree.




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In this episode we talk about:

  • Writing as a means to confronting the world
  • Telling lies to find your voice, and writing as a way to be heard
  • Getting to the truth of feelings through false constructs like memory and objectivity
  • How James Baldwin has influenced Yahdon as a writer
  • White editors and their expectation that black writers should answer their questions
  • Complexity of asking questions that reveal assumptions and lies we tell ourselves
  • The essay as a form of asking questions that may never be answered
  • What the literary market wants and expects from writers of color
  • The Women, by Hilton Als
  • The importance of literary citizenship and contributing to community beyond writing
  • Yahdon’s interview with Pulitzer Prizewinning poet Tyehimba Jess
  • Yahdon’s popular Instagram hashtag #literaryswag and his new web show for writers called LIT.
  • Visit Yahdon online at Follow him on Instagram @yahdon and on Twitter @yahdonisrael.
  • Follow Yahdon’s projects on Instagram @litplatform and @literaryswagbookclub.

Visit us online at and visit Under the Gum Tree at Follow Under the Gum Tree Twitter and Instagram @undergumtree. Follow me on Twitter @justjanna and @jannamarlies on Instagram. Find out about my 6-week email audio course at

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