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If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. — Toni Morrison

Maya C. James

Writer, poet, and future peacebuilder.

I never started as much of a talker–there was no need to in such a large family. I had plenty to say, but I strained for the “correct” words that could make a difference to issues I cared about — friends at risk for deportation, education for schoolgirls in Mali, less homework etc.. But this strain came at my personal expense. As I retreated further into silence, my mentors and family urged me to read Maya Angelou and Octavia Butler—two women who grew into their voices and changed the world for the better because of it.

Inspired by their words, I committed my time to elevating the voices of others while quietly exploring my own. Eventually, with the close mentorship and encouragement of Congressman Elijah Cummings through his leadership program, I spoke in front of diplomats, congressmen and women, former first ladies, and my family, about the curious ways in which my narrative intersected with so many larger political and social issues.

After receiving a degree in Government from Georgetown University with minors in Creative Writing and Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs, and graduating as a 2020 Lannan Fellow under the mentorship of Carolyn Forché, I decided that now is the time to begin writing. That now, is the time to make space for myself and others.

Maya C. James is a graduate of the Lannan Fellows Program at Georgetown University, and full-time student at Harvard Divinity School. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, FIYAH, Soar: For Harriet, Georgetown University’s Berkley Center Blog, and Hello Giggles. She was recently long listed for the Stockholm Writers Festival First Pages Prize (2019), and featured on a feminist speculative poetry panel at the 2019 CD Wright Women Writer’s Conference. Her work focuses primarily on Afrofuturism, and imagining sustainable futures for at-risk communities. She currently writes infrequent reviews for Strange Horizons literary magazine and occasionally publishes poetry and short stories on her website: mayajameswrites.wordpress.com .

I Tweet @mayawritesgood


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“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” — Maya Angelou