On knowledge as a trapping net

What to do with the knowing we have—what we want from what we know.

Letter: ‘I’m So, So Tired of Having to Justify My Writing.’

In rural New England, when summer finally starts in late May, tag sale announcements pepper message boards and signposts across the town I live in. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, thrifting being, of course, the last great treasure hunt.

At one of these sales, which are mostly on people’s lawns, I followed a “sale continues” sign into a sunroom full of random objects. I heard the seller, a white woman, tell someone to follow me in. When no one did, she came in herself. Perhaps she’s there for pricing, I thought, giving her the benefit of a doubt.

Unfortunately, it just went downhill from there. As soon as we were alone, the woman wouldn’t stop asking me questions. She asked where I lived, then where I had moved from, though I had not mentioned moving into the area. After my answer to what I did (teaching poetry), she said I looked too young to be a professor. And, finally, when my (white) partner walked in, she asked me where I was from, where my parents were from—the question left her breathless, as though she had been burning to ask it initially.