An Interview with Alexia Arthurs

by Andrew Joseph White

An Interview with Alexia Arthurs

George Mason University proudly introduces Alexia Arthurs as the newest member of our Creative Writing faculty. Join us in extending a warm welcome!

Alexia Arthurs is the author of How to Love a Jamaican, which was an O: The Oprah Magazine “Top 15 Best of the Year,” and many short stories that explore the Jamaican diaspora and the intricacies of Black identity. One of her stories, “Bad Behavior,” will appear in Glory Edim’s anthology On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl Library alongside the works of Alice Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston—coming October 26, 2021 from Liveright.

Arthurs is the recipient the Plimpton Prize in 2017 and a 2019 O. Henry Prize, both of which are awarded to authors of short stories of exceptional merit. She also taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which boasts over a dozen Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni and maintains a position as one of the most celebrated MFA programs in the United States. We are delighted to have such an accomplished writer and teacher join our program.

What was your previous stop on this journey? Where are you coming to us from?

Previously, I was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Colby College in Maine and the University of Iowa’s Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I lived in Maine this past year, and before that, I lived in Iowa City. I'm originally from Brooklyn by way of the Caribbean. 

What drew you to George Mason?

I was really struck by the Creative Writing faculty, who’ve published such incredible work. I felt that I’d be in inspiring company. I love that there is both a BFA and an MFA program, and I’m really impressed by all that the Watershed Lit: Center for Literary Engagement and Publishing Practice has to offer. There’s a robust literary culture here. And I had a really good feeling during the virtual campus visit. The interview process was ethical, and I felt respected. That’s rare in the academic job world, especially for BIPOC candidates. A friend recently reminded me that after the campus visit, I said that even if I didn’t get the job, I really enjoyed meeting everyone. 

What are you hoping to bring to our creative writing program? 

Perhaps the most beloved classes I’ve taught are social justice creative writing classes at the undergraduate level. I’ve been wanting to adapt this course for the graduate level. 

And I’d love to teach a class about the ethics of writing about a place that includes a research component in which students get to research a place and write a piece that is set in this place. This class would be an opportunity for students to think about the ethics of their work and how the work lives in the world. It would also be an opportunity for students to engage with a research practice, which can be especially intimidating for fiction writers. 

What are you excited about in this next step for your career?

I’m grateful to join such a fantastic MFA program, and I look forward to collaborating, connecting, learning from students and faculty, and everything else that this vibrant community has to offer. I’m also looking forward to institutional support for my teaching, writing, and research. This kind of support will be invaluable for both of my book projects, which will require travel research.