Vermont Arts Council

Vermont Made Episode 7: Wisdom Through Uncertainty with Essayist Emily Bernard

“It is through ambivalence, it is through uncertainty, that we actually gain any wisdom and make any real connections to come to know ourselves.” —Emily Bernard


Acclaimed essayist Emily Bernard discusses life after her 2019 book Black is the Body, intimacy and the page, and her next project, a collection of essays about Black women artists in the public eye.

Learn more about Emily Bernard at

Listen to this episode on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and most other podcast players.

Download a transcript of this episode (PDF).

“Intimacy is crucial. I think that drives a lot of art, and that art speaks to me the most. When I hear that writer’s voice saying ‘do you hear me, do you understand me, am I alone?’ That’s the voice that speaks to me the most deeply, a writer who’s very invested in the hard work of being known, and in that way that’s very connected to wanting to know others. I think that’s one of the pleasures and duties of this life, to find a way to connect to people. People who are very different from us, people we might dismiss out of hand, not just people who talk like us and think like us, but people who might challenge us.”

Emily Bernard was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. She holds a B.A. and Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. Her work has appeared in TLS, The American Scholar, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Yale Review, Harper’s, O the Oprah Magazine, the Boston Globe Magazine, Creative Nonfiction, Green Mountains Review, Oxford American, and Ploughshares. Her essays have been reprinted in Best American Essays, Best African American Essays, and Best of Creative Nonfiction. Her first book, Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her most recent book, Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine, won the 2020 LA Times Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose. She has received fellowships and grants from Yale University, Harvard University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Studio Center, and The MacDowell Colony. A contributing editor at The American Scholar, Emily is the Julian Lindsay Green and Gold Professor of English at the University of Vermont. A 2020 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, she lives in South Burlington, Vermont with her husband John Gennari and their twin daughters.

Emily also serves on the board of the Vermont Arts Council.

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