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Michele Norris – Our Hidden Conversations

March 7 @ 7:00 pm  |  Cowell Ranch Hay Barn


Bookshop Santa Cruz and The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz welcome Peabody Award-winning journalist Michele Norris for a discussion of her new book Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity—a transformative dialogue on race and identity in America, unearthed through Norris’s decade-long work at The Race Card Project.

Norris will be in conversation with Vilashini Cooppan, Professor of Literature and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UC Santa Cruz.

This is event is cosponsored by NAACP Santa Cruz County. This special event will take place at the Cowell Ranch Hay Barn and is free to attend thanks to the support of The Humanities Institute. Please register if you plan to join us! Your registration helps us plan for your arrival and keep in touch with any changes. Thank you!


The prompt seemed simple: Race. Your Thoughts. Six Words. Please Send.

The answers, though, have been challenging and complicated. In the twelve years since award-winning journalist Michele Norris first posed that question, over half a million people have submitted their stories to The Race Card Project inbox. The stories are shocking in their depth and candor, spanning the full spectrum of race, ethnicity, identity, and class. Even at just six words, the micro-essays can pack quite a punch, revealing, fear, pain, triumph, and sometimes humor. Responses such as: You’re Pretty for a Black girl. White privilege, enjoy it, earned it. Lady, I don’t want your purse. My ancestors massacred Indians near here. Urban living has made me racist. I’m only Asian when it’s convenient.

Many go even further than just six words, submitting backstories, photos, and heirlooms: a collection much like a scrapbook of American candor you rarely get to see. Our Hidden Conversations is a unique compilation of stories, richly reported essays, and photographs providing a window into America during a tumultuous era. This powerful book offers an honest, if sometimes uncomfortable, conversation about race and identity, permitting us to eavesdrop on deep-seated thoughts, private discussions, and long submerged memories.

The breadth of this work came as a surprise to Norris. For most of the twelve years she has collected these stories, many were submitted by white respondents. This unexpected panorama provides a rare 360-degree view of how Americans see themselves and one another.

Our Hidden Conversations reminds us that even during times of great division, honesty, grace, and a willing ear can provide a bridge toward empathy and maybe even understanding.

You can purchase your own copy of Our Hidden Conversations at Bookshop Santa Cruz.

Michele Norris is one of America’s most trusted voices in journalism, earning several honors over a long career, including Peabody, Emmy, Dupont, and Goldsmith awards. She is a columnist for The Washington Post Opinion Section, the host of the Audible Original Podcast, Your Mama’s Kitchen, and from and from 2002 to 2012 she was a cohost of NPR’s All Things Considered.

Vilashini CooppanVilashini Cooppan is Professor of Literature and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UCSC. She teaches and writes about comparative and world literature, the memory and legacies of colonial and racial violence, and literary theory. She is the author of Worlds Within: National Narratives and Global Connections in Postcolonial Writing (Stanford UP, 2009), numerous journal articles and book chapters, and has co-edited the forthcoming volume Autotheories: Transdisciplinary Experiments in Self-Theorizing.


March 7
7:00 pm


Cowell Ranch Hay Barn
Ranch View Rd
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 United States
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