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Natasha Trethaway Portrait

There are three overarching subjects in Natasha Trethewey’s work—history, the arts, and the social construction of her own family’s identity and experience. Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on Confederate Memorial Day, exactly 100 years after it was first celebrated. Her parents—a black mother and a white father—had been married illegally a year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia. The history behind the reception of racially or ethnically mixed couples is integrated in much of her autobiographical work with analysis of her own and her parents’ lives. But it is her general concern with history and current events that is the focus of the poems here. “Native Guard” is a poem sequence constructed out of the history of an all-black Union Army regiment composed mostly of former slaves. The three poems that follow—“Providence,” “Liturgy,” and Believer”—are taken from Beyond Katrina (2010), her book-length meditation on the impact of the 2005 storm. Trethewey was educated at the University of Georgia, Hollins University, and the University of Massachusetts. She teaches at Emory University.