The first major book for writers to more effectively engage with complex socio-political issues—a critical first step in creating social change
Writers are witnesses and scribes to society's conscience but writing about social issues in the twenty-first century requires a new, sharper toolkit. Craft and Conscience helps writers weave together their narrative craft, analytical and research skills, and their conscience to create prose which makes us feel the individual and collective impact of crucial issues of our time. Kavita Das guides writers to take on nuanced perspectives and embrace intentionality through a social justice lens. She challenges writers to unpack their motivations for writing about an issue and to understand that “writing, irrespective of genre or outlet, is an act of political writing,” regardless of intention.
The book includes essays from a fascinating mix of authors, including James Baldwin, Alexander Chee, Kaitlyn Greenidge, George Orwell, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Gaiutra Bahadur, Jaquira Díaz, and Imani Perry. By including Das’s own perspective and those of the featured writers about motivations and approaches to writing about fraught social issues, this book both demystifies the process of engaging social issues on the page, and underscores the intentionality and sensitivity that must go into the work.
About the Author
Kavita Das has taught nonfiction writing at the New School and Catapult and has written about social issues for ten years. Previously, she worked in the social change sector for fifteen years, addressing issues ranging from community and housing inequities to public health disparities and racial injustice. Das is also the author of the biography Poignant Song: The Life and Music of Lakshmi Shankar. Find her online at kavitadas.com and on Twitter (@kavitamix).
“A fascinating and forceful guide to stepping up and speaking out on the page.”
—Susan Shapiro, author of The Byline Bible and The Book Bible
"Brilliant! A must-read for anyone who cares deeply about social and political issues and wants to make their own voice heard. Kavita Das’s Craft and Conscience aims to bring out the inner activist in your writing—whether you’re an emerging writer or an established one—by showing you how to articulate your motivations, by showcasing essays from masters of the genre, and by analyzing what forceful, well-thought arguments are made of."
—Laurie Gwen Shapiro, author of The Stowaway
"An instructive guide for writers hoping to move the needle, Craft and Conscience gathers some of our best contemporary writers, like Alexander Chee, Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Nicole Chung, while Kavita Das's steady voice introduces prospective writers to critical writing in our dystopian era."
—Matthew Salesses, author of Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping
"For writers seeking guidance on how to write about social justice with compassion and insight, Das curates an eclectic mix of essays by authors who’ve long contemplated the immense struggles facing humanity, while proffering a thoughtful way of bearing witness to the world that can help them get there."
—Tanaïs, author of In Sensorium: Notes for My People and Bright Lines
"Kavita Das’s book is part how-to, part call to action. It is 100 percent lyrical and passionate and will resonate with anyone who is compelled to share and transform narratives that reflect the world. Filled with prose and practicality from some of the greatest writers and thinkers of our times, Craft and Conscience feels like the action plan we always intend to put in place after our fiery salons, dinner parties, and community gatherings. It is more needed than ever."
—S. Mitra Kalita, founder and publisher of Epicenter NYC and cofounder of URL Media
"In Craft and Conscience, Kavita Das constructs a vocabulary, a methodology, and an ethics for socially engaged writing, while bringing together a staggering range of writers and issues. In the process, Das makes a profound and compelling argument for why this kind of writing matters and the radical, transformative power it holds. This book has restored my faith in the written word."
—Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Reckonings
"Kavita Das has assembled a vital primer on writing with purpose, a guidebook that our turbulent times demand. In addition to her own insightful essays, she has compiled an impressive roster of dauntless thinkers who don’t hesitate to share necessary and even troubling truths. These essays not only address the role of writing in exposing tyranny and injustice but also provide glimpses of a world where love and equality shape our lives."
—Jabari Asim, author of We Can't Breathe
"This is the book I wish I’d had when I was starting out! What a joy to have it now. Kavita Das orients us with great precision to the many contradictory considerations that nonfiction writers face, from how we enter the story to how we balance dramatic elements and historical context. I found myself reading and nodding in agreement, thinking: yes, that’s exactly right!"
—Daisy Hernández, author of The Kissing Bug
"'Writing with conscience' is sometimes pitted against 'good writing' as though the two cannot mean the same thing. Das blows up this false equivalency. Craft and Conscience is so clear, accessible, and profound, I wondered how a book on these themes had not existed before. The answer: it needed Das, who combines her unique skills as reader and writer to demonstrate how great writing always sees deeply into the human heart. As a teacher, Das breaks down precisely how and why such writing—across race, gender, and class—reverberates, inspiring and challenging us to do our best and most intentional work. A book of phenomenal intelligence, generosity, and wisdom, and indispensable for the classroom and for anyone who wants to make words matter."
—Marie Mutsuki Mockett, author of American Harvest
"This compendium is a brilliant and kaleidoscopic must-read for writers. Das gathers up a wide-ranging and whip-smart array of thinkers while serving us a feast of timely advocacy and learning."
—Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders
"A gift to writers and justice seekers everywhere! Craft and Conscience is a handbook for how to wield words to shape culture and inspire change. Insightful, practical, and empowering. Thank you, Kavita Das!"
—Valarie Kaur, civil rights leader and author of See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love
"Craft and Conscience is that rigorously researched and lushly written ‘how-to’ book that every single human who has dared to write needs in our lives. Kavita Das does heavy lifting here, of course, but I'm most taken by the way Das never sacrifices dynamism for structure or tradition. Rarely do we get books that encourage readers to reconsider how we read and write, and how we approach the acts of reading and writing. The book is really about preparation as much as execution, and I found that intellectually and soulfully invigorating."
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy