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rtress White ’09 AS was attracted to being a writer when she was in high school in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, a small town near Springfield. Her parents had a bookshelf that she also considered her first little library. “They had some writers and books that intrigued me on their shelf. The two that stand out for me now … I was reading above my age 42

Fall 2019

level … were James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I read them when I was very young, and the things I didn’t understand I skipped over,” she says. “What resonated with me, though, was that these were stories of African Americans that I could identify with. I believe that’s where my interest in storytelling began.

She started to jot her own thoughts on paper and received encouragement from a high school English teacher after she wrote a story about two ballet dancers — one black like herself and the other white. “He gave the story an A, and said I should keep writing,” she says. White wanted to pen feature stories for Vogue magazine and become editor. She dabbled with poetry in