Not Good Enough: Confronting Gendered Self-Doubt by Stephanie Sylverne

Chicago Literati

Two years ago, while my grandmother was dying of cancer, I discovered she’d once had a calligraphy piece in an exhibition at the Newberry Library, an independent research institution in Chicago. She didn’t tell me this herself; I happened to find an old brochure from the event with her name listed as an exhibitor.

How could she neglect to mention this? Being part of a Newberry exhibition is definitely a brag-worthy accomplishment. Plus I’d started working on an historical novel that featured the library rather prominently, and was also based quite a bit on her family’s past, so the connection was sort of serendipitous.

I asked her where the piece was. I wanted to take it home and add it to the shrine of her artwork that was steadily collecting in my house. “Oh, that. I gave that away a long time ago,” she told me.

“You gave it away?…

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