Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 3



High Cotton

Kristie Robin Johnson


High CottonKristie Robin Johnson, one of our contributors in Volume One, Issue 2 who brought us insightful and moving essays “Amen Corner” and “Food Stamps” brings a collection of essays High Cotton exploring the world of a woman of the Deep South who must grapple with the ghosts of the civil rights movements, sins of our mothers and defining womanhood as a black woman. “Dope”, a powerful opening piece showcases Johnson’s strength in conveying the nuances and weight of the double yoke that many black women endure. It is this essay that establishes Johnson’s thoughtful prose as she comes to accept all aspects of her mother—advocate, teacher, mother, daughter and addict. There is no clear cut answer but instead an acceptance of what is to be and how those lessons linger long after the events of the essay. Johnson collection navigates through the trials of seeking to carry on our legacies to new heights without losing sight of where we come from. “In Search of Heroes” and “Homesick” highlight obtaining our goals of success but realizing that it sometimes leaves us isolated from our “heroes” who look like us or our “sisters” who can make our workplace feel like home. Our need to provide our children with better opportunities i.e. education can sometimes alienate us in a world of success that do not have heroes that represent us or the feeling of being welcomed in the echelons of higher academia only to realize, due to the very nature of academia there are very faces who look like yours.

High Cotton’s strength is offering to its readers a look into the life of a black woman, the small daily struggles, those undeniable moments of black joy, the ties that bind us to our past and the need to create a path for ourselves.

—Rosalyn Spencer, editor of Rigorous

I wish that every new essay collection that I read struck me with this kind of honesty, conviction, daring, and intelligence. . . . Familial addiction, predatory dating, skin tone, matriarchal lines, reading Audre Lorde, school lockdowns—this is important, fresh work, and you’ll want to read it through from cover to cover.”

—Allen Gee, author of My Chinese-America

This is a book about finding your place, knowing your place, and the ways you can and cannot escape that place. Kristie Robin Johnson's voice is both lyrical and sharp, soft as cotton, stinging as a snakebite. These essays have charm and power and enviable strength.

—Aubrey Hirsch, author of Why We Never Talk About Sugar

The personal essayist’s fundamental challenge is to somehow be ruthlessly unsentimental about life’s traumas and tribulations while still projecting warmth, good humor, empathy, and generosity of spirit. In the essays that make up High Cotton, Kristie Robin Johnson more than meets this goal.

—Peter Selgin, author of The Inventors



Kristie Robin Johnson is an educator, essayist, and poet. She is Assistant Professor of English and Department Chair for Humanities at Georgia Military College, Augusta. She earned a MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia College and State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rigorous, Split Lip Magazine, ESME, Under the Gum Tree, Lunch Ticket, riverSedge, and other journals and publications. Kristie's writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received honorable mention in the AWP Intro to Journals Project. High Cotton is her first book. She resides in Grovetown, Georgia, with her two sons. (Photo by Ashley Marks Photography)




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