Community & Government, Wellness

Reaching Intellectual Diversity

Roxane Gay delves into how writing has the potential to create meaningful change in society by generating empathy in readers and Walter Mosley talks about how reading builds empathy by expanding our worldview.

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Topics include: Case Study: “Hunger” · Go Beyond What You Know · Sharing Your Truth · Reading Builds Empathy


[CALM MUSIC] WALTER MOSLEY: When you're an artist, when you're a writer, when you're making up different ways of seeing the world, understanding the world, you are actually changing the world and opening doors for change for everybody, whether they know it or not. ROXANE GAY: Intellectual diversity is the best gift someone can give themselves because multiple points of view are always going to help you expand your thinking and your worldview. "Hunger" is a memoir that was released in 2017, and it is a book I wrote about my body. I'm definitely surprised by the impact "Hunger" has had because it's such a specific story. And so it was really gratifying to see that people were responding, and fortunately, writing "Hunger" ended up being incredibly cathartic. It starts with a sexual assault I experienced when I was 12. I was gang-raped by a group of five men, and that experience left a mark, and it certainly changed not only how I see myself, but how I lived. And I turned to food as a source of comfort and as a source of protection, thinking that if I made myself bigger I would become safer. And then, of course, things spiraled and I found myself in a place where I couldn't really figure out how to undo what I had done to myself, and I wrote a book about it. And I wanted to write the book because most of the time when people write about fatness they do so from the perspective of weight loss, and having figured out the key to weight loss. And when I wrote this book I didn't have the answers and I wanted to talk about, what does it mean to live in a fat body? And not just like, a Lane Bryant fat body, but a very fat body in a world that is unwilling to accommodate that kind of body. This is the reality of living in my body. I am trapped in a cage. The frustrating thing about cages is that you're trapped but you can see exactly what you want. You can reach out from the cage, but only so far. It would be easy to pretend I am just fine with my body as it is. I wish I did not see my body as something for which I have to apologize or provide explanation. My body is a cage. My body is a cage of my own making. I am still trying to figure my way out of it. I have been trying to figure my way out of it for more than 20 years. With my writing I do try to think about, how does this not only look inward as to how I'm feeling, but how does it look outward? What is the world that I'm writing into? How are people who would never understand what it means to live under these kinds of conditions, how are they going to relate to this, because I think writing can expand someone's worldview when you explain something to them that they did not previously understand, when you give them information they did not previously have about what it means to live in someone else's shoes, and that can be deeply meaningful. One of the things I found in the writing of "Hunger" was that it really opened a lot of people's eyes to the r...

About the Instructor

For the first time ever on MasterClass, a diverse range of our instructors come together to talk about the power of empathy and how it can transform the way you view the world. Join Pharrell Williams, Robin Arzón, Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Robert Reffkin, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West as they share their experiences with empathy and its importance in their lives and careers. Learn how to exercise, cultivate, and promote empathy to connect with others on a deeper, more human level.

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Pharrell Williams, Robin Arzón, Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Robert Reffkin, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West

Pharrell Williams, Robin Arzón, Roxane Gay, Walter Mosley, Robert Reffkin, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West teach about leading life with empathy.

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