Kei Miller’s Things I Have Withheld is a brilliant collection of fourteen essays on the topic of silence and what often goes left unsaid ... Miller makes his point by recounting instances of everyday racism, such as being forced to verify his identity to campus security on his first day as a 'fully-fledged' professor at his university, or having to hold his tongue when a white colleague makes an apparently harmless remark about his (considerable) literary talent. Miller allows these deeper meanings to percolate ... The effect of these multiple points of view is a refracted lens from which to think about race – it adds richness and dimension to a complex set of ideas (racism, class, sexism, gender) that Miller makes clear can be experienced in many different ways depending on context, geography, sex, or gender, to mention only a few ... We are incredibly lucky to have someone like Miller, who, through his work and words, has been saying the things that we, often in our cowardice, cannot bring ourselves to say. This is an important collection of essays that expose the complexities of being queer, Black and male today while revelling in the joy and darker edges of the author’s Jamaican heritage.
This book perfectly encapsulates what it means to live in today’s world as ‘the other’ as Miller takes the reader into the why of the withheld words, screams and protests. It is quickly apparent that Miller is a gifted writer; his silences furthering his craft as much as his words ... Regardless of the subject, Miller’s writing is courageous and expansive. It seeks to educate its readers about inherent racism and racial bias and does so by tackling nuances head on ... It is impossible to not be moved by the vulnerability of a man who is the victim of racially motivated encounters.
Kei Miller probes these silent places: what it means to be silent, to break that silence; what it means to risk one’s words and, in turn, the truth. Using his experience as a Black, Jamaican, queer man, he digs into the silence through letters to James Baldwin, Carnival, conversations with white writers, family secrets, and the experience of discrimination of the body and the histories and stories the body can tell ... Some of the most powerful and moving moments in this powerful and moving collection is Miller performing a kind of literary ventriloquism in which thoughts and ideas and feelings are expressed without always being said ... Much of the work in Things That I Have Withheld examines risks—risks in speaking, risks in remaining silent. What do we lose when we don’t use our voice, what do we lose when we do ... One of the questions Miller asks has been stuck in my head: 'How does one unlearn privilege, especially the kind that is given to you daily and without question, so it does not seem like privilege at all but simply the everyday-ness of life?'
Miller is reverent and forthright when summarizing the urgency he felt to address a specific subject in his most personal collection to date ... Shamefully, the stream of consciousness of a Caribbean philosopher, as I humbly designate Miller to be, is rarely considered essential literature in Western academia.
In 15 thoughtful and impassioned essays, prizewinning Jamaican novelist, poet, and essayist Miller reflects on race, gender, family, language, and, most pointedly, the body ... Many of these powerful appraisals of the body come in the form of letters to James Baldwin and Kenyan writer Binyaranga Wainaina, but Miller also offers musings on his family’s secrets, portrayals of homeless gay and transgender boys, and questions of literary appropriation. A spirited collection from a significant voice of both fiction and nonfiction.
[An] entrancing collection ... he vividly depicts the ways colonialism, racism, homophobia, and privilege have shaped his life ... Miller brings into devastating clarity the dangers confronting Black people in visualizing the final moments of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Sharp as blades, Miller’s words cut to the core.