Thoughts about 2nd reader feedback and the completion of my NEH Award objectives
Pretty inspiring comments coming from the second reader of my NEH application, if I don't say so myself lol. By far, these were the most negative comments I received and the lowest ranking score I was given in my successful run for a NEH Awards for Faculty felllowship. Good thing the other readers thought otherwise. The other readers provided feedback taking into consideration my application as well as my letters of recommendation and my CV. Yet, regardless of the lines and lines of support from the other readers, for some reason, I just can't shake the feedback from that second reader. And I actually received the grant....Am I alone? I can't be the only one who let's the 2nd reader get under their skin, can I? You can judge for yourself as the NEH selected to showcase my project as a sample for future applicants to read. Check out Narrative Section of a Successful Application. Even better... rank it yourself and put that rank in the comments below... lol.
It's not just this application, the 2nd reader stigma has and always will be the bane of publishing hopefuls. This is the same in the grant and fellowship worlds. For those who don't know what / who a 2nd reader is - its basically the person presses and funders bring on to kill your publishing vibe... lol just kidding: It's usually the 2 review of your application or article and their job is to be a critical as possible. They are not there for the feels - they are there to find the holes you have left that could discredit your chance of actually completing a fellowship or any gaps that you have in articles that would discredit the press who is publishing your piece.
But here is the thing... I've been the second reader. And with grants like this one, livelihoods come down to these reads....literally tens of thousands of dollars that let academics pursue dreams. If someone honestly thinks that a junior scholar is incapable because of lack of publishing, lack of letters of recommendation support, whatever - they have to point it out. I've seen it within my own institution, faculty or staff receive the luxurious work load release to research and publish and when the time comes to produce the final deliverables - there is no research or publishable piece to present. So I understand.
But still, hey, second reader, have you heard Taylor Swift's song, you know the one were haters be hatin'. Well that's how you came in....and I was like.... damn, it's only 7am.
So to my second reader,
No offense (so you know I am here to offend), but I don't know if you have met junior scholars like me - the Indigenous scholars who are ridden hard by the academic system and put away wet. I know that sounds harsh and perhaps a bit crude but that is where the scholars like me come from. As minorities in R1 institutes, everyone wants a piece of us so they can claim diversity and equity, whatever that means. As type A personalities in tribal colleges, everyone expects we pick up everyone else's slack. (And if you are offended by the wet horses comment, clearly you have never had horses, sickos 😆. You should be more offended if you are part of the groups who stand by as we are put away wet).
We have learned to dry ourselves off. And you will never see the towels we use because we have a home support system that helps us balance our well-being. Our home may not be our biological relatives, but humans and nonhuman animals that have melted into our lives that wish us to succeed for who we are and not what we can provide for them.
Our drive will out race almost anyone in short or long distance runs, regardless of diversity or other merit based opportunities. If it sounds like a lot, it is - but that's what we, high driven, motivated Indigenous junior scholars do. We show up to cook and stay to clean up. We put in the grant fellowship applications and make rocks move so that we can finish them. Because if we don't, that gives others, especially those who have never met Indigenous scholars, the right to speak of our 'diversity given' opportunity and not of our stellar ethics, both in the work place and in the community.
I know your job is hard, but when you see a packet like mine fly into your email or be placed on your desk for review - you should listen to our recommenders when they tell you of what we are capable of. If our plans seem impossible of a task, ask yourself, is it unfeasible or is it just unfeasible for you. Look at the C.V. and read in between the lines, where grant management overlap, dissertation completions, and faculty of the year awards. That is not by coincidence, nor given by diversity, or gifted by administrations - that is the work of our horse. I don't want an award because I am an "Indian in Academia," I want an award because I aspire and I can do. If you don't read between the lines, if you don't justify your decision beyond "it doesn't seem feasible" it just looks like you need an excuse to award someone else. Provide suggestions on how to make it feasible.
Keep taking on roles as the 2nd reader. I took every single feedback you did provide and made it happen. I made sure that my story in my multi-species autobiographic manuscript highlighted the struggles of a junior Indigenous scholar, including my moments of doubt in me... I actually reduced my interdisciplinary connections because that was the dissertation's job - this book's job is to provide applications of real world experiences to reach broader community and academic realms... I contacted minority serving institutes across the nation to not only pitch this project and possible collaboration but to make them aware of grants their institutes could apply to meet their own program's food sovereignty, indigenous research, and community grounded projects come to life... And I built a new home of scholars to help me workshop this manuscript into its final publishing format - it is a team of individuals who, in fact, believe that the evidence is evident of successful objective outcomes. I know that not every scholar is like me. And I know that I can't be awarded every grant or fellowship that I apply to. But make your feedback, 2nd reader, count for improvement.
Just a Tách'inii thinking out loud about butchering, researching, manuscript writing, and life on the Navajo reservation.