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By Heather Laine Talley and Monica J. Casper
Here we are, deep in the throes of the holiday season. Many of us are surrounded by family, love, hope, and gratitude. Just as many of us cannot help but be prey to saccharine commercialism, pseudo-emotionalism, and imperatives to spend money we may or may not have.
Given the enormous contradictions built into celebrations of all sorts this time of year, we consciously wanted to avoid a themed forum that even remotely tapped into our individual and collective anxieties about The Holidays. But we wanted to offer something special to our loyal readers—almost 20,000 of you per month! So we conceived of a forum on mentoring. After all, none of us—writers and readers of TFW alike—would be where we are today, wherever that is, without having been mentored at some point along the way by somebody who invested their time, energy, and perhaps love in us. Also, many of us on the Editorial Collective hold positions in and out of the academy, which call on us to mentor people “junior” to us with whom we work. Rarely does a day go by that some aspect of mentoring does not enter into our lives, whether we are the mentor or the mentee.
For us—Heather and Monica, that is—our own evolving relationship helped to foster our interest in this topic. Our bond has morphed from our initial promising but somewhat formal encounter as Professor and Student when Monica first arrived at Vanderbilt in 2004 to the years during which Heather was feverishly dissertating while also babysitting Monica’s kids. Through collaborative writing ventures, we became colleagues and ultimately developed an honest and intimate friendship. The mentoring that transpires between us now is suffused with other kind of relating—as collaborators and allies and kin.
But just as the holidays seem to bring out the best and the worst in humanity, mentoring is a vexed act. Naming some of these tensions makes better (and decidedly more feminist) mentoring possible.
With this in mind, we called on other members of TFW’s Editorial Collective and invited them to write about any aspect of mentoring they so chose. No rules or guidelines (other than a few suggested topics, such as ethics and politics). Just write a story, we asked them. And so they did.
With love and gratitude,
Heather and Monica