Meet Kimi N. Bryson, EFSR’s New Submissions Editor
The FSR Blog has benefitted from brilliant and dedicated student interns who served as submissions editor. As Jennifer Maidrand wraps up her role as a student intern, she is moving over to the FSR board with our deep appreciation. We (co-chairs Michal Raucher and Sharon Jacob) received so many wonderful applicants for the new submissions editor position, and Kimi Bryson stood out among the rest. We wanted to introduce her to the rest of the FSR community. We are sure that through this interview you’ll see what we saw in Kimi when we hired her. We are so excited to work with Kimi!
This interview has been transcribed and edited for length.
Michal Raucher: Kimi, can tell us a little bit about your research or some of the questions that animate your studies?
Kimi N. Bryson: A lot of my research started with my own upbringing and my own experiences as a girl growing up in Denver, Colorado. I went to a predominantly white Evangelical megachurch, and then I went to Wheaton College, in Illinois, which is a predominantly white Evangelical Christian College, and so my project right now is about Black women’s relationship with White Evangelicalism. I want to figure out what it means to stay in a tradition, especially one that has a lot of racism and sexism and homophobia, and then what it means to leave a tradition, and how to disentangle yourself from something that has really formed you. So the people that I’m focusing on in my project are people like Priscilla Shirer and Jackie Hill Perry, who are Black women who have a lot of community with white Evangelical institutions and organizations. But also people that have left, like Brit Barron, Christina Cleveland, and maybe Austin Channing Brown. One of the things that’s really interesting is that Brit Barron is actually from a similar part of Colorado that I’m from. So I’m trying to understand how we both got in the position of being Black girls in predominantly white churches and predominantly white Christian colleges. A lot of scholarship has discussed Black women’s experiences in black churches, but I’m curious about what it’s like if you’re in a white or multicultural church. How do you think about your own race and gender? Your sexual identity and sexual practices? And then, if you choose to leave, how do you think about yourself if that has formed you?
Sharon Jacob: You have to write something for the blog about your experiences! That would be amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about what excites you about EFSR?
Kimi: Yeah, I think the first thing that excited me was the mission of EFSR in general, and especially the blog. I think it’s super important that the general public has resources where they can think about the connection of feminism with their religious traditions. So my background is Christian, but I think it’s really important that people are able to understand that your religious tradition can have feminist elements to it. You don’t have to give up your religion to be a feminist. And also, feminism has a lot to learn from religious people and religious women.
So the most exciting thing I think about where the blog can go is its ability to connect with everyday people. The blog can touch on so many important topics like reproductive justice, with everything that’s going on right now with the Supreme Court, but also advocating for trans kids and challenging the way we often understand gender.
Sharon: When we interviewed you, you shared such an exciting vision for EFSR. Can you share that with others? Could you talk a little bit about some of the visions you had?
Kimi: I think interviews would be a really great addition to the blog. It would be a great mentorship opportunity for graduate students to learn from senior members of different fields, or even junior faculty in different fields. We could learn about how they do their work, how they do their research in a practical way, but also more about their background.
There’s just so much we might not read in an academic article, or something we might not read in their books.
Michal: We love that interview idea so much that we’re starting off your term as submissions editor with an interview with you! So here’s one of the questions we might want to start asking in an interview series: What is a book or a piece of scholarship or a scholar who has influenced your thinking?
Kimi: This is so hard because I’m working on my proposal right now, so my head is full books that are all informing my current research. In terms of a scholar, I want to talk about Larycia Hawkins. She was a professor of mine at Wheaton College. She was the first black woman teacher that I had. She was the first person who challenged my writing in college. She taught me so much as a person, but also as a scholar. During my junior year, she was fired right after she got in tenure. She wore a hijab and posted on Facebook about being in solidarity with Muslim women who were being attacked for wearing hijabs. And many friends and I had a campaign called #supportdochawk, and we really tried to advocate for the school to honor her tenure and her positive impact on students, especially students of color and LGBTQ+ students at Wheaton. She has been super formative in terms of my research, but she has also continued to be a really supportive and encouraging person in my life.
Michal: That’s amazing. What a special relationship to have. Switching gears, what’s a TV show you’re watching now?
Kimi: Most recently, I watched “Only Murders in the Building” with my partner. It has nothing to do with religion or feminism, but it is a really fun, light show.
Sharon: We’re going to stay with the fun topics, so could you talk to us a little bit about a hobby or something that you like to do that fuels you?
Kimi: Cooking and baking are my favorite creative outlets that also pay off with delicious food! And I have also begun a couple of mindfulness practices, so I either meditate or I swim. I think it helps to break up a day when I sit a lot. I also think there’s something very spiritual about being in touch with water.
Sharon: What two dishes do you like to cook or bake?
Michal: I was wondering that too!
Kimi: I make a really good olive oil cake. I like it so much, I had friends over for a birthday party when I was doing my master’s program at Yale Divinity School, and I forced all of them to eat the olive oil cake. It’s so delicious and has an orange liqueur in it, but it’s just slightly orangey. But really, it’s just a perfect cake in my mind.
And then, my grandmother is Japanese, and she passed away several years ago, so I started making something she made called Sukiyaki. It’s a one pot dish. There’s yam noodles, and sliced beef, and some cabbage and onions. I can’t make it just like she did, but it’s delicious, so when I make it I feel like I’m back in her kitchen.
Sharon: Well, now we have to come over to your house to eat those things!
Kimi N. Bryson is a PhD candidate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers University. She received her Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies from Wheaton College (IL) and her Master’s from Yale Divinity School, with a concentration on Black Religion. Her undergraduate thesis analyzed how white evangelicals respond to sexual assault survivors. Her current research explores Black women’s complicated relationships with white evangelicalism, asking what it means for Black women to leave harmful institutions and what it takes to stay. In her free time, she is an avid gluten free baker, a creative writer, and a rom com connoisseur.