Please welcome today’s guest writers, Mimi Mutesa and Selvi M. Bunce! Mimi Mutesa (she/her) is a writer, illustrator, and former podcast producer, most recently relocated to Uganda after having covered US politics in Washington, DC, with CNN. She draws and writes poetry that reflects the range of experiences she’s had as a woman of color in the diaspora. Her favorite activity is sunbathing, resulting in her New Year’s resolution to be better about wearing sunscreen. Her art is available for perusal and purchase at

Selvi M. Bunce (she/they) is a forever-student and poet currently living in Dublin, Ireland. She was born and raised in a predominantly white suburb in Minnesota and explored and found her own identity during her family trips to India. The first to laugh too loud at a restaurant, she is proud to tell you she comes from a long line of strong women—both in heart and voice. Her most treasured hobby is curling up on the couch with a good book, her dog, and a hot cup of masala chai. Mimi and Selvi recently released their first joint book of poetry, NAKED: The Honest Musings of Two Brown Women, available through Amazon, Barnes and NobleBlack Spring Press Group.

Mutesa is a Ugandan journalist, artist, writer, and poet who, at 10 p.m. local Uganda time, is seated in a dimly lit corner of her living room, with a painting of herself and her husband looming in the background as she joins Bunce via Zoom. “Sorry,” Mutesa says before gesturing at her surroundings. “It was a choice between Wi-Fi strength and good lighting, since apparently I can’t have both.”

Bunce, a Tamil-American writer, editor, and dog mom to beloved Lipsi, patiently joins from her appropriately lit couch in Dublin. Ireland, where she and her husband recently moved. After two years worth of FaceTimes and Zooms spent coordinating the publication of their book, she is very used to Mimi’s ways. “Yeah, this is all very on-brand for you,” she laughs. Mutesa swears that given enough time, Bunce would have found a way to mention how Mutesa once showed up to a 9 a.m. bus tour in China twenty minutes late, running in oversized men’s slippers, squinting because she’d lost her glasses, and covered in glitter from the night before. Thankfully, we didn’t have enough time.

(Mimi Mutesa conducted this interview between herself and Selvi as they dissected the themes of their work.)

Talk about NAKED: The Honest Musings of Two Brown Women. The book’s publisher, Black Spring Press Group, describes the poems as “bold, humorous, and uninhibited.” What are the central themes of this poetry collection?

MM: I tend to call it brown femininst poetry, but I think more accurately, the poems embody feelings you and I had as brown women in majority white, male spaces. A lot of the collaboration on these happened during our senior year of college when I for one was contending with having spent four years in a space where I hadn’t felt fully seen. And somehow, magically, we created a space for us to talk about it, even if it was only with each other.
SMB: For sure, but a lot of them are also about love! And prospective motherhood! And heartbreak! And longing! And mental health and self discovery and appreciation for nature! You really like writing poems about birds.

How did this collection come about?

SMB: I remember approaching you about it…
MM: We can never actually agree on who asked who, though.
SMB: Right. But I’d had all these poems in my Google Docs, poems I’d written over the course of several years that were just sitting there doing nothing.
MM: And as it turned out, I had a similar collection lying around in my Google Docs. And we’d both never showed our collections to anyone else.
SMB: Now, at point, you and I had been taking Mandarin classes at Calvin. We’d both minored in it, which is how we became friends, but we really clicked when we both spent a semester abroad in China during our junior year. And I guess somewhere between the late night ramen runs in China, and hanging out in Michigan once we returned, I remember telling you about my poems, and you told me about yours…
MM: And I told her we could compile them into a book!
SMB: (laughs) I mean, one of us prompted the conversation, that’s for sure.

What was the publication process like? Was it scary?

SMB: I think the scariest part was just sharing our poetry with you! I remember sending you my Google Doc and being so nervous I just shut my computer off and went to bed. I wanted to immediately forget I’d just done that.
MM: Same! 100%. And I think that’s what my favorite aspect of this journey has been, to be honest: The choice to be vulnerable with someone else about your experiences and fears and dreams, when you have every option not to. I find that choice beautiful. I would have been happy enough with that even if no book had come out of it.
SMB: I agree. Once that was out of the way, however, we spent hours editing each other’s work. It was a very respectful process, deciding what should or shouldn’t go into this collection, and we had lots of conversations about what each poem would convey, and how our different styles would compliment each other. Every decision was one we made together. Then you came up with the illustrations…
MM: And then a lot of emailing publishers. I like to tell people I’m horrible at emails, and you saved me in this way. You kept everything on track and on time.

What do you hope to achieve with this collection?

SMB: We want others to feel seen! The way we felt seen when we first shared our own poems with each other.
MM: Totally. We dedicated the book to “those who are bad, brown and brazen.”
SMB: In fact everyone should follow our joint instagram page @brownandbrazen. We have lots of fun and plan on featuring other poets and writers of color as we grow this community!

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