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Department ofEnglish

Kai Harris

Kai Harris

Assistant Professor

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Kai Harris, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, specializes in fiction, African Diaspora writing, and the slave narrative genre. In addition to fiction, Kai has published poetry, personal essays, and peer-reviewed academic articles on topics related to Black girlhood and womanhood, mental health, social justice, generational trauma, and Black identity. A graduate of Western Michigan University’s Ph.D. program, Harris was the recipient of the university’s Gwen Frostic Creative Writing Award in Fiction for her short story, “While We Live.” Her writing and research have inspired paper presentations and lectures at multiple venues, including the Mellon Emerging Scholars Conference and the National Black Writers Conference. Dr. Harris’s most recent research and teaching focuses on trauma aware self-care, youth-centered social justice and activism, coming-of-age stories for BIPOC women, and mental health awareness in the Black community.

As a writer, Dr. Harris uses her voice to uplift the Black community through realistic fiction centered on the Black experience. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Kweli Journal, Longform, and the Killens Review of Arts & Letters, among others. Harris’s debut novel, What the Fireflies Knew, is forthcoming on February 1, 2022 from Tiny Reparations Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. This coming-of-age novel is told from the perspective of eleven-year-old KB, as she and her sister try, over the course of a summer, to make sense of their new life with their estranged grandfather after the death of their father and disappearance of their mother. Learn more about Harris at and on social media @authorkaiharris.


Ph.D. in Creative Writing, Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI)
M.A. in English with a specialization in Creative Writing, Belmont University (Nashville, TN)
B.A. in English Language & Literature, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)

In The News

February 2, 2024

Kai Harris discusses her experience at the Humanities Without Walls (HWW) Career Diversity summer interactive workshop held annually from 2015 to 2023 in their online article.

February 2, 2023

Kai Harris' novel What the Fireflies Knew (Random House) is listed among the nominations for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author. The NAACP Image Awards ceremony takes place on February 25, 2023 in Pasadena, CA.

November 16, 2022

Kai Harris' novel "What the Fireflies Knew" was selected as one of three books for Silicon Valley Reads 2023.