The Velvet Ghetto

Much ink has been spilled on the rise in authoritarianism within American institutions, from media companies to universities. But how often do we talk about this troubling trend in Corporate America? When I was a writer for a major hospital in Boston, new managers built a team of authoritarian leaders who demanded and rewarded obedience and punished dissenters with ridicule or termination. I was one of those “troublemakers” who nearly lost his head in the two years I worked under the regime.
The Velvet Ghetto is a 4,400-word work of narrative poetry made up of 29 poems that form a larger story in verse. I began writing these poems in 2020 after witnessing the public resignations of Bari Weiss from The New York Times and Glenn Greenwald from The Intercept. Darkly inspired by these independently minded journalists, I was motivated to address the authoritarianism, illiberalism and censorship in my own department. The poems in this book desperately try to capture the tension and erosion of the self that accompanies working for a corporation that values obedience above all else. The book aims to transcend my own personal experience and give words to the indignities all employees can suffer in large hierarchical bureaucracies ruled by authoritarian leaders.

I’m seeking a publisher or literary representation for The Velvet Ghetto. If you’re interested in reviewing the manuscript, please contact me at dustin.grinnell [at]