Brittany Bronson leads a double life. By day, she is an English composition instructor at UNLV, where she earned a master’s of fine arts in creative writing in 2014. By night, she is a cocktail server.
To work through her split identity, Bronson wrote a personal essay late last year, then took a chance and sent it to the slush pile at The New York Times. Four days later, the newspaper responded. And on December 18, “Your Waitress, Your Professor,” was published. “I still can’t really believe it,” she says.
Fast-forward a few months, and Bronson is now a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times. Her essays focus on Las Vegas-specific topics, such as “Can my working-class students avoid years of underemployment?” and “Can you be a waitress and a feminist?” and, most recently, “Money, Sex and Las Vegas Pool Parties.” These issues hit close to home for both Bronson and her students. “The experience of people who are working multiple jobs that don’t [require use of] their college degree—I’m living that … my students are, too,” she says. “Most of [my students] are from Vegas and working [blue-collar] jobs. Those things are most interesting to me, and I think I can speak to them most truthfully.”
Usually, when Las Vegas pops up in the national media, it’s when journalists parachute into town for a weekend of “research,” then return home and spout one Vegas cliché after another. So it’s refreshing to see a local writer get a national platform to offer thoughtful commentary on our unique community.
Expect to hear more of Bronson’s voice in the coming years. She’s working on a collection of short fiction and is considering writing a book about the complexities of being a woman in the workforce. As for her long-term career goals? “For a long time I thought I wanted to have a full-time job at a university,” she says. “But as long as I’m writing, I’ll be happy.” – Cindi Moon Reed