All posts tagged: literature

Why We Need Diverse Syllabi

Image: John Nakamura Remy In the second year of my M.A. program, I’ve had the opportunity to teach my own introductory fiction course to undergraduate students. Creative Writing courses tend to draw a diverse group of students, especially because my intro course fulfills a general education requirement. I have students from all different disciplines, not just English— biology, engineering, poli-sci, agriculture, you name it. My students also range from freshman to so-called “super seniors.” Moreover, the UC Davis student population is racially diverse (only 26% of the freshman class of 2016 was white), and my classroom reflects the wider demographics of the school. With that in mind, I’ve needed to craft a syllabus that will both fit my students’ needs and fulfill my learning objectives. To do this, I’ve made a concerted effort to focus on readings by writers of color and women on my syllabus. In my course, my students read Junot Diaz’s story “How to Date A Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, or Halfie)” to discuss 2nd person point of view. They …

An Inside Look With Dan Calhoun, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Image: Kent Kanouse What is it like living in Lafayette? How far does your stipend go there living wise? Lafayette is in an interesting area. One of the upsides is the rich Cajun culture. The food is fantastic (red beans and rice, boudin and sausage, etouffee and fresh seafood) there are tons of festivals, and the locals are friendly. Another plus is New Orleans is a pleasant two hour car ride away from Lafayette (and Baton Rouge is a one hour car ride away and Houston is a three car ride away). Lafayette has the essentials: a good mix of local stores and restaurants and chain stores and restaurants. And if you happen to love daiquiris, Lafayette is paradise. There are at least six different bars dedicated to daiquiris (Daiquiris Supreme is my personal favorite).  The downside to Lafayette is the heat (summer is brutal!) and the traffic. Why did you decide to pursue a PhD after graduating from Wichita State? I decided to pursue a PhD because I wanted a few more years to work …

Lit-Cit; a no-brainer.

  Lit-Cit; a no-brainer I’m doing laundry. I hope I have time for a haircut before my flight to L.A and AWP, baby. Excited, to say the least. Before entering the MFA world, I had no idea about writer’s conferences, let alone AWP. What’s the point? Shouldn’t all true writing be done in a garret or a remote log cabin far from the bustle locust? In our last fiction workshop, led by Lori Ostlund (read her, her writing f-ing rocks) we discussed literary citizenship. Another new concept. And lickety-split, here I am riding the catch-phrase bandwagon, ticket purchased from Ms. Google, into definitions, debates and diatribes. This search lead me back to AWP, there will be a workshop on Saturday by Lori A. May author of The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship and The Writing Life. The tenants are surprisingly obvious: Write charming notes to authors, check. Interview literary folks you respect, check. Read journals and subscribe, check. Write reviews, check. Buy books and rave about them, check (Aaron Reeder’s first book DAWN, just out by …

Teaching, Or the Art of Performance (Or, Y’Know, That Thing You Do for Your Stipend)

Over the past few weeks, I wrote a comedic story about Edward Snowden that was rejected by McSweeney’s. My intramural soccer team made it to finals and if we win, we get T-shirts. A family friend visited town and we went on a 4-mile hike around Lake Lurleen. I semi-read Strangers on a Train (doing my discussion post about the final chapter means I read the whole thing, right?) and dreamt that my literature professor was an amateur magician (man, that fedora he was wearing? Really, really bad). I’ve grappled with issues entailed in writing the other and read Stanley Crouch’s brilliant essay “Segregated Fiction Blues” about the subject. I discovered that the Italian restaurant DePalma’s is perfectly meh despite the large crowds that gather outside on Friday and Saturday nights. I went to a reading by Sofia Samatar and heard an excerpt from her short story about a creepy, futuristic summer camp for girls. I tried to get a room full of sixth graders excited about poetry in spite of their complaints that it …

The MFA Vs. Everyone Not a Straight, White Male

I am a black woman. I consider myself lucky that I chose a program that houses other black women, making me not the token for the first time in my experience of higher education. I chose a program that even has black men, and other types of people of color in it. I chose a program that has people in it who fight for the voices of marginalized populations as their daily bread, in and out of what they do for writing or for work. However, even paradise (which I consider my program to be) has its flaws. I came to the program brimming with enthusiasm, and ready to write. My first fiction workshop made me self-conscious. I was the only black woman in that class. I, coming from a predominantly white institution for undergrad, have been known to carry the weight of race. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to submit something for workshop that was urban or street fiction. I felt that gritty urban fiction was something my peers expected me to be …

The Writer of Color’s Agenda & How to Champion Your Otherness

You will get accepted into an MFA program. You might get accepted into several MFA programs. You have spent a lot of money on applications. It’s time you decide how to make this transition possible. With no money, so much is possible in the sphere of dreams. But you’re a writer of color. It has taken you so much effort to get here. You’re in debt. You’ve spent weeks, months, or years explaining to people in your community why you’ve decided to pursue this route. You have translated what an MFA means into Spanish, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Mandarin, Bengali, Arabic, Somali, Yoruba, and Private Language. The future will often appear bleak, like a crow that has to dream before it can fly. How many synonyms can you come up with to describe race politics, linguistic diversity, heteronormativity, public aid, or “I, too, have the right to be here”? You will either own a car or take public transportation. On the bus, you might learn more about yourself than if you spend that much time in …