I live in a mountain valley a hundred miles from the nearest metropolitan center—an isolation which means that news stories alone connect my neighbors and me to the world. Suppose an earthquake occurs. Whether it takes place in Armenia or California, the colors and shapes and noises of it get synthesized into a narrative, a format which features beginning and middle and end. We build our view of the planet out of one tale after another.
Baring/Bearing Anger: Race in the Creative Writing Classroom
A few weeks ago I got angry at a student in one of my creative writing classes who complained that I was talking too much about race. She said there were people in the class who were tired of hearing about it. I have heard that complaint from white students before and, in the past, I have been patient, tried to listen, and tried to clarify my purposes in a more tolerant manner.
The Other Half of the Story
For years, I gently browbeat my students. "Dig deeper," I said. "The best stories are about the human heart." I wasn't quite sure what I meant. I knew I didn't mean that old Hollywood saw—throw in some love interest! I meant something closer to Samson Raphaelson's remark about Shakespeare in The Human Naure of Playwriting: "[He] is not a realistic writer but he is overwhelmingly real because he reports the hearts of human beings."
Two years ago, I was surprised to find myself unprepared for the emotional outpouring contained in the first in-class writings by my Chicano Studies creative writing students. I had asked them to recount the first time they were teased because they spoke Spanish or because they were Mexican or Chicana/o. I expected that one or two students might confess they had never experienced such a moment.
Multicultural Students: Bearing Witness, Willing Power
Frances Payne Adler
At the 1994 AWP Annual Conference in Tempe, Arizona, the question was raised: "Why, despite recent hirings by English departments of faculty from diverse cultures, don't more multicultural students take creative writing?" Alan Soldofsky had done a study, and he gave us some numbers from California. Diversity was increasing across campuses; diversity in English departments wasn't.
An Interview with Bharati Mukherjee
Bharati Mukherjee, a native of Calcutta, came to the United States in 1961 to study at the University of Iowa Writing Workshop. The Middleman and Other Stories won the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award, and her third novel, Jasmine (1989), was published to great critical acclaim. Her most recent novel, The Holder of the World, was published in 1993. Her stories are about the struggles of immigrants, legal and otherwise, to adapt to life in the U.S. and Canada.
Finding Voice in the Wastelands of Academic Silence
Kimberly M. Blaeser
Forming my contribution to this panel, I revived every graduate-student anxiety about whether or not my words would meet the expectations of some authority figure. Knowing my participation had been solicited partly because I was Native American and would bring that particular "multicultural" perspective to the discussion, I suddenly found myself stricken nearly dumb.
How to Write a War Story
Straight up—there is no way to write a true war story. The retelling of war gives birth to neither fiction nor nonfiction, but rather a harmonious blend of memory and imagination. In the past twenty-four months, I've accepted two journalism assignments in Bosnia. In '93, the first day, the first exploding shell, the first dead body, I wet myself.
The Irresistible Loop of Story
Mary Lee Coe
As a short-story writer, I have long known the power of story to captivate and persuade. Marcia Clark, chief prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, is said to be the equal of prosecutors with double her amount of trial experience because of her "dramatic instincts," her ability to capture both mind and hearts of jurors by telling a story, in addition to reciting facts.