“From One Side of the River to the Other”: a Faculty Feature from Pablo Peschiera (’93)

Associate Professor Pablo Peschiera (’93) teaches many different courses, but his heart lies split between two: poetry writing courses and literary translation courses. Pablo writes his own poems in English, and he translates from Spanish to English. His ongoing translation project is on the work of Manuel Ramos Otero (1948 –1990), the Puerto Rican poet, writer, playwright, director, and professor. Otero’s work is passionate and full of experimentation. The below piece—about how Pablo thinks of translation, memory, and language—is the jumping-off point for an upcoming colloquium titled “How I Learned to Trust Myself” at 3:30 pm, January 25th, in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of the Martha Miller Center at Hope College. It is free and open to the public.

From One Side of the River to the Other

Associate Professor Pablo Peschiera (’93)

I write poems in English and translate poems and stories from Spanish to English. When we translate, we try to get something from one language into another language. This is like carrying ideas and images across a bridge, from, in my case, the Spanish side of a river to the English side. The word “translate” comes from the Latin words meaning “across” (trans) and “carry” (latus). The bridge in this metaphor is the translator’s imagination.

I’m going to extend this river and bridge metaphor a bit more, because I find it useful in explaining what a translator does. When I translate, my carrying-across-the-bridge only works one way, from the Spanish side to the English side. It’s like I’m an importer/exporter with a license that only works one way: I can carry across from the Spanish side to the English side, but not in the other direction, from English to Spanish.

I could give it a try, though, carrying a poem or story from English to Spanish, but I know I wouldn’t do a very good job. In Spanish, anything I translate from English just wouldn’t sound right. A native Spanish speaker would get it, but they’d probably laugh at it—and they’d be right to! It would sound silly, often incorrect and off kilter.

I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan to which we moved from Peru when I was five years old. English is my native language, which means I spoke it with my friends and in school. At home I spoke Spanish, but not with the same intensity and energy I spoke English. English was the cool language. All the music was in English, the TV was in English, my friends and their families all spoke English—everything was in English. None of my teachers spoke Spanish. Even our high school Spanish teacher only spoke English (but she could read and write Spanish very well—go figure). Translators say “translate into the language of your dreams.” For me, that’s usually English.

English is the language I trust. In English, I believe what I say and what I write, and the words come fluidly, like smooth water rippling over stones. When I cross the bridge from the Spanish side of the river to the English side, I need to trust myself. The bridge is dangerous—which means the imagination is dangerous. No steel girders, stone boulders, or even brick or wood in the imagination. Because the imagination is in the human mind, it’s weak and wears out quickly, as if it’s made of rope. And not even the good stuff, like nylon or poly—not even hemp! It’s cotton sisal, or twine. It rots in the sun and weather and comes unraveled. It needs mending every day. So I need to cross the imagination using the language I know best, the language I trust, which is English.

Don’­t get me wrong—I know Spanish well. My accent is usually very good, especially if I’ve been practicing. If I parachuted into a Spanish-speaking country today, I’d have zero problems understanding and making myself understood. If I’m hungry, I say ¿conoces un restaurante bueno por aquí? If I want to buy a lottery ticket, I say ¿dónde puedo comprar un boleto de lotería? I couldn’t argue a case in court, and I couldn’t have a debate about Manichaeism, but most English speakers couldn’t do either in English anyway. So I’d be fine.

What makes me not a native speaker is that I don’t trust Spanish. When I write Spanish the rope bridge feels like it’s unraveling. I might foolishly confuse boda (wedding) for bota (boot), or sagrado (sacred) for sangriente (bloody). Spanish uses gendered articles and nouns: La cancha (the court) is feminine and el maletero (the trunk) is masculine, because words that end in “a” are feminine, and words that end in “o” are masculine. I get those wrong sometimes because there are tons (tons!) of exceptions. When I read Spanish I have no problem with these things—I read fluidly almost as quickly and pleasantly as I do in English.

What it comes down to is art. If I carry a poem across the bridge (a poem is a work of art), I can’t look up words to use while I’m on rope bridge of my Spanish imagination, with its dry rot and frayed knots. I have to concentrate on the destination of the English side. I need to trust the bridge. It’s only made of rope, but at least it’s well mended and strong. It must hold me up. Why? Because the bridge of language hovers over the river, and the river is chaos.

 

Alumni Interview with Natalia Connelly (Granzotto ’13)

Natalia Connelly (Granzotto ’13)

What are you doing now?

Currently I work at (gasp!) Calvin College. I write news and stories for the college’s publications, website, and social media. While I had no experience in marketing and communications when I graduated from Hope, I’ve found that a penchant for writing translates across many fields and provides an advantage in the marketplace.

Before this role I worked at an interior services firm in Grand Rapids overseeing marketing and branding. I wrote blogs and provided copy for web, advertising, and marketing tools, oversaw public relations, and adopted graphic design skills to manage our creative output. If there’s one thing that English majors are, it’s adaptable!

I’m also currently a student at Western Theological Seminary in the distance-learning program. While I’m still discerning where this will lead, my hope is to find myself somewhere at the intersection of faith and writing.

How did your Hope English education shape you?

My Hope English education taught me how to think critically, carefully, and imaginatively—and since graduating, I’ve realized how much of a prize and a privilege that really is. My relationships, politics, faith, work, writing, travel, and movie-watching have all been enriched by an education that taught me how to engage the world thoughtfully, to pay attention, to ask questions and find connections. Those things we unpack in class—race, gender, power, narrative—which are the undercurrents of so much of English literature, are also the cultural cornerstones that need unpacking in precisely the same way. Possessing an understanding of the histories and experiences of these themes makes us better citizens and agents of renewal in the world.

There’s no doubt that my English education also made me a clearer communicator. With this being the main objective of my job, I’m indebted to the patient and diligent corrections of professors and peers for making me a better writer.

Lastly, I’ve been amazed by the community I’ve found with English majors everywhere. Those who seek to write and read and explore the human condition seem to find one another and find good and important conversation close at hand. Whether it’s applying literary criticism to Stranger Things or swapping ideas for our writing work, English majors bring a critical eye and sharp wit to their relationships and the world.

What advice would you give to current English majors or students considering an English major?

I’ll be honest, when I first graduated I thought I had made a mistake. While I was networking and job hunting, I wondered why I had just spent four years reading and writing and not learning, say, engineering or accounting, because all those people had shiny new jobs and measurable experience to bring to the table. All I had was a synopsis of “The Taming of the Shrew” from a feminist perspective.

OK, turns out I was wrong. I had my Shakespearean opinions and a whole lot more: extensive writing experience, a degree from a great institution, connections with alumni everywhere, and that ability to think critically that I could translate through my cover letters and resume and, later, on the job. My strong desire to continue reading and writing was met with opportunities both at work and beyond, in freelancing, book clubs, and now my seminary education. And you know what? Writing a paper on “The Taming of the Shrew” helped me get there. Deconstructing literature sharpened my intellect and philosophies, which prepared me for the nuance and risk of being in the world as well as any degree can. I’m a more thoughtful and well-rounded coworker and church member and neighbor because of Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Simone de Beauvoir, and the brilliant professors who helped me understand and make meaning of them. I also have a great job that requires the distinct outputs of the English degree: sharpness of mind, writing expertise, and a sympathy for the human experience. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My advice to current and prospective English majors is to let your mind and expectations widen with your bookshelf. Keep reading and writing, and trust that the world needs your thoughtfulness, sharpness, and intellect.

If you could teach any English class, what would be the title?

This is so hard! I loved taking Introduction to Literary Theory, so I’ll opt for that.

Favorite book read recently or in college?

This year my favorite read was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, followed closely by Swing Time by Zadie Smith.

Alumni Feature from Kyle Bernaciak ’16

Officer Kyle Bernaciak, Chicago Police Department 006th District—Gresham

As I walked out of an English course, Irish Literature, in late March of my senior year at Hope, I scrolled through new emails on my phone. My heart nearly stopped on the second-floor landing of Lubbers Hall, as I received the news that I had been accepted into the Chicago Police Academy. I had been ordered to report the Monday following my graduation in May 2016. My relatively simple college student lifestyle was about to change. I was on the threshold of the so-called real world.

Fast forward six months, I’m patrolling a beat on Chicago’s Southside, particularly the Englewood neighborhood. It’s a community that doesn’t resemble me. Residents are almost entirely African-American, they have varied religious beliefs, and most individuals fall below the poverty line. This neighborhood leads the city in violent crimes, shootings, and homicides.

My partner and I just finished completing a police report for a young woman who was robbed at gunpoint while walking home from work. Now, we are maneuvering traffic on Marquette Avenue with our lights oscillating and the sirens blaring.  We’re responding to a call about a person with a gun, and the address of occurrence is within an enhanced violence zone.  It’s my first few weeks on the streets and, as you can imagine, I’ve got a cold sweat, and I can’t predict what is going to happen next. It turns out not to be a bonafide incident. We get back in our squad car, drive away, and get called over the radio to respond to a domestic battery incident a few blocks away. I think to myself how things have changed in only a few short months.

My transition from an English major with the intent to be a high school teacher to a Chicago police officer was a rather peculiar one. My father has been a Chicago firefighter since 1980. I guess you can say civil service is in my blood.  I didn’t want to settle after graduation.  I wanted to do something different. One of my favorite classes at Hope was “Race Matters,” taught by Dr. Stephen Hemenway. Analyzing race, diversity, and ethnicity was fascinating and eye-opening. We always had very valuable classroom discussions. The texts were intriguing.

Looking back, there is valuable advice that I want to pass on to Hope students deciding on their next steps after graduation.  Hope students, like me, need to grasp the valuable academic knowledge in their courses and immerse themselves in new cultures rich with diversity and elements of the unknown. They have to take the risks.  It will pay off.

Now, I’ve been a Chicago police officer for over a year and a half. I work in the Gresham neighborhood, also located on the Southside. I can confidently say that I utilize my Hope College English education multiple times throughout each tour of duty.  In the English Department, students are taught to be genuine communicators. Additionally, they have to analyze texts and present their ideas in a concise, yet persuading manner. On a daily basis, my duties as a police officer are enhanced by my English education background when I:

  • generate Case Incident Reports and Arrest Reports. These legal documents have a narrative component that requires the ability to articulate elements of the crime.  Poignant language and a clear narrative flow are essential to the overall effectiveness of the report.
  • communicate with citizens in various forms, whether in a call of service, a traffic stop, a narcotics investigation, or a community concern. Sometimes, I can be a friendly presence for kids to let them know I’m here to help.

 

Hope College allows students to individually flourish. They have endless opportunities to express their ideas and beliefs and to take stances on important issues. An English major from Hope will open so many doors of opportunity.  So embrace risks.  Explore various careers.  Make diverse connections.  Never doubt your intellectual ability. You’ve studied under professors like Hemenway, Moreau, Kenagy, Dykstra, Burton, Montaño, and Trembley— they’re the experts. Listen closely to their advice, because I guarantee it will pay off. If you happen to “fall” into a profession, stick to what you know best and rely on the skill set that you’ve perfected at Hope College.

Alumni Feature: Peter Derby, Class of 2005

Dear Reader,

One of my former professors asked me to write to you.  She suggested, in not so many words, you might like to know how having an English major at Hope College can influence your future.  Not knowing you personally, the next best thing I can do is write a letter to “past me”—the me that was once in your shoes, sitting in an English class at Hope wondering about my future.  I want to let my former self know what he’s up to now, 15 years later.

This morning you woke up and hopped on the subway in Brooklyn, NY. (That’s where you live.) You’re practicing a pitch on the train to Manhattan for your meeting at CNN’s New York headquarters with one of their senior producers, the Director of Technology for CNN Digital. You’ve known this producer for a few years, and today is important because you want him to hire you for a project. You’re telling him about a documentary series that follows people who move to destination cities – like New York, Paris, London – without a plan, risking luck and failure. You hope CNN’s digital studio or the NY Times digital studio might be interested in collaborating or buying it. Sounds promising, right?

So how can I prepare you for this morning far off into the future? Well, you certainly had no idea you’d take a career path that led to today. What is relevant for you to know is this:  these pitch meetings will require that you deliver concise thesis statements, and the better you get at writing thesis statements, the better you get at pitching ideas.  A lot of what you do in 2017 relies on what you learned about how to structure your thinking.

There are a lot of things you don’t know and won’t be able to prepare for with your career. Yeah, you’re thinking if I don’t know what I don’t know, what is the point? You don’t know it yet, but understanding the fundamentals of narrative structure and analysis of that structure will become more important as technology transforms how people communicate and make sense of their world.

Here’s another example. Last week you met a client. It was good to see him, but he had bad news. A colleague of his, a mutual acquaintance and a director of content strategy for a well-known startup, had been fired.  When asked why, he shook his head regretfully and said: “he just didn’t know how to structure his thinking and clearly lay out what his team needed to do.”

Back in 2005, it was not useful to try and figure out what your job title would be, especially since your path to this point was by no means linear.  There’s no Senior Vice President of English Thought Process as, say, an engineering major becomes a Senior Engineer.

So here are three useful things you realize about what you learned at Hope as an English major.

  1. It is valuable to learn how to ask questions. How do you arrive at a question and what is the premise? Can you simplify complex problems to essential points? Are you listening (or reading), or are you reacting?
  2. Once you’ve developed a point of view, a thesis (a.k.a. a pitch), do you know the best way to format/structure your point and increase its potential impact? Is there a better or quicker way to do this? In developing your point of view, follow the ideas you’re fascinated in because everything is needed quickly, and professionals know a safe boring story before you even tell it. (Just a heads up.)
  3. Are you open to learning new ways of communicating and developing new perspectives?

These aren’t things you thought about as an undergrad, but after you left, they did stay with you, because you’d been practicing the discipline of structuring your own thoughts and taking them seriously. You didn’t call it this, but that’s what happened. As your advisor once told you as you sat in his office, you should be able to construct a thesis and strong argument about the chair you’re sitting in. If you haven’t yet identified the skills you’re developing and enjoy practicing as an undergrad, I know a few professors who can help you. Somewhere between the skills you learn at school and the skills of your future career, there is an overlap.

After you get off that train in Manhattan, arrive at CNN, and deliver your pitch, your contact there is going to nod and tell you your project is interesting.  He is going to ask you how you feel about learning how to film, capture light, and frame shots. This will be a bit like putting together a puzzle, where you aren’t given all the pieces, but, hey, you’re an English major.  You know what you’re doing.

 

Alumni Feature: “Reading Against The Grain”

Sally Smits Masten, ’01

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am a Writing Center mentor at Western Governors University, an online nonprofit university that primarily serves adults going back to school for their undergraduate or graduate degrees.  I adore this work.  I feel really lucky to be part of it.  I get to work with dedicated students all over the U.S. who are working so hard to make life better for themselves and their families.  I get to help them gain confidence in their writing, which is just joyful work.  And I get to work with a wonderful bunch of colleagues and at a university that works hard to keep students at the center of all we do.

Second, but not least, I live in North Carolina, near the shore, with my marvelous husband, my ridiculous dog, and my grumpy cat.

How did your Hope English education shape you?

My Hope English education shaped me in every way, really.  My professors were then (and are now) some of the best people I’ve met.  They taught me to pay attention to detail, to think hard and revise my opinion based on a second look, another point of view, someone else’s comments.  They opened my eyes to whole new fields that I otherwise would have avoided (e.g., Milton, Pope!).  They continuously reminded me why I loved words and books and poems; they sustained that enthusiasm.  They taught me how to read against the grain–a skill I use every day.  Simultaneously, they helped me trust my own ideas and voice, which, despite my loudmouthiness now, was not something I was able to do at 18.

Perhaps most importantly, though, they taught me compassion.  They made me want to become a teacher, but beyond that, even now, they make me want to embody exactly the kind of respect, kindness, seriousness, and thoughtfulness with which they taught me.  My gratitude for those relationships is just boundless.

What advice would you give to English majors today?

Don’t listen to all the people who say, “What will you do with an English major?” Or, more sarcastically, “So, you plan to be a barista?”  English majors are valued and valuable for their insights, their ability to communicate those insights, their ability to carefully craft and interpret language.  I have many English major friends, of course, and we’ve ended up in many fields — publishing, business, law, education, healthcare, nonprofit work, etc. The important thing is to pursue what you love and know that there is a place for you and what you love in the world. It may be scary sometimes, but there is a place for you in the world.

If you could teach any English class, what would be the title?

Currently, since I live in North Carolina, since I studied 20th-century southern poetry for my dissertation, and since the debate over Confederate monuments has sprung up again recently, I would like to teach a course titled “Take It Down: Southern Poets Writing against Racism and Sexism.”  I’d have to do more research, but on the syllabus, I’d definitely include Anne Spencer, Jean Toomer, Eleanor Ross Taylor, Robert Penn Warren, and oh, so many more.

Favorite book read recently or in college?

Of all the questions…!  Paradise by Toni Morrison is maybe my all-time favorite novel.  Wilderness of Ladies, a poetry collection by Eleanor Ross Taylor, is a collection that just keeps revealing more brilliance each time I come back to it.  Any and all of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poems. And, for the joy of it, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type, maybe the best (only?) children’s book about unionized cows ever.

 

Registration? Fear Not – English Department Has Your Back

Courses for Spring 2018

REGISTRATION! It strikes fear into the hearts of even the hardiest of students, but you, oh lovers of literature, have no worries.  Why?

Because the English department offers so many terrific courses, you can’t go wrong!  Check out these unique offerings in literature and creative writing for Spring 2018:

  • The Beatniks with Prof. Hemenway
  • Comics and Graphic Novels for Writers with Prof. Trembley
  • Ethnic American Young Adult Literature with Prof. Montaño
  • Novels of Adventure with Prof. Verduin
  • Novel Writing with Prof. Trembley
  • Vocational Discernment with Prof. Montaño
  • Science Writing with Prof. Montaño
  • Walt Whitman’s America with Prof. Pannapacker
  • Creative Writing in the Community with Prof. Childress
  • And MORE!

We’ve got courses on British writers, American writers, science writing, modern grammar, and other topics chosen just for you.  You can find descriptions of these and more HERE at our department website.

Let us know if you have any questions by stopping by our offices or writing us an email.  We’d love to hear from you and to see you in our classes!

EVENT: JRVWS Author, Paisley Rekdal

Paisley Rekdal

The second event of this year’s Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series is almost here! This Thursday, October 19, JRVWS will host multi-genre writer Paisley Rekdal. Rekdal is the author of two books of essays and five books of poetry and has had work featured in a number of noteworthy journals. Rekdal’s visit will include a question and answer session at 3:30pm in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of Martha Miller as well as a reading at 7:00pm in the John and Dede Howard Recital Hall of Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.

In Paisley Rekdal’s most recent book of poetry, Imaginary Vessels, she explores feminism, violence, identity, and themes of containment, inviting readers to reflect on their own place in the world. When I first read Rekdal’s poetry, I was struck by her images, which are at once vibrant, graceful, and captivating: her “palace animals’ teeth” or the “fine chinks of spine/ unlocking perfectly/ from each other.” Rekdal’s poems range from traditional forms and rhyme schemes, to more genre-defying, narrative pieces. Nevertheless, each poem demonstrates an unmissable and intuitive understanding of shape and craft.

Rekdal’s work in other genres is no less compelling. In her latest non-fiction book, The Broken Country, Rekdal continues to explore violence, but also looks at cultural trauma and the specific experiences of Vietnamese immigrants.  Rekdal’s carefully chosen words were deeply moving and informative to me, though I had little previous exposure to her topics.  She gives a personal and human face to the trauma experienced as a result of war and immigration. Weaving personal reflections with the careful analysis of other stories and events, Rekdal’s prose provides a unique understanding of violence and immigrant identity.

Don’t miss your chance to connect with Rekdal this Thursday and hear her words come alive. In the mean time, you can also get your own copy of her books at the Hope College Bookstore or be thinking of questions to ask her at the Q&A.

This is also a good time to remind the Hope College community and the Holland community at large of the invaluable opportunity offered by JRVWS:  the chance to talk with and hear from publishing writers. Be sure to come out to this event and contact the director of the series, Susanna Childress, for more ways to get involved.

Dr. Susanna Childress enjoying JRVWS.

For more details about the event, check out the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series Website

— Grace Hulderman, JRVWS Student Intern

Alumni Feature: “Do What You Love”

Annette Bourland, Class of 1994

What are you doing now?
I am a Senior Vice President and Group Publisher for Zondervan, which is part of HarperCollins Global Publishing. I oversee the acquisitions, marketing, and publicity for Zondervan and Zonderkidz titles. We publish books, gift books, videos, Bibles, curriculum and digital products including audiobooks, ebooks, digital books, and apps.

How did your Hope English education shape you?
I was set to become a stockbroker or an accountant while pursuing my Business Administration degree. When I became a senior, my advisor informed me that I only needed four more credits to earn an English major, so he helped me locate an internship with a magazine publishing group near Hope’s campus. Through this experience, I realized my business focus along with my love for writing, editing, and being creative could be blended together in the world of publishing. If I had not been guided toward that internship, I may have had a long path of figuring out my career in light of the two loves: managing money and managing the books, actual books—not just accounting books!

What advice would you give to English majors today?
Absolutely do what you love and find ways to express that through your work. I loved books, so as a sophomore and junior, I worked at an ABA independent bookstore in Holland. I loved to write, so as a senior I wrote movie reviews, author bios, and short articles for newspapers and magazines. The internship I held at the magazine group allowed me to try many different areas of publishing (writing, design, finance, author relations, marketing, publicity, project management, etc.) and this allowed me to identify what tasks and responsibilities generated energy within me rather than zapping my energy and leaving me depleted.

Just a few weeks after I graduated from Hope, I asked the Career Placement office if I could hold informational interviews with Hope alums who had “edit” or “publish” in their titles. I landed fourteen phone interviews and from those calls, and I was able to schedule five entry-level job interviews in New York City. One alum who worked at Reader’s Digest recommended me for a job. I interviewed, I got my first job after college, and to this day I’ve never even met her in person. There are many Hope alums around the world who have a strong interest in helping others in any vocation. Be sure to tap into that network, even if it’s just to ask a few questions…including: “do you know of any entry-level job openings at your current employer?”

If you could teach any English class, what would be the title?
How to Have Fun Every Day at Work – OR – Just Because You Are an English Major Doesn’t Mean You Have to Be a Teacher—OR—English Majors Can Do Anything

Can you share a favorite book read recently or in college?
In college: Personal History by Katherine Graham – really well written and inspiring for women who want to change the world.

Recently: Solo by Kwame Alexander because I published it, and I want everyone to read it even if it is YA fiction.

Faculty Feature: Welcome to Dr. Christiana Salah, Assistant Professor of English

Victorian Steam Train, Strasburg Rail Road, Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Christiana Salah

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

The number one thing?  Conversation. To me, there are few things in life more fun than discussing a good story. Maybe that’s because I grew up in a family of very, very talkative bookworms! I still talk to my sister and brother about books all the time, and—like a lot of people who teach—both of my parents worked in education. But when it comes to teaching at the college level, what’s most exciting to me is that students have incredible ideas of their own to shar—my duty as a teacher isn’t just to hand out knowledge, but to do my best to foster deep, interesting, enjoyable discussions.

What excites you about your scholarship?

Well, like I said, growing up I was always the kid with her nose in a book. At some point along the way I started reading classics, and I fell in love with the 19th century—Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. In my scholarship, I’m motivated to understand what values, conventions, and shared experiences formed the perspective of writers like these. Different as their world was, so much of what they were dealing with applies to our own time. Reformers faced many of the same concerns—overcoming obstacles for women, bridging economic gaps, promoting social progress without losing a sense of shared identity—yet we rarely look back to this period for inspiration, or pitfalls to avoid. Instead we often see it as a simpler time, a time of black-and-white morality, which just isn’t correct. So my scholarship is mostly about making those connections and complexities visible.

Where are your favorite places to travel? Why?

I’ve spent time in England and Ireland, which was wonderful—getting to see the locations of some of my favorite books, soaking in gorgeous landscapes, and drinking as much tea as possible! But probably the most incredible trip I’ve taken was to New Zealand. A good friend lives there, so I was able to spend several weeks and tour both the North and South Islands. It’s a breathtaking place. Driving around you might find yourself among green sheep pastures that look like County Kerry, and an hour later be in a desert with snow-capped mountains. And of course, they have Hobbit holes there…

“Pancake Rocks” at Punakaiki, South Island, New Zealand. Photo Credit: Christiana Salah

As for my next trip—nothing planned, but I’d love the chance to see where my ancestors come from in Lebanon someday. That said, I grew up on the Massachusetts coast and my family is still there, so for the immediate future I’ll probably be traveling most to that area.

Do you have a favorite book or author?

Is that really a fair question to ask a literature professor? I couldn’t possibly pick one. I’ve mentioned some favorite Victorian writers already. I love Jane Eyre, I love David Copperfield. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. Modern fiction rarely has the same magic for me, with a few exceptions, like A.S. Byatt’s incredible novel Possession. But when it comes to the 20th and 21st centuries, what I read most is children’s literature! If you stop by my office, it will quickly become evident that I love Rowling, Lewis, and Tolkien. I do scholarship on children’s fiction alongside my other research, because I’m in love with how vivid and fresh the field is. The people who write and study children’s literature have so much forward momentum—their passion for justice and improving the world constantly encourages me.

What appealed to you about Hope when you first considered working here?

A lot of things, but what comes to mind first is the value Hope places on uniting faith and intellectualism. As a life-long practicing Catholic, I love the idea of bringing the pursuit of spiritual truths together with rigorous critical thought to serve the goal of creating a more just and compassionate world. Teaching in an environment like this opens up cool possibilities…. For instance, my classes can dig deep into the motivations of Victorian writers whose social messages were profoundly informed by Christianity. And since Hope values understanding between diverse faith traditions, I’m excited about the wide variety of perspectives my students will bring to these conversations.