An Author Stops on 10th Street: Matt de la Peña with the Little Read Lakeshore

Written by Piper Daleiden, Hope College English and Psychology Major, Student Managing Editor for the English Department

As part of the NEA Little Read Lakeshore, Matt de la Peña visited Hope College, where he spoke in classes, presented to elementary school children from the area, and finished with a keynote speech. De la Peña is a prominent children’s and YA author, and one of his picture books, Last Stop on Market Street, is the 2022 Little Read book.

During his keynote speech, de la Peña discussed the shifting role that literature has played in his life. He described himself as a reluctant reader when he was young. Growing up in a working-class area in southern California, his family members did not read as a hobby, so he had no early experiences with reading for enjoyment. However, this changed when he encountered The House on Mango Street. The protagonist in this story grew up in a community that felt familiar to de la Peña, and he found himself returning to this book again and again. He began to see books as places of comfort. His appreciation for literature expanded further when a college professor gave him The Color Purple. This novel was challenging but taught him to empathize with a character who was different than him. From there, reading and writing became increasingly important to him, and with the encouragement of professors, he earned an MFA in creative writing.

Literature did more than spark de la Peña’s love for writing. When his family was going through a difficult time, de la Peña’s father asked to borrow a book that de la Peña was reading in graduate school. Although de la Peña was surprised since his father did not read for fun, he agreed and continued to give every book he read in school to his father. These seemingly small actions culminated in his father going to college to study literature and becoming an elementary school teacher in a migrant community. De la Peña reflected,

“Sometimes when you give someone the right book at the right time… you’re giving them a better future.”

To de la Peña, literature is more than an escape into some fictional world; it can truly impact people in meaningful and tangible ways.

I also had the opportunity to listen to de la Peña talk in detail about his writing process during a Q&A session with my English 375 class, “Kids Save the World: Children’s and Young Adult Literature.” Our professor, Dr. Tucker, encouraged us to ask the questions that we’d been thinking about as we read picture books by de la Peña and other authors for the course. In response, de la Peña described how both the author and illustrator bring their unique perspectives into creating a picture book. He shared examples of instances when seeing an illustrator’s sketches led his plan for the story to adapt and grow.

De la Peña then explained that many of his stories are inspired by his own life. As an author, he especially wants to preserve and share stories from the community in which he grew up, and his neighborhood was the inspiration for Last Stop on Market Street. According to de la Peña, an author must “listen, go through the world quietly, and harvest stories.” Even when pulling ideas from real life, he advised going into the writing process with a point of view, not a definitive message. The original idea for the story will undergo many revisions, so the author should be open to wherever it might lead. De la Peña concluded by encouraging us to write what we find interesting or confusing, not what is trending.

Calling All Poets!

Academy of American Poets Prize

This prize is open to all students currently enrolled at Hope College. An award check in the amount of $100 will go to the winner, as well as a one-year membership to the Academy of American Poets, and a subscription to the magazine American Poets.

***Extended Deadline: December 2, 2022 at Noon

Submission Guidelines

  • One submission per poet, of 1 – 2 poems, no more than four pages
  • Please do not staple your submission together
  • Please submit the poems anonymously; your name (or any other identifying information) should not appear anywhere on the poems.
  • Cover sheet:
    • Type “Hope College Academy of American Poets Prize” at the top.
    • Include your name, address, phone number, email AND a permanent address
  • A list of the title(s) of the poem(s) MUST appear on the cover sheet.
  • Paperclip the coversheet to your poem(s)

Submit poems and cover sheet to the Hope College English Department,
3rd floor of Lubbers Hall between 8 – 5 Monday through Friday.

Off-campus students may emails submissions to following the same guidelines as above.

Alumni Spotlight: “Ready to Listen” with Samuel Vega ’22

Written by Piper Daleiden, Hope College English and Psychology Major, Student Managing Editor for the English Department

What role does a creative writing major play in a project focused on child development and education? This was one of Samuel Vega’s questions when he first joined a group of Hope students and faculty, as well as staff from Ready for School, on a project titled “Stories of Equity and Hope.” Samuel, a ’22 Hope graduate, worked alongside Dr. Regan Postma-Montaño, Dr. Jesus Montaño, Dr. Susanna Childress, Carole Chee, Esther Turahirwa, and Paris Patterson. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the goal of this grant project was to hear people’s stories about children’s educational needs. For the team, this involved conducting countless hours of interviews with a wide variety of people from the community. During the first phase, the team listened to the stories and experiences of parents, but they later brought in the insights of professionals and other members of the community. Samuel explained: “We were just trying to cast a wider net, to hear stories and learn from a different group of people.” Integrating these two groups allowed the project to be as informed as possible about children’s educational needs and experiences within the community.

Hope Storygatherers: Dr. Regan Postma-Montaño with students Carole Chee (English / Women’s and Gender Studies), Samuel Vega ’22 (English – Creative Writing), Esther Turahirwa (Psychology/Business), Paris Patterson (Education/ ESL endorsement)
Ready for School Annual Breakfast:
Dr. Regan Postma-Montaño (Hope – Spanish/English)  Dr. Llena Chavis (Hope – Sociology/Social Work) , Samuel Vega ’22 (English – Creative Writing), Esther Turahirwa (Psychology/Business), and Dr. Susanna Childress(Hope – English)  .

Beyond listening to people’s experiences, the “Stories of Equity and Hope” project also
intends to share these stories with others. This process is taking two forms: a podcast and a collection of mini-libraries. The podcast aired this fall and allows listeners to hear from people of diverse backgrounds about moments of achievement and obstacles in children’s education. The mini-libraries will be located in various spots throughout the Holland community and will specifically include books that allow more children to see themselves represented.

Storygathering session – Ready for School staff Donna Lowry and Bill Badran, Hope student Esther Turahirwa, Storyteller Patrick Johnson, and Dr. Llena Chavis (Hope – Sociology/Social Work) 
Mini-library for Habitat new homeowners

For Samuel, this project has helped him grow as a writer and as a person. At the start, he was unsure of how his creative writing skills would connect with the project’s focus on development and education. As Samuel began to conduct interviews, he realized that a good writer must begin by first being a good listener. This project certainly cultivated his listening skills by putting him in the position to listen to and learn from people with many different perspectives. He grew increasingly comfortable during the interviews, and he even described how he was “able to connect with people on a bit of a deeper, sometimes more casual level than before.” Samuel emphasized that he and his teammates also learned to welcome being surprised, as people’s experiences are multifaceted and unique. Rather than expecting the interviews to follow a similar pattern, the team learned to embrace any tangents and additional thoughts that people wanted to add to the conversation.

Additionally, the project became more meaningful for Samuel as he recognized the
tangible ways in which it would help the community. In his role, he would “listen to people so that in the future Ready for School can help prepare children for even that first day of kindergarten.” He saw that gathering these stories can support parents and professionals as they seek to provide every child with an education that will meet their unique needs.

Interested to learn more? Listen to the podcast and hear Samuel discuss his experience on
episode 3; connect with Ready for School on Facebook; or read on about “Stories of Equity and Hope” and other Hope-Community partnerships.

“Look Again: Trauma, Queerness, and the Healing Power of Comics”

English Department: Spring Course Descriptions

Registration begins on November 7th

A list of ENGL 113 descriptions can be found on our website.

English Department Spring 2023 Course Preview

The time has come: Spring 2023 courses are here!

Registration begins on November 7th

Take a look at our upcoming offerings as you begin to plan. A list of ENGL 113 descriptions can be found on our website. A list of course descriptions can be located here.

“Shakespeare and Belonging”

Dr. Ruben Espinosa
Thursday, October 6 at 7 pm
Winants Auditorium in Graves Hall

The 2022 Clarence De Graaf Memorial Lecture will feature Dr. Ruben Espinosa, associate professor of English and associate director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University. Professor Espinosa’s address is titled “Shakespeare and Belonging.” The lecture will take place on Thursday, October 6, at 7 p.m. in Winants Auditorium, Graves Hall.

Professor Espinosa holds a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is a former Trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America and currently serves on the editorial boards of the Shakespeare QuarterlyExemplaria and Palgrave’s Early Modern Cultural Studies series.

He is the author of Shakespeare and the Shades of Racism (2021) and Masculinity and Marian Efficacy in Shakespeare’s England (2011). He is also the editor, with David Ruiter, of Shakespeare and Immigration (2014).  He is currently at work on his next monograph, Shakespeare on the Border: Language, Legitimacy, and La Frontera. 

By critically examining the intersections of Shakespeare and Latinx culture in film, media, fiction, social networks, localized adaptations and other forms of popular culture, Professor Espinosa’s presentation will explore how perceptions of legitimacy for U.S. Latinxs often influence the barriers and bridges that define their encounters with Shakespeare. A move toward the U.S.-Mexico border allows for underrepresented perspectives in the ongoing making of Shakespeare through varied discussions of national and linguistic identity, race, ethnicity, gender, economics, ethics, citizenship, assimilation, legitimacy and legacy. 

Shakespeare and the Shades of Racism has been described as “a deeply humane and incisive rebuttal to the whitewashed, socially conscious Shakespeare projects popular within the Shakespeare industry” and a book that focuses on “the uneasy relation between our current social ills and those that Shakespeare depicts.”


We thank his daughter Ruth De Graaf Dirkse and his son-in-law Lamont Dirkse, and the rest of Dr. De Graaf’s family, for this gift. Over the years the De Graaf lecture has brought us a procession of luminaries. It was initiated by Thomas Werge of Notre Dame, who had been one of Dr. De Graaf’s students; since then we have been privileged to hear from such admired scholars as Lawrence Buell, V. A. Kolve, Jane Tompkins, Suresh Canagarajah, Anne Curzan and Syl Cheney-Coker.

English Department Faculty Make Global Connections

Students in some Hope College English courses have the opportunity to study at other colleges around the world without leaving Hope’s campus. Four members of the English department faculty have developed courses in the Global Course Connections program of the Global Liberal Arts Alliance (GLAA). 

In globally connected courses, a Hope professor works with a professor at one of the colleges in the GLAA to create links between two similar courses. Connections may involve activities such group projects between students at both campuses, synchronous class sessions by videoconference, or shared discussion forums. Two new connected courses will be taught in the English department this coming fall.

Department chairperson Dr. Ernest Cole is Hope’s pioneer professor of globally connected courses, having taught five of them. All have been versions of English 234, Modern Global Literature, with different themes and global collaborators:

  • “Global Literature and the Environment: African and Indian Literature” with Ashutosh Potdar, FLAME University, India
  • “African Literature and Mental Health: Postcolonialism as Nervous Condition” with Jams Hodapp, American University of Beirut, Lebanon
  • “Global Literature and Trauma: African and Indigenous American Literature” with Adam Waterman, American University of Beirut
  • “Mental Health, Trauma, and Disability in African and Latinx Literature” with Sara Newman, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador.
  • “The Stories We Tell: Trauma and Disability from a Literary & Psychological Perspective” with Sara Newman, Universidad San Francisco de Quito and Erin Henshaw, Denison University, Ohio
Dr. Ernest Cole (right) and one of his collaborators, Dr. Ashutosh Potdar, at The American University in Bulgaria, summer 2019

This past spring, Dr. Pablo Peschiera connected his section of English 253, Introduction to Creative Writing, with a first-year writing course at American University of Nigeria. “My students quickly noticed their similarities to the Nigerian students in terms of goals, family dynamics, friendships, and etc.,” said Peschiera. “But, more importantly, they felt they had a window into a different culture, with significantly different challenges and customs.”

This coming fall, two more faculty members will offer globally connected courses. Dr. Kristin VanEyk will connect her English 113, Expository Writing on “Language and Culture” with another first-year writing course at American University of Nigeria, taught by Emilienne Akpan. Dr. Curtis Gruenler’s English 480, Introduction to Literary Theory, will be connected to a similar course at Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan. 

Both VanEyk and Gruenler participated in a three-day workshop in June at The American University of Paris, where they had the opportunity to meet with their collaborators. VanEyk said she was grateful for the opportunity to meet Akpan in person after so many email exchanges, and that the in-person connection helped their collaboration. “My course partner Emilienne and I connected as both colleagues and friends. Through our many emails back and forth and our opportunity to work together on a project, we were able to experience a little bit of what our students will experience,” said VanEyk.  “The workshop also created space for a rich dialogue about shared values and experiences across the many global sites.”

Dr. Kristin VanEyk (left) and her collaborator, Emilienne Akpan, at the Louvre in Paris, June 2022

Said Gruenler, “I felt like my collaborator, Dr. Qurratulaen Liaqat, and I really hit it off. We are excited for the conversations our students will have with each other on topics like feminism and post-colonial studies.” The two courses will connect primarily during a five-week period in the middle of the semester for both schools, which start a month apart. “Plus,” added Gruenler, “one of our assignments for the workshop was a brief field experience relevant to our connected courses, so we went to the Louvre, since literary theory applies also to visual art and neither of us had ever been there. We got to share with each other from our own areas of expertise, like Islamic art for her and medieval art for me.”

Dr. Curtis Gruenler (right) and his collaborator, Dr. Qurratulaen Liaqat, at the Louvre in Paris, June 2022

One of the leaders of the workshop was Dierdre Johnston, a recently retired member of Hope’s Department of Communications. She and her co-leader from Kenyon College, Irene López, recently published a book based on their experiences with the Global Course Connections program, The Wiley Handbook of Collaborative Online Learning and Global Engagement. 

Vienna Summer School Back in Session

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, Hope College’s Vienna Summer School is back in session!

Dr. Stephen Hemenway and Dr. Marla Lunderberg, both from the English Department, left with their students for Austria on Tuesday. Students will be studying at the Austro-American Institute Vienna and living with host families in the area. Dr. Janis Gibbs from the Hope College History Department will be joining Dr. Hemenway at the end of this month to teach during the June Term session.

About the program

This summer’s two sessions (May, June) offer eight college credits(four each session) in numerous academic fields: Austrian Art and Architecture, Modern Austrian History, Empires of the World and Mind, Vienna’s Musical Traditions, Economic/Business Issues in Europe,  and a Senior Seminar (Vienna: Values in Transit). Field trips within Austria and excursions to neighboring countries add a significant dimension to the learning experience. The program, open to qualified applicants of any age who have completed at least one year of college before summer 2022, has a maximum of 40 students per session. Minimum grade point average for acceptance is usually around 3.00. A student on disciplinary probation will need clearance for eligibility.

Vienna features everything from famous choirboys to fabled coffeehouses, from Sachertortes to the Spanish Riding School, from baroque churches to a modern United Nations complex. While in Vienna, art/architecture students explore museums and churches; students in history and “Empires” courses, visit Habsburg residences and World War sites; music students attend operas and concerts; economics students meet with business experts; senior seminar students question distinguished speakers daily. Several of these opportunities are available to all participants, and the cost of required field trips is included. Non-credit German-conversation classes meet a few afternoons each week. Beginners find these survival sessions beneficial, while those with German abilities gain more confidence.

On weekends, Dr. Hemenway, who has led the Vienna Summer School since 1976, arranges and leads excursions to places outside of Vienna. Plans for first session include a three-day orientation in Moerbisch am See (Austria) and three-day weekends in Salzburg (Austria) and Prague (Czech Republic).  Second session features a three-day weekend in Budapest (Hungary), an overnight hiking trip in the Austrian Alps, and a weekday in Bratislava (Slovakia). Since weekend trips are considered part of the academic program, costs of transportation, hotels, guides, admissions, breakfasts, and dinners are included in the overall price for the program. 

Interested? Please contact the Hope College Off-Campus Study Program for more information.

2022 Academy of American Poets Prize

About the Prize

The Hope College Academy of American Poets (AAP) Prize award is funded by the University and College Poetry Prize program of the AAP. The academy began the program in 1955 at 10 schools, and now sponsors nearly 200 annual prizes for poetry at colleges and universities nationwide. Poets honored through the program have included Mark Doty, Louise Gluck, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky, Sylvia Plath, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, and Charles Wright. The winning poet receives $100 from the Academy of American Poets.

About the Judge

Our 2022 Judge is the poet, Miho Nonaka. who is a native of Tokyo and a bilingual poet/translator. She is the author of a poetry collection, The Museum of Small Bones. Besides poetry of all kinds, her interests include lyric essay, memoir, Japanese literature, surrealism, and modern European literature. Her scholarly research focuses on 20th century Japanese literature, including Arechi, Tamura Ryūichi, the effects of Emily Dickinson’s poetry in Japanese translation, Endō Shūsaku’s vision of the Church beyond the east-west divide, and Murakami Haruki’s fiction and magical realism.

Winner of the 2022 Academy of American Poets Prize: 

Fara Ling 

Best of Everything

I last saw my Si Kor Poh
standing knee-deep in the drain,
throwing scoopfuls of a dull yellow liquid
from a bucket onto her Chinese kale.
When my dad parked
she walked slowly out to us,
pail of urine in her right hand and plastic bottle scoop in her left,
legs bowed away from each other,
bones built without milk
over a childhood of battling with ten siblings
for mackerel heads and chicken feet.
She held the pail away from us,
sat on the two-foot high wall,
wiped her fingers on her shorts.
I wish you – best of everything,
she said.
She cradled her fingers in her lap,
root-shaped fingers the color of fried bamboo shoots
she cooked for us several Chinese New Years ago.
Last night, like last year, we ate at a restaurant –
she’s on the wrong side of eighty with
too many relatives to cook for.
She had worn a hairpiece and thick-soled teacher’s shoes.
Lu m’tang go all the way there dui lai with an ang mor boyfriend ah,
she warned,
no coming back with a white boyfriend.
Don’t forget us.

*Si Kor Poh refers to one’s paternal grandfather’s fourth sister

Judge’s comments

At a meditative pace and through carefully chosen details, this poem takes us to another world and lets us meet the speaker’s Si Kor Poh (paternal grandfather’s fourth sister), a woman of remarkable strength and fortitude, who wishes others the “best of everything” she herself lacked in her hard life. This is a deftly crafted poem, and its power lies not only in being a vivid homage to Si Kor Poh, but also in illuminating the emotional complexity of the speaker who must navigate between multiple realms (lands, races, cultures and generations) while being powerfully pulled by the ancestral call of “Don’t forget us.”    

Honorable Mention for the 2022 Academy of American Poets Prize

Eileen Ellis 

You Said You Were Born to Be a Writer 

In that life, you were a moth –

nothing pretty like those lime green luna moths
with their tapered wingtips and twisted tails and mouths
that somewhere along the way ceased to exist. No –

you were a brown moth, you said. An American dagger moth, 
wings dripping with rows of thin black blades, mouth
left hanging open to swallow and spit out words.

No moth is ever born to be a moth
though you said you were. Maybe you just believed 
you weren’t born to do anything else – your moth-hood

was merely imitation passion pushed into absence like grout,
left to fill the hollows between tiles made of prematurely cracked cocoons 
and left sticky with caterpillar soup – enzymes left over,

you explained, from larvae unable to ever finish digesting 
themselves. In that life, you were funny in a way that made people
sorry for you. You ventured that a chrysalis cracked in two before a caterpillar 
could finish its self-dinner was not unlike a chicken egg cracked in two –

but instead of a puddle of thick, translucent egg goop,
a day 13 embryo curved like an overcooked shrimp plops 
onto the buttered pan, and blood and amniotic fluid begin 
to hiss and bubble in the heat –

and this, you rambled, is like the caterpillar 
(don’t forget this is about a caterpillar, you said,
the caterpillar that was always supposed to become a moth)

in that it is the complete opposite or maybe just dissimilar
and this must’ve been the moment you looked around and saw mouths
open and tasted sour pity in the air – except you never did notice,

at least not in that life. Deep down, I thought you must’ve known
that a moth is only alive to create more of itself. Writers always know, 
right – that they are the real story, which is why when our 36 months

came to an end, you said to me none if it mattered, 
it was all nonsense and when I asked why – why 
none of it mattered, even after the soup and the chicken 

and the egg and the shrimp and the caterpillar
(don’t forget this is about a caterpillar, I pleaded,
the caterpillar that was always supposed to become a moth),

you said it’s because the metaphor was always too obscure, anyway.

Judge’s comments

I love the dark humor and originality of this poem.  The well-worn metaphor of the chrysalis is cleverly, if cynically, undermined, and the oft-romanticized idea of being a writer becomes completely dismantled. A writer, like a moth, “is only alive to create more of itself,” suggests the poem while it repeats its shrewd warning: “don’t forget this is about a caterpillar . . . the caterpillar that was always supposed to become a moth.”

Congratulations to our winners, Fara Ling and Eileen Ellis, and a huge thank you to our guest judge, Miho Nonaka. The AAP Committee thanks all applicants for their work & we look forward to reading more next year!