Asian Heritage Month Book Recommendations

The month of April is Asian Heritage Month here at Hope College. It is worth drawing our attention to this year’s event in particular, as over the last year, Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders have been targeted victims of violence and unjustly and incorrectly blamed for the pandemic. This has been the case across the United States as well as here at Hope and in the surrounding community. 

That being said, it is especially important at this time to center and amplify voices of the AAPI community. Members of the English Department have put together the following list of book recommendations connected to Asian Heritage Month. Although reading books is not enough to combat the racism directed at the AAPI community, literature helps us educate ourselves and engender empathy. It’s not enough to stop at booklists, but it is an important and worthwhile place to begin. These stories matter. 

The Asian Student Union (ASU) has organized events this month, and the Asian Heritage Lecture, given by Esther K. Chae, takes place on April 22.


Memoirs/Essays/Creative Nonfiction

Paisley Rekdal’s The Broken Country has a disarmingly straightforward subtitle: “On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam.” But the unpacking of these incredibly complex elements reveals Rekdal’s insight, skill, creativity, care, and dexterity with a range of material both personal and universal, historical and medical, local and global. Rekdal wowed reading attendees with the first chapter when she visited Hope College in 2017.

In Kao Kalia Yang’s The Latehomecomer, Yang records the story of one Hmong family’s journey from Laos to the United States in the 1980s. Yang defines healthy assimilation as the ability to adapt to a new culture even as we honor the old.

Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings: An American Reckoning has been dubbed “a formidable collection of essays” by The New Yorker, though it is the award-winning poet’s first foray into nonfiction. Hong notes how she long resisted autobiography but finally had to write of the complicated hierarchy of a racialized United States, delving deep into the social construction of race, “the sense of lack,” and what it means to be both the recipient and administrator of these constructions and their dangerous cultural–and of course personal–consequences. 

Born in Saigon and having moved with her father and siblings to the U.S. a year later, Beth (Bich Minh) Nyugen shares intimate details in Stealing Buddha’s Dinner about friendships, family life and school experiences as she grows up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Stealing Buddha’s Dinner explores Nguyen’s immigrant experience from the perspective of a child and can be powerfully paired with her recent essay in The New Yorker, “America Ruined My Name for Me” (April 1, 2021). Nyugen visited Hope College in 2012.

Gish Jen’s Tiger Writing gives us a generous path into a formidable intersection of topics: art, culture, and the interdependent self. Blending family memoir, craft essay, research, reflection, and cultural criticism, this book successfully touts the novel as “a meeting ground of typically American themes of independence and classically Asian ideals of interdependence.” A must-read for writers! Jen visited Hope College in 1998 to participate in the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.

Amy Tan’s Where the Past Begins is a writer’s memoir. The best-selling author of Joy Luck Club offers shocking truths of her early life and honest recollections of her artistic uncertainty. Tan takes us on a journey that unpacks “memory, imagination, and truth, with fiction serving as both her divining rod and link to meaning.” Another must-read for writers!  

Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s illustrated book of lyric nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Nezhukumatathil, of Mayalayi Indian and Filipino descent, brings a poet’s sensibility–she’s published four award-winning volumes–to unveil wonders of the natural world even as she examines injustice.


Poetry

David Cho’s Night Sessions offers vivid moments of familial relationships strained and enriched by the experience(s) of being both Korean and American. Honest and beautifully wrought, these poems reflect the resolute interlacing of culture and expectations, sport and work, language and love. Cho taught and directed American Ethnic Studies at Hope College for 11 years; he was featured in the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series in 2012.

Cathy Song’s Picture Bride explores family identities and their relationship to tradition. She’s interested in what moms owe children, and in how wives relate to husbands in a changing world. In the eponymous poem “Picture Bride,” for example, Song tells the story of her grandmother, who participated in an arranged marriage. The grandma was sent to Hawaii from Korea when she was 23, to become the wife of a much older Chinese immigrant.  Song’s interest is in how people make meaning from circumstances they cannot change.

Li Young Lee’s debut book of poetry, Rose, explores his family’s flight from the spread of communism in China, his father’s legacy of power, and their practice as Christians in a new land. Gorgeously clear, lyrical, and tender, Lee’s poems emit a transcendental power that draws the reader into his complex and sometimes difficult family history while washing his subjects and subject matter with a profound and wondrous love. A long-time friend of Jack Ridl, Lee visited Hope as part of the writers series in 1986, 1991, and 2001.

In Chen Chen’s debut collection When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Future Possibilities, the poems are both clear and lyrical, celebrating his Chinese American identity while also investigating his queerness in the context of Chinese American culture. Chen’s poems are loving, funny, and incredibly soulful. In 2019, Chen read in the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.

In This is How the Bone Sings, Todd Kaneko writes crisply lyrical poems about fatherhood, history, and what it means to be a Japanese American whose family—all citizens of the United States—endured the WWII internment camp Minidoka in Idaho. Kaneko uses found forms like loyalty questionnaires and mythic figures like ghosts and ogres combined with lyrical poems to his son and father to access and understand the legacy of his family’s internment.


Novels/Story Collections

Through Doc Hata’s range of experiences–his boyhood growing up in an ethnic Korean community in Japan, his adoption by a Japanese couple and his service to Japan in the Pacific War, and finally, his attempts to “fit in” in small town U.S.A.–Chang-rae Lee challenges us to think about the “cultural dissonance” experienced by Hata and other characters in A Gesture Life.

In Susan Choi’s A Person of Interest, we follow Professor Lee, middle-aged “Asian-born” professor of mathematics suspected by the FBI of killing a younger, charismatic colleague with a package bomb. The package bomb turns out to have been sent by a unabomber-type figure, but that’s not the reason to read this expertly crafted novel. Choi’s focus on Lee allows us to see him in human terms: the pain at his estrangement from his daughter, a failed second marriage, and his growing realization that the country to which he has trusted his life and future after flight from an oppressive regime sees him as foreign, and automatically as suspect. Choi was featured in the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series in 2009 and teaches at Yale University.

Fatima Farheen Mirza’s 2018 debut novel, A Place for Us, was the inaugural book that actress Sarah Jessica Parker published through her imprint with Hogarth books—and also was a New York “One Book, One New York” pick. It focuses on an Indian-Muslim family of five living in Northern California, experiencing conflict between tradition and modernity, and centers on the search for home in both a metaphorical and literal sense.

Aiiieeeee!, the first edition of this anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American literature, came out in 1974. The Big Aiiieeeee!, a more comprehensive collection of Asian American literature released in 1991 and edited by Shawn Wong, includes the earliest writings that appeared in America alongside more recent essays and stories about the struggles, dreams, and experiences of Americans of Chinese and Japanese descent.

Vyvyan Loh’s Breaking the Tongue, hailed as “the most ambitious and accomplished debut novels in recent memory,” depicts the divided loyalties within one family in Singapore on the cusp of Japanese occupation during World War II. Feverish in pace and packed with tension, this novel deftly explores danger and belonging, identity and loyalty. Loh visited Hope in 2005 to participate in the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, an experimental novel published in 1982, tends to defy clear categorization. Cha (a Korean immigrant, performance artist, filmmaker, and writer) uses collage in fragments of French, Chinese, and Korean, photography, letters, and historical materials to narrate the Japanese occupation before World War II and the Soviet/US spilt of the Korean peninsula after the war. A feminist novel about the damage wrought on Korean women’s bodies during the 20th century, Dictee carries tremendous poignancy: Cha was raped and killed in a violent attack by a man about a week after the publication.

Ted Chiang, hugely celebrated in the sci-fi world, offers two sci-fi collections in Exhalation: Stories and Stories of Your Life and Others. While many of these stories feature reimagined worlds that don’t necessarily reflect the contemporary experiences of Asian Americans, Chiang creates fascinating, moving visions of concepts like time travel, artificial intelligence, and mathematics.

Peter Ho Davies’ Fortunes features four loosely linked stories that come together in–perhaps collide into is a better phrase–a novel. The first three stories, based on historical figures, examines questions of identity and power, exclusion and assimilation. The final story weaves in the previous three in a profound navigation of what it means to be Chinese and American. Davies visited Hope College to read from his work in 2003.

M. Evelina Galang’s Her Wild American Self, a rich, engaging collection of stories, gives voice to Filipina Americans who grapple with their roles within the family and society, women who come to terms with the clash of Eastern and Western traditions, especially, as one reviewer puts it, “the stereotype of the subservient Asian American woman.” Galang was featured in the 2001 Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.

Lan Samantha Chang’s Hunger is a collection of five short stories and a novella. Each one, “depicting–with considerable insight and originality–the fault lines of assimilation,” showcases a lost love in the lives of an immigrant family of Chinese Americans. Chang was featured as a visiting writer at Hope in 2001.

Sui Sin Far’s Its Wavering Image tells the short yet profound tale of a young Chinese American woman living in Chinatown in San Francisco who meets an American reporter seeking access to the Chinese community for a story. Themes of love, betrayal, and identity come together in this piece.

Gary Pak’s Language of the Geckos is a collection of nine short stories set in Hawai’i that not only re-examines Asian diaspora but also the lasting effects of colonization. Characters include Korean Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans and Native Hawaiians; as one reviewer puts it, the “historical contexts loom ominously” even as the land itself offers “spiritual ambiance.” Pak visited Hope College in 2012 to read his work.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut novel, The Namesake, explores the experience of immigration through themes of identity, conflicting traditions, and the enduring power of family love.

Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a breathtaking autobiographical novel. The narrator explores generational differences of being a first-generation, gay Vietnamese American compared to his mother’s origin story in Vietnam during the War.

Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (2017) follows the multigenerational story of a Korean family who eventually immigrates to Japan. The novel deals with themes of racism and stereotyping, along with historical events such as the Second World War, experienced by the family during the 20th-century. Apple TV+ has purchased the rights for a TV adaptation of this novel.

David Wong Louie’s Pangs of Love (1991) is a collection of twelve short stories and one essay that revolves around themes of alienation and exoticization, cultural legacy, and dispossession from an Asian-American perspective. At its heart, this collection is deeply invested in characters who are in conflict with their place in the world, tying together such experiences with food, loss, envy, understanding, and love.

Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte is the latest in Rushdie’s career as a novelist, notorious for the controversy over The Satanic Verses. Drawing both on the name and concept of Don Quixote, Rushdie’s main character searches for love with both naivete and optimism. Noted as “vintage Rushdie,” the novel is full of eccentric characters, long, boisterous paragraphs, and, as such, a refusal to assimilate Indian mythology and storytelling neatly into the Western canon. 

Quan Barry’s She Weeps Each Time You’re Born tells the story of Rabbit, a Vietnamese girl born into war and able to speak with the dead. Deeply lyrical–Barry has also published four volumes of poetry–and radiant even in, perhaps despite, its turbulence, Rabbit’s story is profoundly moving and impossible to forget. Barry visited Hope College in 2004.

Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoir of a Girlhood among Ghosts won the National Book Critics Circle Award for general non-fiction in 1976. Kingston blends autobiography with old Chinese folktales, including a version of the story later popularized by Disney as “Mulan.”

Hope alum Joshua Kam’sHow the Man in Green Saved Pahang, and Possibly the World is the author’s debut novel that rollicks through parts of Malaysia as narrated by two characters—Lydia and Gabriel—and speaks to 21st century lives in terms of gender, culture, and religion. Kam’s intelligence spills across the pages. Written in English, How the Man in Green… includes Malay, Mandarin, and Cantonese, and evokes the plurality of cultures present in Malay society. And yet the novel ultimately explores the complex adventures of two young people who find themselves swept up in magic and myth in which both—as young Malaysians—are deeply invested. Kam graduated from Hope in 2018 and was recently the winner of the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize.


Graphic Memoirs and Novels

Thi Bui’s graphic memoir The Best We Could Do moves powerfully back and forth between the birth of her children and the birth of her parents’ children during their journey from Vietnam to America. The story highlights Bui and her parents’ harsh experiences trying to become Asian American and how this affects each family member as they age and create families of their own.

Mira Jacob’s Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations chronicles conversations leading up to the 2016 presidential relationship between Jacobs and her half-Indian, half-Jewish six-year-old son. Honest, humorous, and heartbreaking, these conversations haltingly cover horrifying moments in American history, interracial relationships, racial and sexual identities, and, of course, knock-knock jokes. 

Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings follows Berkeley resident Ben Tanaka as he struggles to reconcile his relationship with politically active girlfriend Miko and his preference for Caucasian women. Noted as “piercingly realistic as any prose fiction,” this graphic novel investigates how a jaded protagonist has fully internalized white standards for beauty (along with everything that suggests and entails).


Young Adult Novels

In Addie Tsai’s Dear Twin, the early teenage narrator, Poppy Uzumaki, uses an epistolary format (including letters, texts, and emails) combined with first-person point of view to communicate to her abused and mysteriously missing twin sister, Lola. Living in a restrictive Chinese household, bi-racial Poppy contemplates identity, family, friendship, loyalty and feelings of abandonment by her mother and twin sister. Thoroughly contemporary in style, Tsai’s debut novel investigates what it means to be a bi-racial Asian American in the 21st century and how to navigate the world as a queer young woman.

The Downstairs Girl and Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee. Both are excellent historical novels about the Asian American experience, one set amidst the women’s suffrage movement, the other during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

In Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl (Rick Riordan Presents Series), science fiction, especially space exploration stories, meets Korean mythology. Look for shape-shifting and other mythic elements from the Korean storytelling repertoire. In marrying conventional American space stories with Korean mythology, this novel reshapes how we understand the vagaries of discovery and exploration, funneling them into a textual vessel in which thirteen-year-old Min must use what is at her disposal, that is, courage and cleverness at the center of her fox-magic powers. By insisting that Min draw on her cultural wealth for her success, the novel invites us to understand that one’s home planet may not have many goods but it is rich in other things, powerful things such as stories. (Mythological Realism is the term we use for YA novels that incorporate mythology and magical realism. Madeline Miller’s Circe is a good example, as are the Percy Jackson novels by Rick Riordan. In recent years, Riordan has made it his calling to center authors who treat mythologies outside of the Western tradition. The novels thus present the lived experiences of diasporic youth in the U.S.)

Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again tracks the lives of a Vietnamese family as they leave Vietnam at the end of the war and emigrate to Alabama. The father’s possible death haunts the family even as they have to cross linguistic and cultural barriers in America. The dynamics of cultural refashioning are highlighted throughout the novel, in the importance of Bruce Lee to one of the brothers, for example. Much like An Na’s A Step from Heaven, Inside Out and Back Again underscores the power of voice and of storytelling in overcoming the bewildering processes at the core of immigration.

Erin Estrada Kelly’s Lalani of the Distant Sea traverses much of the same narrative ground as Moana but drawing instead on Filipino folklore. At the core of each of these stories are girls who venture forth into the world in order to save their communities. Thus, unlike their male counterparts in adventure novels, the quest that these young women fulfill is societally reparative, as opposed to individualistic. In this novel, Lalani sails from her home island to the paradisiacal Mount Isa in search of a cure for her mother as well as for community. Fighting evil is hard and the obstacles mount as the story unfolds. Showing determination and courage, Lalani completes the heroic journey by coming back home to bestow what she has learned to her community. Her return, in this way, marks an important component in literary works that emanate from diasporic communities.

Randy Ribay, Patron Saints of Nothing tells the story of Jay Reguero, a Filipino-American high school senior from Michigan (Ann Arbor area) who travels to the Philippines, his family’s homeland. There, Jay seeks out answers to the death of his cousin Jun who was murdered in President Duarte’s war on drugs. This powerful coming-of-age novel speaks to questions of identity, family, justice and faith.

If you liked Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel, American Born Chinese, check out his more recent Superman Smashes the Klan, recommended by Professor Postma-Montaño and her students in ENGL 113: Activist Americas. The graphic novel highlights the experience of a Chinese-American family, the Lees, as they move from Chinatown into downtown Metropolis in 1946. The Lees face many forms of subtle and explicit racism, including attacks by the Klu Klux Klan. While Superman swoops in to help the Lees, we also see the daughter Roberta growing as an activist in the novel. Roberta uses the power of observation and the pen to fight racism.

Julia Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine, the Lakeshore/Hope College Big Read book for 2017, is told in spare, paratactical prose. In this novel, the West in the American Imagination, specifically around issues of mobility and freedom, is contested and challenged. Postcards and other travel/leisure paraphernalia contrast the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WW II. There is much to love about the language and its deployment in this novel. At the same time, this novel provides us a window into the ways degradation fundamentally alters conceptions of self. Paired with readings on generational trauma, Otsuka’s novel offers a view of how trauma can and often does span multiple generations.


Happy reading, Hope College!

2021 Senior Showcase – Volume 3

This week, we’re continuing our series on our graduating English Dept seniors. Blogs Administrator Hannah Jones interviewed 3 more seniors: Celia O’Brien, Casey Schafer, and Samuel Vega.


Celia O’Brien

Celia O’Brien (’21)

What year do you plan to graduate? I will be graduating in the Spring of 2021.

What is your major? I am an English, Creative Writing major and a Studio Art minor. I think my English major has been a vessel for my other forms of creativity. I’m constantly looking for ways to combine my art and my writing!

What is your favorite book or author? I have a soft spot for the books of my middle school career: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye. I usually list them as my current favorites too because no others come to mind in time.

What is your favorite book/short story/etc. that you’ve read for class at Hope? I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi for Intermediate Nonfiction with Rhoda Burton. Not one second of reading that book ever felt like homework. It captivated me.

What are some research interests/topics you like to study? I have found myself very interested in poetry. I don’t know if I would call it “research,” but I do know that I spend a lot of time delving into the world of Instagram poetry accounts and the “Poetry” aisle at Barnes and Noble.

What are your plans for after graduation? Ah yes, a much too familiar question these days. I don’t have a plan quite yet, but as I look for something, my goal has been to be open to a lot of different opportunities. My interests extend to several different creative fields: design, music, writing. I would love to find a collision of my artistic hobbies and call it a career, but for now I’m just freshening up my resume and occasionally scrolling through Linked In. If I HAVE to answer the question more bluntly, I would love to try and find a job or internship in either publishing or graphic design.

Why did you choose to study English? My mind processes the world in a specific way and it felt like English was the only subject that allowed my thoughts out in an accurate way. I think I also got a couple nudges from high school teachers that helped me officially choose it as a major. Maybe it’s a bad reason but I hated every other subject. Math and Science don’t go well for me since I can’t look at numbers for too long (Crossword>Sudoku).

How has your English major impacted your worldview? How has it shaped you? I have read many different authors, styles, and voices that I would otherwise not have gotten the chance to listen to. It has also allowed me to think about who I am and learn about myself. I like that balance.

What advice would you give to someone considering a degree in English? Majoring in English has been rewarding in unpredictable ways. I believe it’s a unique experience for each individual and you get out of it what you put in. If you are willing to put time and energy into your writing/reading skills, you can and should major in English.


Casey Schafer

Casey Schafer (’21)

My name is Casey Schafer and I am a senior graduating in May of 2021 with a major in English Literature and a minor in History. I have known since high school, especially after taking AP Literature as a senior, that I wanted to major in English when I came to college. My decision to minor in History came a little later into my college career. I enjoyed the history classes I took in high school, and even came into Hope with a good amount of history credit due to my AP tests. I loved the way my education in English and History worked together during my time at Hope. Having a solid understanding of history made many of the texts I read for my English classes even richer and the writing skills learned in my English classes translated well when I wrote papers for my history classes. 

Reading has been one of my favorite pastimes from a young age and even though I am growing up, I still find myself drawn to young adult novels. One of my favorite books is The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer. In addition, Leigh Bardugo’s books, particularly Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, hold a special place in my heart. Series where authors create their own world are some of my favorites to read because of the attention to detail and the exciting escape they offer. In my time at Hope, my favorite book that I have read for class would be When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I came across this book while taking a memoir class with Professor Burton. The beautiful language and heartbreaking story immediately pulled me in and kept me enthralled throughout the entire book. 

After graduation, I plan on continuing my internship with Humanscale that I started working this semester while I study to take the LSAT. While working for a year, I plan to apply to law schools in order to start in the fall of 2022. My plan to attend law school made my decision to major in English an easy one. I’ve almost felt the most comfortable with a book in my hand and quickly learned in high school that I love talking about books as much as I love reading them. My classes at Hope allowed me to pursue my passion for literature and writing while also preparing me for law school. By including history into my studies at Hope, my eyes were opened to another perspective on literature. I became more aware of the past and how those events shaped the world we live in today. I learned to better understand people through their experiences expressed in history and literature. My time at Hope has opened me up to many worldviews that I had never been exposed to before. I have learned the importance of listening to others’ stories, especially the stories of those very different from myself. Throughout my studies over the past four years, I have grown as a person and as a citizen. I’m forever thankful for my time at Hope and all that I have learned from the wonderful professors.


Samuel Vega

Samuel Vega (’21)

What year do you plan to graduate? December 2021.

What is your major? Aside from an English major, the hope is that also having a Spanish minor will open up doors to experience creativity and storytelling from various other cultures, while also providing the opportunity to strengthen a personal connection with my own Latino heritage.

What is your favorite book or author? My absolute favorite book would have to be Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies. The plot is basically Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings with deer characters, but I believe that a well-told fantasy is always a welcome, refreshing thrill.

What is your favorite book/short story/etc. that you’ve read for class at Hope? It would have to be a tie between The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and Cenzontle by Marcelo Castillo Hernandez. The quiet power of The Namesake was the very reason why stories about identity became even more fascinating to read. I also had the chance to meet Marcelo in person while being his campus escort for the Visiting Writers Series, and he changed my life after telling me that writing about hardship is actually a blessing, if one decides to view it as a moment of bliss and release.

What are some research interests/topics you like to study? While topics such as culture and mythology are always fascinating because of how much they teach about uniqueness and believing in things that are bigger than yourself. Recently I have become obsessed with any story that deals with overcoming fear. There is something undeniably beautiful about the study of gaining courage.

What are your plans for after graduation? Despite being loose ideas, the hope is to explore possibilities involving work with the Episcopal Service Corps, graduate programs involving writing and linguistics, possible employment with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and the more immediate hope of becoming a pet groomer.

Why did you choose to study English? The funny thing is that I’ve bounced around quite a bit. I considered about eight different fields of study before finally deciding on English. I was tired of hearing stories about how starving writers are the only kinds of people who come out of studying English, and my final choice to study English rose from a desire to become someone who changes the narrative. A desire to join and promote a new narrative: that studying and succeeding in English can look like anything as long as it incites passion.

In all honesty, ever since my ENGL 113 professor and I once had a conversation about how much potential he saw in me, that has been a driving reason behind my continued pursuit of storytelling. As I continue to study, it becomes more of a motivation to maintain a sense of curiosity, so that your sense of open-mindedness only grows with every story you hear.

How has your English major impacted your worldview? How has it shaped you? The major itself has taught me that great legends with timely lessons exist practically everywhere. I’ve fallen in love with being curious again, and with this growing curiosity, it became a desire to learn how to listen well before learning how to craft well.

What advice would you give to someone considering a degree in English? To anyone considering studying in English, my advice would be to invite opportunities that help you to accept change. It’s a field that requires one to be adaptable, but also know that this is a program where it’s incredibly easy to ask for help. Above all, people studying English should know that much like art itself, everyone’s creation styles should be encouraged to stand out and be unique. Such variety is only a part of the beauty that comes from expressing your creative voice.

Summer & Fall 2021 Course Preview

We’re sharing some previews of our upper-level course offerings this week. Remember, Fall 2021 Registration starts Monday, March 29th!


Summer 2021 Courses

ENGL 155: Creative Writing—Poetry | Dr. Pablo Peschiera | May Term & June Term, 2021 | Online, MTWRF 9:00 am – 9:50 am

Why do we love to know the lyrics to a song? Why do we listen to music? Because of the pleasure of sounds and words. Everyone has a desire to experience the pleasure of sounds and words—that is the essence of poetry. This class is all about playing with language while expressing ourselves. We’ll look at some rap lyrics, read lots of contemporary poems, and write every day. We’ll watch videos of poets reading and talking about their work, and learn why poetry is important to readers of poetry. As a 2 credit, FA2, summer course, our goal is to experience what it means to be creative and join a rich creative community. We’ll talk about what art is for, what poetry is for, and how poets do what they do.

This course will be remote synchronous, so all assignments and materials (besides the textbook) will be delivered through Moodle.

Required text: Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology by W. Todd Kaneko and Amorak Huey. 2 Credits.

ENGL 233: Ancient Global Literatures | Dr. Ernest Cole | May Term 2021 | Online Asynchronous

Ancient Global Literatures is a four-credit course that fulfills the Cultural Heritage 1 and Cultural Diversity requirements of the General Education program. It presents a dialogic perspective of the Ancient literatures of the East and Western traditions within a fresh and diverse range of selections. It seeks to examine the world’s great literature and by exploring the historical, philosophical, social as well as the literary and cultural links between past and present, East and West. The course would draw from selections including epic and lyric poetry, drama, and prose narrative, and focus on the oral narratives of Ancient Africa and the Middle East. (CH2, CD4, GL1). 4 Credits.

ENGL 234: Modern Global Literatures | Dr. Ernest Cole | June Term 2021| Online Asynchronous

This 4-credit online synchronous course fulfills the general education and global learning international requirements at Hope College. It focuses on the experiences of migrants in the United States by exploring a variety of themes that encompass the dynamics of culture and integration including identity, belonging, exclusion and marginalization, and the reformulation of stereotypes of otherness and inferiority of immigrants. The course draws from the theoretical constructs of cross-cultural integration and hybridity to explore a three-part structure of exodus, the dream and the complexities of the in-between to examine the representation of the migrant in distinct geographical spaces. Using the harrowing experiences of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the course draws from literature from east and west Africa to depict the reversal of expectations and wanton destruction of immigrant lives in the western world. (CH2, CD4, GL1). 4 Credits.


Fall 2021 Courses

ENGL 214-01 & 02: Workplace Writing | Prof. Mike Owens | (01) MW 9:30 – 10:20 am; (02) MW 11:00 am – 11:50 am

This course is an introduction to writing effectively in business, industry, the government, and any other profession. Its primary objective is to help you work through common business writing tasks, both large and small, and produce writing that is clear, organized, correct, and effectively communicates its point. An additional course objective is to give you necessary skills for analyzing and composing messages in basic formats such as memos, letters, plans, resumes, and reports. The course also includes an introduction to workplace presentations and a bit of review in fundamental grammar, punctuation, and stylistic conventions in Standard Written English. Ethical considerations in business writing is an on-going discussion throughout the course as well. 2 Credits.

ENGL 231-01: Literature Western World I | Dr. Stephen Hemenway | MWF 11-11:50 AM

If the COVID-19 situation permits, I shall once again enjoy teaching this course which launched my Hope College career 50 year ago! Aesop’s fables and Homer’s tales of war and adventure start you on an odyssey of ancient literature. Frowns and smiles accompany your dramatic responses to Greek tragedies and comedies. Ancient Roman and medieval Italian epics send you on a spiritual journey that may also embrace excerpts from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and the Chinese Tao Te Ching. Chaucer takes you on a pilgrimage with the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath, and Cervantes inaugurates a quest for an impossible dream with Don Quixote. Sappho, Lady Murasaki, Margery Kempe, Marguerite de Navarre, and Sor Juana de la Cruz go places where few females dared to tread. Michelangelo, Petrarch, and Shakespeare lead you through the Renaissance and Reformation and prepare you for the modern world. As you investigate and explore these authors and works, you read and take tests or written test alternatives, write journals and short papers (or a longer research project), and engage in lively discussions about these masterpieces of Western literature in a global context. 4 Credits | Cultural Heritage I (CH1)

English 231-02: Literature of the Western World I | Dr. Jesus Montaño | MWF 12-12:50 AM

Book shelves along a corridor lit by hanging edison bulbs.

Our objective: to journey into the past to recover, or discover, our cultural wealth. The journey will not be easy. Along the way, we will encounter new ways of looking at ourselves via culture and literature. This journey will make us look at what we are and what we are not, as those things are informed by what has been bequeathed us. The goal of this course is to investigate our cultural heritage from multiple viewpoints. In this, we recognize how entangled our own modern world is with the past as well as how past cultures are intertwined in our world. What we will find is that Greek, Roman, and European societies possessed many cultures, and perhaps counter cultures. Moreover, we also find that those cultures and societies are integrally tied to ours, as we make use of ideas and concepts from them in our world making. In this journey you will hone your critical reading and writing skills as we travel from the works of Homer to those of the Aztecs. 4 Credits | Cultural Heritage I (CH1)

ENGL 232-01: Literature Western World II | Dr. Kathleen Verduin | MWF 2:00 – 2:50 PM

This course covers a selection of the European (including English) literary classics from the seventeenth century to the twentieth. We alternate narratives and plays. We study the works for their own merit, but we also look at them as reflections of their time and place—and also of the literary and cultural trends that helped produce them. Of course it’s impossible to do justice to the rich heritage of European literature in the time allotted, but we hope that this preliminary exposure will encourage a life-long habit of reading. To give coherence to our reading, we will associate at least some of the works on the syllabus with Joseph Campbell’s well known theory of the archetypal Hero’s Journey: separation, initiation, and return. What got these heroes going? What did they seek? And how can their journeys guide us in the journeys that we ourselves must undertake? 4 Credits | Cultural Heritage II (CH2)

ENGL 248-01: Intro to Literary Studies | Dr. Jesus Montaño | MWF 12:00 – 12:50 PM

Subtitle: Monsters, from Beowulf to Beloved
What if we read Beowulf, an early medieval text written in Old English, through the lens of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a novel about a ghost and about slavery. What would we learn about ourselves? About liberation? About others?

This course is about monsters. It is a course on literature, because tales and stories are where monsters find form, where they find life. In this, monsters are bound up in our imagination, in what we find abhorrent, frightening, horrifying. And. To a large extent, what we most fear is the Other. This, then, is our task: to look at monsters through “dark” lenses that allow us to see the devaluation of humanity in the making of monsters, in other words, the making of Others.

Along with Beowulf and Beloved, we will read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Jorge Luis Borges’s “The House of Asterion”, a short story told from the perspective of the Minotaur. 4 Credits

ENGL 253-01: Introduction to Creative Writing| Susanna Childress | TR 9:30-10:50 AM

It’s time to get creative! For this course, you need not have any previous writing experience. We’ll do regular writing exercises, plenty of literary reading, and lots of constructive peer response. We’ll take a good, long look at craft techniques to aid you in trying your hand at poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Joan Didion, who wrote across genres, said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Welcome to a course whose whole point is to help you find something—or a myriad of things—out! 4 Credits | The Arts II (FA2)

ENGL 253-02: Intro to Creative Writing | Susanne Davis | TR 4-5:20 PM

An introduction to the craft of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, including reading as a writer. No prior writing experience required. 4 Credits | The Arts II (FA2)

ENGL 270-01: British Literature I | Marla Lunderberg | MWF 11-11:50 AM

As we navigate British Literature from 875 to 1800, we’ll investigate what our texts show about the role of women, conventions of love, the exercise of authority, and the role of art in society. We’ll explore the ways different eras portray heroism—and monstrosity. Your job will be to read thoughtfully and to assess the assigned texts with curiosity, creativity and critical thinking. Class will be conducted through mini-lectures and class discussion. Writing assignments will be designed to support your exploration of the readings. 4 Credits.

ENGL 281-01: American Literature II | Lisa McGungal | TR 12-1:20 PM

In this course, students will examine a survey of literary genres including fiction, autobiography, poetry, and drama in American literature from 1865 to the present. Note that, for the purposes of this class, “American” refers to the United States. Additionally, “American” in this course refers not only to writers born/living in the U.S. but also writers who immigrated to and/or emigrated from this country. We will learn and engage with different conceptions of American identity as the texts we read and study will portray varying, and at times conflicting, experiences of living in the United States. Students will identify common literary elements in each genre, understanding how they influence meaning as well as speak across texts. This course emphasizes basic tools of literary analysis: close reading, library research, and attention to socio-cultural/historical contexts. Since this is a survey, we move at a swift pace but simultaneously immerse ourselves in the dedicated text(s) of each class. Authors we’ll be reading include Sandra Cisneros, W.E.B. Du Bois, Leslie Marmon Silko, Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, Sarah Orne Jewett, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. 4 Credits.

ENGL 355-01: Intermediate Creative Poetry Writing | Pablo Peschiera | TR 1:30 – 2:50 PM

Through language, poetry gives us music while it helps us investigate what it means to be alive. We’ll study that “language music,” many kinds of poetic form and how to best use them, practicing those forms and adapting them to your own purposes. We’ll read and analyse rap lyrics, find their rhythmic and formal patterns, and make connections between rap and poetry. You’ll experiment with your own fundamental speech rhythms while you think more deeply about lines, sentences, and stanzas. You’ll write poems—tons of poems! We’ll read lots among a diverse range of contemporary poets, and learn to see form for what it really is: the pace of our minds, and the heartbeat of poetry. 4 Credits | The Arts II (FA2)

ENGL 358-01: Intermediate Creative Nonfiction Writing | Susanna Childress | TR 12-1.20 PM

In a genre defined primarily by what it is not, Creative Nonfiction holds wild possibilities for what, indeed, it is. Could that be why CNF is experiencing such a staggering renaissance? It persuades, parades, obsesses, researches, meditates, marvels, rages, responds, defends, defines, deliberates, narrates, rotates, invites closer observation, magnifies, refracts, re-purposes, revitalizes, remembers, recognizes, and celebrates moments of incredible particularity and proportion. CNF is a map, a recipe, a podcast. And in this class, we’ll try it all. Pulitzer-prize winner Ron Powers asserts that, as a storytelling species, CNF “satisfies our hunger for the real and our need to make sense…out of chaos.” So come to this class hungry for the real, ready to be inventive, raw, timely, timeless, and in touch with your inner storyteller. Prerequisites: Engl 253 or equivalent. 4 Credits.

ENGL 360-01: Modern English Grammar | Kathleen Verduin | MWF 9:30 – 10:20 AM

Is it “lie” or “lay”? “Who” or “whom”? “I” or “me”? And when is a sentence not a sentence, and what is a dangling participle, and where (on earth) should you place commas? If you’ve ever been troubled by these questions, sign up for this course. We start simply, learning to identify the seven (some say eight) parts of speech, recognizing phrases and clauses, and yes—but fear not!—diagramming sentences. We go over the conventions of usage: affect vs. effect, amount vs. number, imply vs. infer, like vs. as, and a fearsome lineup of similarly daunting verbal mysteries. But (and yes, you can—indeed, you may—begin a sentence with this word!) we also look into the history of grammar, the invention of sentence diagrams, and the cultural questions surrounding the role of grammar in contemporary society: why does grammatical correctness matter (or does it?), who decides what’s “correct,” and why (for heaven’s sake) are grammarians so often represented as crabby old ladies? By the end of the semester, you will write with increased confidence, secure in the knowledge that your prose won’t be blotched with distracting and embarrassing errors. A great course for writers, future teachers, or anyone who just wants to look good in print. Lots of support, lots of exercises, lots of encouragement: if you take this course, you ain’t gonna be sorry. 4 Credits.

ENGL 373-01: Shakespeare | Marla Lunderberg | TR 1:30 – 2:50 PM

Questions of Justice in Shakespeare’s Plays: Society’s Treatment of the “Other”
Many of Shakespeare’s plays explore what it means to be treated as an outsider. Studying these plays can guide us in questioning issues of justice when women are treated as possessions, Jewish merchants are ridiculed, and military commanders are questioned because of the color of their skin. In this course, we will work our way together through several plays, reading and watching and studying and arguing about the meaning we find in them. We will examine the historical and literary contexts, studying the plays as literature and as performance pieces and assessing various critical approaches’ insights. 4 Credits.

ENGL 375-01: Children’s and Young Adult Lit | Regan Postma-Montaño | MWF 2-2:50 PM

I invite you to think about kids and their work to save the world! In the Percy Jackson series, Percy and his cohort of demigods tangle with rebellious gods to save the world from evil. Fighting evil, in the form of Nazism, is likewise positioned in The Diary of Anne Frank and Number the Stars. The same emphasis is true of ecojustice narratives such as Stella Diaz Never Gives Up where Stella finds ways to help the oceans and its denizens from the dangers of pollution or Ship Breaker, in which the characters deal with the aftermath of climate change. Standing up to constricting social and racial practices is the topic of concern in Piecing Me Together, Out of the Dust, and Apple in the Middle. What our readings hold in common is kids’ active engagement in creating a better world.

The goal of this course is to explore a wide range of kid lit, including mythological fantasy, historical novels, picture books, and realistic fiction. Due to our emphasis on how kids save the world, we will devote attention to struggles against evil (historical and fictional), environmental concerns, and social justice issues. By exploring literature for children and young adults in this way, we will see kids as the catalyst for dynamic change and their work to transform our world. 4 Credits | GLD

ENGL 380-01: Teaching Secondary School Engl | Bill Moreau | W 3-5:50 PM

Are you an English major who wants to be an English teacher in a secondary school? Are you an English minor or special education pre-service student who may end up teaching some English as part of your future career choice? If any of these situations fits you, this class is designed to help.

We’ll learn concrete, practical methods for choosing and teaching literature, for teaching and evaluating the process of writing, and for presenting the study of grammar and usage. Topics of interest related to the profession of classroom teaching as a whole will also be shared. Class sessions will include informal lectures, student projects and presentations (a.k.a. teaching), and discussions. We will read from four books and a mountain of handouts. (Four credits total—three for the class, one for a clinical experience TBD.) 3 Credits.

ENGL 454-01: Advanced Fiction Writing| Susanna Childress | TR 1.30-2.50 PM

Have you written a series of short stories or a novel? Do you want to? How could you work towards writing both—at the same time? In this course, we’ll focus on linked stories, aka story cycles, and how they work as a kind of Super Novel. We’ll be reading award winners like Erdrich’s Love Medicine and Bump’s Everywhere You Don’t Belong. We’ll be writing—slowly, steadily—and workshopping roughly 40 pages of your linked shorts. Be ready to read and to write—you’ll do plenty of both! And as you do, be ready to fall in love with the story cycle and kick it with other linked-story lovers. 4 Credits.

ENGL 480-01: Introduction to Literary Theory | Curtis Gruenler | TR 9:30-10:50 AM

Literary theory equips you to think better about how to read and why, and maybe to enjoy it more too. Tour major schools of thought from Plato to the twenty-first century, such as formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalytic criticism, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial criticism, ecocriticism, and disability theory. Meet theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, René Girard, Adrienne Rich, Judith Butler, Edward Said, Chinua Achebe, and Wendell Berry. Connect literature to other disciplines such as philosophy, theology, and the social sciences. You’ll have a chance to write and talk critically about whatever texts you like—stories, poems, films, TV, games, etc. The course will be conducted as a seminar with several short papers and two longer ones. 4 Credits.

The full schedule can be found here.

2021 Senior Showcase – Internship Feature

Senior Mary Laffey speaks with our blogs administrator Hannah Jones, and shares her internship experiences working with both the Van Wylen Library and the Joint Archives of Holland.

Marry Laffey (’21)

What did you work on at Van Wylen? What was your favorite aspect of that internship?
My internship at Van Wylen involved four main “projects”: rewriting databases, interviewing librarians, learning how the library acquires books, and creating my own display in the library. I worked with another student, Becca Stanton, to eliminate confusing jargon from the library’s database descriptions, replacing it with accurate descriptions of the resources each database offered. I also interviewed about 10 librarians, as well as other employees in the library, asking questions about where they attended library science school, what they loved about their jobs, and how they came to their position at Hope. I also shadowed several librarians as they showed me how to order books online, process these books, label them, and finally place them on display in the library. My display was going to be based upon mental illness, but before we could create the display, COVID hit. Thankfully my internship translated pretty well online, and I did my “display” in the form of a LibGuide (an online display of sorts) but I was disappointed that I never got to finish my project.

What are you currently working on at the Archives? What do you like best about this internship?
Unfortunately due to COVID I have had to quarantine twice this semester and have not the chance to spend a solid amount of time working at the archives! When I have been able to be in-person, I’ve worked with diaries, letters, and journals dating back to the early 1900s all from the same family (The Hondelink Family) and I have a lot of freedom in how I organize these materials. Some of my online projects have been transcribing a letter from a WWI soldier.

How do you see your internships being informed by your English major? Are there connections across both internships that you’re making?
Both of my internships have allowed me to further cultivate my love of learning and history in working on projects that allowed me to emphasize the importance of stories. At Van Wylen, I was able to create an entire display on memoirs from people who struggle with mental health, and at the archives, I am reorganizing and transcribing materials so that future generations can hear these people’s remarkable journeys.

What are your plans for post-graduation?
After graduation, I plan to try and find a part-time job or an internship at a public library to get some experience before heading to Graduate School in Library Science. If that is not possible, I hope to gain a position as a technical writer for a charity organization.

What has been your favorite English class (or classes) at Hope?
So many to choose from! I’ve loved taking Intro to Literary Studies with Rhoda Burton, Jane Austen & Oscar Wilde with Emily Tucker, Intro to Literary Theory with Curtis Gruenler, Western Lit with Doc Hemenway, and American Ethnic Literature with Jesus Montano. Honestly though, all the English professors are intelligent, funny, kind, and amazing human beings so no matter what you take, you’ll enjoy it.

Here’s the link to Mary’s LibGuide. If you are interested in adding an internship as part of your Hope College experience, reach out to your advisor to see how to get this set up!

March is National Reading Month: Hope College and Ready for School Collaborate for Our Youngest Readers!

On Friday 2/26, Hope College featured a live virtual visit with author Kwame Alexander in conjunction with national Black History Month*. The virtual talk was entitled, “Light for the World to See: A Conversation with Kwame Alexander.” Alexander’s visit was a collaborative effort of several Hope organizations: the NEA Big Read Lakeshore, Black Student Union, Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Ruth Tensen Creative Writing Fund, Cultural Affairs Committee, Department of Education, and Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.

On the heels of Kwame Alexander’s Big Read presentation, Dr. Jesse Montaño shares about National Reading Month, and an exciting new collaboration between Hope College faculty and students (past and present) and Ready for School, via a grant from the Hope College Mellon Community-Based Partnership Initiative.


Welcome March—National Reading Month! Time to trot out the “green eggs and ham,” and don a costume at a reading-inspired party to celebrate the power of reading! As you may or may not know, March was chosen for National Reading Month because it marks the birthday of celebrated children’s book author Theodore Seuss Geisel, best known to us as Dr. Seuss.  

As we celebrate National Reading Month this year, we highlight a new collaboration between Hope College faculty and students (past and present) and Ready for School, via a grant from the Hope College Mellon Community-Based Partnership Initiative. This collaborative grant will promote reading and kindergarten readiness among the youngest kids in our community. Ready for School, a non-profit, community organization in greater Holland, was established in 2008 to meet a critical need: preparing children for success in kindergarten. Over the last decade, collaborative efforts in health, education, and public awareness have yielded success, increasing the level of readiness from 43% in 2009 to 70% in 2019. Even with this success, disparities in kindergarten readiness currently exist in our community. Our initiative, “Stories of Equity and Hope,” draws on the power of stories to improve our understanding of what barriers exist, why they exist, as well as how best to move forward. 

Image via Unsplash

In the coming weeks, the grant team will collect stories from local families and community members on ways to address kindergarten readiness and reading. These stories center knowledge that emanates from those who daily navigate the challenges that impede kindergarten readiness. We are convinced that solutions involve seeking these stories from disparate perspectives and listening to them attentively. In amplifying diverse voices in our community, we likewise alleviate ugly hierarchies of human value by honoring the dignity of all involved. Put another way, the sharing of stories and the listening attentively to them centers the simple humanity of tellers and listeners. 

Alongside our community story-gathering efforts, “Stories of Equity and Hope” will feature reading circles, a suggested reading list, and virtual read-aloud storytimes around the works of noted children’s author, Kwame Alexander. Families in the community will receive copies of Alexander’s Indigo Blume and the Garden City. Young readers will be encouraged to grow plants and flowers in emulation of the Indigo’s garden city project, as they consider the growth of plants as well as other kinds of growth. As character Woody Bark professes in the picture book, “plant the seeds of faith and love, and let nature do the rest.” Videos showing community members reading Indigo Blume and photographs from the plantings will soon come your way.  

Image via Unsplash

The grant team chose the work of Kwame Alexander, as well as other diverse authors and artists, to foreground the importance of intergroup justice and racial reconciliation in our local and our national communities as a part of kindergarten readiness. Even as we begin this post by citing to the significant work of Dr. Seuss in promoting reading, we call attention to the ways in which hidden forms of racism exist in all facets of our society and in all parts of our lives. As scholar Philip Nel has persuasively argued in his book, Is the Cat in the Hat Black?, Geisel was directly influenced by minstrelsy and blackface caricature in his illustrations of The Cat in the Hat and in his depiction of Cat’s actions. While we have known for some time that the Cat’s sly, secretive smile and the color of his skin was based on Annie Williams, an African-American woman who worked at Houghton Mifflin, the publishing house for The Cat in the Hat, what Nel reveals is the dogged ways in which racist images and ideas persist in our collective imagination. As Nel points out, Geisel knew of minstrelsy from a young age, having written and acted in blackface while in high school and having created minstrel-inspired images into his early career. By the time of the picture book’s composition, however, Dr. Seuss actively spoke out against racism. The moral to this fable, it seems, is that we need be attentive to hidden forms of racism and their purview in our communities. When the grant team considered books to highlight in our reading and kindergarten readiness initiatives, therefore, we intentionally chose books that offer counter-stories to deleterious and noxious stories and ideas. In this way, our project contributes to anti-racism efforts. 

Image via Unsplash

As we celebrate National Reading Month, with all of its pageantry and possibilities, we also congratulate faculty Susanna Childress, Regan Postma-Montaño, Llena Chavis, Har Ye Kan, and Jesus Montaño on recently being awarded funds by the Mellon Community-Based Partnership Initiative to support work on reading and kindergarten readiness in our community. Thanks to these faculty, Hope students, and Ready for School staff and family partners for joining us on this exciting project!

*Special Note: If you were unable to attend Kwame Alexander’s live streamed event on Friday 2/26 and would like to watch it, please email the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at diversity@hope.edu. A one week link to the recorded event is available. It is only open to those with a Hope College email address.

2021 Senior Showcase – Volume 1

This spring, we will be featuring English Department Seniors as they reflect on their time in the department and look forward to life after Hope. Our first volume features Grace Alex and Jory Wynsma. These interviews were conducted by Hannah Jones (’21), who is our Blogs Administrator.


Grace Alex

Grace Alex ’20

What year do you plan to graduate? I just graduated this past November 2020.

What is your major? English Literature

What is your favorite book or author?  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

What is your favorite book/short story/etc. that you’ve read for class at Hope? Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya for Dr. Ernest Cole’s Modern Global Literature course

What are some research interests/topics you like to study? Feminist and Postcolonial studies

What are your plans for after graduation? My current plan is to land a job in the publishing and marketing industries in the coming months.

Why did you choose to study English? I chose to study English because I have a passion for reading, writing, words, and beautiful speech. I also love historical studies and contemporary feminist studies in literature.

How has your English major impacted your worldview? How has it shaped you? My English degree has molded me into a highly perceptive person of cultures and society. I love exploring and analyzing literature through different literary lenses, which broaden my views and beliefs of religion and the world.

What advice would you give to someone considering a degree in English? Put effort into your passion for literature and writing. Let yourself explore your potential; there are so many amazing opportunities and experiences that await you.


Jory Wynsma

Jory Wynsma ’21

What year do you plan to graduate? I plan to graduate at the end of the Spring 2021 semester.

If applicable, what are your major(s) and minor(s) aside from English? How do you see your English major impacting/influencing your other major(s)/minor(s)? Aside from English with a writing emphasis, I have a second major in Sociology. Sociology studies societies, and how the groups within them function. With this knowledge at my disposal, I can better analyze a text as it fits into the world it came from. My English major makes it possible for me to empathize with the individual, and sociology helps me empathize with groups. Combined, I think this has given me a unique and valuable perspective on the ways of the world.

What is your favorite book or author? My favorite book is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern– I read it for the first time as a freshman in high school, and I fell in love with the varying narration within the story as well as her detail that created a dream-like world. As for my favorite author, I really admire the creativity Ransom Riggs utilizes in his writing. In his most popular series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Riggs uses old photos he has collected in order to create a setting and characters throughout. His book was one of the first that showed me the beauty in writing and style. 

What is your favorite book/short story/etc. that you’ve read for class at Hope?  I think my favorite piece I’ve read at Hope was the Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I first read it in Creative Nonfiction with Dr. Rhoda Janzen, and the context she was able to provide us after our reading was immensely beneficial in both my understanding and my appreciation. The eerie tone of the piece kept me intrigued throughout, but moreover, the argument Gilman makes within the work is one I still think about often.

Why did you choose to study English? I was always an avid reader and creative child, and these attributes stuck with me. Ultimately, this led me to declare my English major sophomore year. Before I decided, I took a few classes the year prior to get a feel for the department, and really loved the content, practice, and conversations I had in those courses. I knew coming into college that English was one of the possibilities I would consider, and it only took a few classes to realize this was something I wanted to stick with.

How has your English major impacted your worldview? How has it shaped you? I think in a lot of ways my English major has given me a lot of confidence as both a writer and a person. When I first started out I had a hard time seeing any sort of value in my pieces, and I constantly worried about saying the wrong thing in class. It took a long time for me to recognize that I was putting myself on way too high of a pedestal and that I wasn’t meant to be perfect– I was a student in practice. I put in the work to get where I wanted to be, and looking back on my pieces through the years, I am proud to see my growth. As far as my worldview, like I mentioned before English has given me more of an ability to empathize with individuals, which in turn has made me more open-minded and shown me the necessity of meeting people where they are at instead of where you wish them to be.

What advice would you give to someone considering a degree in English? If you’re on the fence about English, I would recommend taking a class or two to check it out– Intro to Creative Writing is a great way to test the waters for English with a writing emphasis. Additionally, English is incredibly versatile, so don’t listen to all the jokes about never finding a job– every job needs someone with good communication skills!


Stay tuned for Volume Two!

Alumna Feature – Kasidee Karsten (’13): “There’s No Right or Wrong Way.”

Kasidee Karsten ’13 took her English degree into the social media realm, working for the past few years as Social Media and Content Manager for the National Football League Players Association. She shares with us her insights on how her English courses at Hope led to her success.

Kasidee at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Ceremony.

What are you up to now?

I currently work for the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) as a Social Media & Content Manager. My job is to put together a communications strategy that includes social media, website content and email/text message campaigns to active NFL players. The NFLPA represents all active and former NFL players and collectively bargains over wages, working hours and benefits for NFL players. We also offer several programs for players like continuing education and tuition reimbursement, job shadows and externships, financial wellness, and mental health programs. It’s my job to get the word out about these programs to our player members so they know what’s available to them and what they can take advantage of while they’re in the league. I also work on crisis management for any important matters that relate to the NFL, whether that be healthy/safety, social justice, etc. All-in-all every single day is different, and that’s what I love about my job! Getting to support the best football players in the world isn’t bad either.

How did your Hope English education shape you?

At Hope, I was always pushed to think creatively and critically, two skills which are invaluable in my opinion. Learning to appreciate the way others view the world by reading their works has helped me to be able to understand my audience better and to make sure I’m communicating to them appropriately. Our world today is very focused on the quick-hit, flashy headlines, but can lack substance beyond that. Hope English gave me a solid foundation for writing pieces with substance and taught me how to find the stories worth telling.

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

One of my favorite things about English is that there are so many possibilities! Knowing how to effectively communicate, justify your thoughts and think critically are skills that will bode well in any career path. Whether it’s journalism, public relations, legal, advertising, brand strategy, etc. having an English degree is something that will allow you the versatility to find a path you really enjoy. It also helps you stand out from a crowd when it comes to applying for jobs and interviewing because you’ve learned to research, problem-solve and effectively communicate your skills. It seems standard to those of us who are naturally good writers and communicators, but there’s actually a huge lack of these skills in the professional world.

Kasidee interviewing play Richard Sherman for the NFLPA

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

Either “How to Master Your Audience” or “Social Media DTR: Why It Should Only Be a Part of Your Communications Strategy.” A lot of the work I’ve done over the past few years has been how to really understand the audience I’m speaking to versus slapping something on Twitter and hoping it sticks. It’s actually quite hard to learn how to tell a 20-something football player why they should care about personal finance! There’s a lot of thought and care that goes into creating a good social media strategy than most people think (see: Massive Corporate Social Media Horror Stories), and I love finding new ways to help campaigns land well.

Favorite book read recently or in college?

I recently read American Dirt and couldn’t put it down. These days I have a hard time finding books that I can really dig in and that keep my attention, and this one was so painful, intriguing and exciting at the same time.

Anything else to add? (writing process, advice, managing expectations for success, etc.)

It’s important to find a process that works for you! In college, I found myself comparing my writing process to others and the truth is that what works for me might not work for you. Some people dive right into their thoughts and they flow perfectly, others need outline after outline before getting something concrete down on paper. There’s no right or wrong way–the process is really what counts and what you learn the most from.

Kasidee at Super Bowl LIV.

Kaijsa Johnson’s “A Look Back for Looking Ahead”

Editor’s Note: Students in English 480: Introduction to Literary Theory began the semester by writing reflections on their lives of reading thus far. This post is a revision of one of those essays.

Kaijsa Johnson, Class of 2021

Reading literature has always been a passion of mine, ever since my mom would read Harry Potter to me. I eagerly anticipated each new installment in my childhood years. The value I place on reading has influenced me to major in English and pursue a career or graduate degree in children’s literature. 

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Along with my love for children’s literature, I gravitate towards English because my whole family were English majors. I also believe that the influence of the Jane Austen movies and novels, like Pride and Prejudice and Emma, pushed me to explore more in the literary field that I loved as a child. The novels and series that my parents and my schooling exposed me to have shaped the way I perceive the world. The joy I felt when reading Harry’s magical friendships and the thrilling adventures of the Magic Tree House series pushed me to read more and analyze more. I hope to help the next generations of children do the same and so much more because the next generations of children deserve to escape to a whimsical place or see their identity reflected back to them in the pages of a meaningful book. Hope College offered me the opportunity to analyze my childhood literature as well as new literature well-suited for my professional aspirations.

Throughout my English education, I have been exposed to works of many backgrounds and cultural experiences that will help influence my career in children’s literature. Learning about other societies and cultures through paper was one of the ways I felt I could reach outside my little bubble of Winchell Elementary. I was involved in the Global Reading Challenge in elementary school, which meant that I was able to read more books written about ethnically, culturally, and racially diverse backgrounds other than my own and most of my classmates. In high school, I remember the boring tales of Aeneas or The Iliad and The Odyssey along with books such as Into the Wild or In Cold Blood. My college years brought me classes in which I could expand on the books I had read in elementary school with courses such as American Ethnic Literature and Children’s Literature. In all these books, I simply enjoyed the worlds I could dive into while seeing each author’s writing style.

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I’ve always been drawn to the historical approach to written work. I’m fascinated about events in our own history that may have contributed to the author’s creation or viewpoint for a fictional work. It’s especially interesting to look at a fictional work set in either our world or its own unique world that makes statements or compares events from our history. Finding tidbits of subtle historical facts is also interesting in a biography or some other work of nonfiction. For children, this may not be the case, yet I wonder how much they do pick up on. As a child, my teachers would point out historical facts in the novels we read and I was always amazed at the author’s knowledge and inspiration. 

College supplied me with the analytical lenses to pour over texts more substantially than I did in my childhood years. I have looked at a feminist angle as well as examining the ways that class and societal systems can influence stories. I utilize these in my rereading of Jane Austen. Yet these lenses just take me further in the ambition to read that began with my childhood exposure to literature.

Literature isn’t only for one literary critic or writer with a seemingly refined or collected sense of literature to relay their knowledge to the rest of literary scholars. In my Children’s Literature course, we keep coming back to the danger of a “single story,” a story only showing one perspective from one demographic. The danger of this is that children and adults alike can be influenced to only view a demographic from that single story they read. All the writers of past and present, wise and experienced, have their own voice to be heard and story to convey. While those with accomplishments can instill wisdom in others, they should not be the only voice of reason in a field.

Alumnae Feature: Shanley Smith (’19) on Community Building in Romania

Recent grad Shanley Smith (2019) spoke with the English Department about her post-Hope path, which included mission work in Romania and a sudden return home to Holland in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What do you plan on doing with your degree?”

Of all the answers I had prepared throughout my years of undergraduate, teaching rock climbing to youth in Romania wasn’t on the list. Yet as I marched to grab my diploma in 2019, that was the answer I had up the flowing sleeves of my graduation gown.

I moved to Lupeni–a Transylvanian town roosted between the Carpathian Mountains–a few weeks after graduating from Hope with a degree in Creative Writing and Classical Studies. My life developed a rhythm that summer that, as I look back, feels nothing short of idyllic. Work tasks varied: I set routes at the gym, kept spontaneous water fights under control, and belayed young climbers as they scaled rock faces in the Carpathians. Sundays, my only day off, were dedicated to soaking in the Transylvanian landscape. When sabbath arrived, we’d rise early to spend morning and afternoon in the glory of the mountain ranges.

Even after stretching my eight-week internship into three months, I hadn’t satisfied my growing adoration for Lupeni. During week three, I volunteered at a children’s book camp. My supervisor directed me toward it when she discovered our kindred passions for literature and education. The book camp, one of a kind, revolved around children’s rights. Every book we read empowered children to know and speak of for their rights as determined by UNICEF. This is how I met Brandi, an American-expat librarian. Out of her own home, she ran the town’s only library–one dedicated specifically to children’s literature. What blossomed from Brandi’s response to a need in her town had over the years grown into a national literacy initiative. She founded Citim Împreună România (Reading Together: Romania), an organization that promotes reading aloud to children in a fashion that fosters enjoyment and produces lifelong readers. She has lectured at events across the country on reading techniques and helps run Romania’s annual incubator for children’s authors and illustrators. This incubator has helped put children’s lit on the map as a respectable genre and prides itself on empowering artists to incorporate Romanian narratives into their books. In short: Brandi had the Midas-touch of creative innovation.

My coworkers at the gym enthusiastically endorsed my interest to intern for Brandi in the future. Though it should be said, no one was more excited than Marc. At the time I referred to him as just a friend; a year later he slipped a ring onto my left hand. But that’s a different story, albeit one of my favorites

In August I returned to the United States with an internship offer and a long-distance boyfriend. By January of 2020, I had stuffed my life into two suitcases to return to both of the aforementioned prospects. Little did I know I’d only stay two months.

Covid-19 showed up swiftly at Romania’s door in March. The schools closed. Library programming stopped. Then my sending organization called. Rumors circled that the United States would close its borders. Two days later Marc and I boarded a plane bound for Michigan.
Looking at the latter half of 2020, I knew the months to follow wouldn’t go according to anyone’s plan. I couldn’t help but think of Brandi in Lupeni. When she saw her community in need, what did she do? She met the need. She created a library.

As fall neared in Michigan, I looked around at the community that had raised me. Chatter about school systems peppered the streets. Would they remain online? How would we keep families healthy? But the question that stuck with me: What about outdoor education?

It’s times such as these when the often quoted words of Frederic Beunchner come to my mind: “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” This summer I looked around Michigan and saw a community in need of safe activities for their children. Experts had already declared the outdoors a low-risk environment. And during times as wild as 2020, I knew that a little art goes a long way in restoring hope. In response to a growing enthusiasm for outdoor education, I developed Creative Explorers: a nature-based writing program specifically for young artists and outdoor enthusiasts.

I intend to pilot my first classes this fall. At times, I wonder if I’m the person for such a task. But then I remember Brandi. The woman who stepped up in her community. She noticed the need intersecting with her deep gladness. I look at her story and recognize, that’s exactly where I now stand.

For the foreseeable future, I look forward to giving back to the West-Michigan community as I teach classes on the very soil that raised the writer I now am. Beyond that? I plan to let the road ahead continue to surprise me. So far my path has done an exceptional job at that. And truth be told, I’m a bit excited for whatever twist astonishes me next.

Spring 2021 Course Preview

Online Registration for next semester starts the week of October 26, and we’ve rounded up the upper-level English course offerings that we think you’ll love!

General Education Courses

ENGL 155: Intro to Creative Writing: Poems – Susanne Davis (FA2)

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Course Objective: To practice writing poems and have fun doing it! We will read poems, learn poetic techniques and put together the practice of craft with our unique expression and vision. To master one’s art requires practicing craft and analyzing how master writers practice their craft. A range of poems both classic and contemporary will help us write poems of our own. We will examine the power of image, line, speaker, diction and rhythm. Powerful art also depends, in part, on the felt experience of our humanity captured through the written word. As we develop aesthetic taste, our heart guides our responses to art. In this course we will begin to develop and hone our aesthetic taste (some of this a mysterious process at best), all toward the purpose of strengthening our own poetry. In order to succeed, this class needs for every student to possess a sincere desire to write and read, evaluate the work of others in the class and receive criticism of your own work.


ENGL 231: Literature of the Western World 1 – Stephen Hemenway (CH1, also counts for the English major)

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Aesop’s fables and Homer’s tales of war and adventure start you on an odyssey of ancient literature. Frowns and smiles accompany your dramatic responses to Greek tragedies and comedies. Ancient Roman and medieval Italian epics send you on a spiritual journey that also embraces excerpts from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and the Chinese Tao Te Ching. Chaucer takes you on a pilgrimage with the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath, and Cervantes inaugurates a quest for an impossible dream with Don Quixote. Sappho, Lady Murasaki, Margery Kempe, Marguerite de Navarre, and Sor Juana de la Cruz go places where few females dare to tread. Michelangelo, Columbus, and Shakespeare lead you through the Renaissance and Reformation and prepare you for the modern world. As you investigate and explore these authors and works, you read and take tests or written test alternatives, write journals and short papers (or a longer research project), and engage in lively discussions about these masterpieces of Western literature in a global context.


IDS 171: From Virgil to Dante – Curtis Gruenler (CH1, also counts for the English major)

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During the 1500 years between the birth of Christ and the Renaissance, the world as we know it today took shape through changes such as the rise of Christianity and Islam, the invention of romantic love, the formation of modern nations, and the interaction of Christian and classical thought. Yet even though this is such a formative time for our own culture, people saw the world much differently that we do. We will try to imagine medieval life and understand medieval thought through the lenses of history, literature, philosophy, and to a lesser extent theology, music, and art. Transporting ourselves to the past can give us a new perspective on the present and on big questions like what makes a good life, what it is to love, and how people can live together well in communities and nations. This will happen most powerfully through our encounter with great texts from this time such as Virgil’s Aeneid, Augustine’s Confessions, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, philosophical works by Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, the Lays of Marie de France, and above all Dante’s Divine Comedy, which we will read almost in its entirety. Students will write several short papers, one longer essay, and midterm and final exams.


IDS 172: Banned Books: From the Printing Press to the Internet – William Pannapacker (CH2)

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What makes some writers so dangerous? Why would the Zeeland Public Schools get so upset about Harry Potter? Why did some readers think that The Catcher in the Ryewas a threat to American national security? Why would the Catholic Church maintain an Index of Forbidden Books for more than 400 years? Are some scientific discoveries too dangerous for the public? Why was freedom of the press a crucial part of the revolutions in England, France, and the United States? Should some books, such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, be banned from schools because they are too offensive? Why have banned books, such as Voltaire’s Candide and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, become bestsellers and literary classics? Why do some people still discuss Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud in hushed tones? Why is the struggle between freedom and censorship a challenge that every generation must face? Those are some of the questions “Banned Books” will attempt to answer.

Designed for future teachers, scientists, librarians, activists, and journalists—as well as anyone who cares about the complex interplay of history, philosophy, and literature—”Banned Books” provides an overview of major events in Western Civilization during the last 500 years, from the Reformation to Globalization—while encountering a selection of banned books as a basis for more in-depth understanding of cultures to which they responded. Materials are not included in this course gratuitously; participants must risk being shocked and offended by some of the texts and images. While this course will not take place in a moral vacuum, “Banned Books” endorses no specific agenda other than the need, as mature thinkers, to balance freedom with responsibility.


ENGL 232: Literature of the Western World II – Emily Tucker (CH2)

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This course will cover Western literature from the late seventeenth century through the twenty-first century. We will read drama, novels, poetry, and short fiction in order to explore how literary works have shaped the modern’s world’s approaches to concepts like love, time, religion, science, and the pursuit of justice. We will also examine the values that have influenced the development of a canon of Western literature, as well as the efforts that have been made to challenge, critique, and expand this canon. This endeavor will take us through a number of brilliant representations of moments in Western culture: snarky cynicism among the seventeenth-century French aristocracy, clashes of sentiment and reason in early-nineteenth-century Britain, challenges to sexism and racism in twentieth-century Hollywood, and many more. Authors are likely to include Molière, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Jonathan Swift, Phyllis Wheatley, Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf, Gabriel García Márquez, and Lynn Nottage.


Upper-level English Courses

ENGL 248: Monsters, From Beowulf to Beloved – Jesus Montaño

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What if we read Beowulf, an early medieval text written in Old English, through the lens of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a novel about a ghost and about slavery? What would we learn about ourselves? About others?

This course is about monsters. It is a course on literature, because tales and stories are where monsters find form, where they find life. In this, monsters are bound up in our imagination, in what we find abhorrent, frightening, horrifying. And. To a large extent, what we most fear is the Other. This, then, is our task: to look at monsters through “dark” lenses that allow us see the devaluation of humanity in the making of monsters: in other words, the making of Others.

Along with Beowulf and Beloved, we will read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Jorge Luis Borges’s “The House of Asterion,” a short story told from the perspective of the Minotaur.


ENGL 253-02: Intro To Creative Writing – Susanne Davis

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“To master one’s art requires both the practice of craft and analyzing how master writers practice their craft. In this creative writing class we will read good contemporary fiction, poetry and essays and learn to read the way writers read: to discover how the author achieves the singular effect through elements of craft. We will also learn the writing craft through images, energy, tension, pattern, insight and revision in order to write stories, poems and essays of our own. The mentioned elements are basic building blocks for the techniques in each genre. In prose, those techniques are character, plot, setting, dialogue, and point of view. In poetry we will examine the power of image, line, speaker, diction and rhythm.
My promise to you this semester: As you build your artistic expression you will capture the felt experience of humanity through your written word. As you develop aesthetic taste, your heart will guide your responses to art. In this course we will begin to develop and hone your aesthetic taste (some of this a mysterious process at best), all toward the purpose of strengthening your own writing. In order to succeed, this class needs for every student to possess a sincere desire to write and read, evaluate the work of others in the class and receive criticism of your own work.


ENGL 271 – British Literature II – Emily Tucker

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This course covers British literature from the 1790s until the present, and proceeds from the understanding that Britain’s empire-building during this time produced an increasingly complex British identity. Literary works played many roles in the formation of this identity. Imperial powers used the written word to preserve traditional British culture and to promote or dispel various anxieties about Britain’s global presence. Colonial subjects fought to tell their own stories. Sometimes, readers and writers from around the world found ways to listen to each other. As the empire took shape across six continents and grew to cover a quarter of the Earth’s land surface, words built worlds, and the literatures of the British Empire developed around an increasingly diverse national identity.

The course will begin with the Romantics, whose revolutions in literary form coincided with new understandings of humanity’s relationship to nature, the divine, the past, and the international sphere. As the nineteenth century continues, we’ll trace the growth of literary realism and explore the ways in which technological developments in travel and communication generated new fascinations and fears about Britain’s role in the world. We’ll then turn to literary modernism, which developed increasing stylistic complexities as writers wrestled with the tumultuous world of the early 20th century. We’ll conclude by examining postcolonial and postmodern efforts to transform the political and artistic conventions of British literature


ENGL 371: Ernest Hemingway – Stephen Hemenway

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For more than seven decades, people have asked me if I am the illegitimate son of Ernest Hemingway. No, I am not; we spell our names differently. However, I have come to terms with this mysterious and macho man whose complicated reputation has made his name a household word globally. Since preparing for this course four years ago, I have visited Hemingway haunts in Paris, Petoskey, Pamplona, Key West, Cuba, and Walloon Lake.

In “Ernest Hemingway: Fiction and Film,” I will present several of his short stories and novels and Hollywood versions of them to help you grapple with his “lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame” (New York Times, 1926) and the “technicolor adaptations featuring foreign settings and doomed love, and always at least half an hour too long” (Slate, 2007).

To whom should this course appeal? All English majors will get substantive views of “Lost Generation” themes and techniques that propelled Hemingway to fame and to influencing subsequent authors. Creative Writing students will have chances to study and imitate his hard-boiled and economical realism. Secondary Education students will emerge with lesson plans for teaching such classic high-school texts as A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea. Scientists will cherish his celebration of nature.

Women’s Studies and Psychology majors will meet “the enemy” often depicted as a multi-married misogynist. Midwesterners will love the northern Michigan settings of his Nick Adams stories. Film buffs will crave cinematic interpretations that often transformed Hemingway heroes into Hemingway clones. Travelers and adventure-seekers will want to do spring breaks in Oak Park or Mt. Kilimanjaro. I sincerely hope that Doc Hemenway on Papa Hemingway will appeal to your literary palate.


ENGL 375: Global Shakespeares – Jesus Montaño

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This course is about Black Shakespeare, Latinx Shakespeare, Chilean Shakespeare, South African Shakespeare, Bollywood Shakespeare, all the Other Shakespeares. It also is about William Shakespeare. This course asks students to consider why, how, and in what ways we read Shakespeare, we perform Shakespeare, and we teach Shakespeare. This course, in this way, is about the Bard and his times, in as much as the “afterlife” of Shakespeare, that is, Shakespeare in our current moment of racial and decolonial reckoning. Therefore, alongside three Shakespeare plays, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Julius Caesar, the most widely taught plays in high school curricula, we will read several “companion” texts that will direct our attentions to race, ethnicity, gender, ableism, and belonging, texts such as If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. In this course, students will be invited to engage in Global Shakespeares Studies by exploring the Shakespeare of their interest(s) in films, novels, history, and/or performances.
Students in Education, Theatre, and Communication are encouraged to join Literature and Creative Writing students in this important and dynamic class.