Written by Madeline Chrome ‘26

On Tuesday, February 20th, a crowd of Hope College students and faculty gathered in the dimly lit Schaap Auditorium to hear authors Tsering Yangzom Lama and Shane McCrae share their work at the latest installment of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. As 7 o’clock drew nearer, the chattering of the audience fell to anticipatory whispers, laptops opened for notetaking, and faces angled up toward the stage. 

After a lovely and thorough introduction, Lama ascended the stairs and took her place behind a podium in the center of the stage. She opened her novel, We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies, and shared that she would read first from the beginning of the novel and then briefly from the middle. And read she did. The audience’s attention mirrored the placement of the auditorium’s spotlight: solely focused on the woman weaving a story in front of them. The scene Lama painted took place on the Nepal-Tibet border in the mid-1800s during the infamous war that cost the Tibetan people their country. Though no spoilers are allowed, I can share that the scene and novel as a whole addressed the unique history, culture, and identity of the Tibetan people. Lama’s soft and rhythmic voice held the audience captive as she drew us further and further into a world of changing environments and identities. 

After her reading, Lama responded to several questions about her novel and her process for writing it. During this part of the event, the audience learned about Lama’s own experiences with her Tibetan identity and heritage and how this influenced her writing this novel. I think I can speak for a great portion of the audience when I say that Lama left us all wanting to learn more about Tibet and its people, as well as our own cultural identities. 

Author and poet McCrae soon replaced Lama behind the podium. He first read from his memoir, Pulling the Chariot of the Sun, which he deemed—with good reason! —a resurrection story of his own. Written in lyrical prose, the snapshot McCrae shared from his memoir was that of his kidnappers’—otherwise known as his grandparents’—home. Questions of memory and identity circled around the auditorium as we listened to McCrae share his first piece.

Following this reading, McCrae gave a reading of several of his poems and shared with the audience each of their inspirations. Every poem varied in length and energy, but they were all connected by the heart of the poet who had written them. Often prompted by his reaction to current events on the news, McCrae’s poems were powerful reflections on America and the challenges each of its citizens face. McCrae’s writing style and perspective were unique, and his humor—sometimes lighthearted and other times dry—delighted the audience. I believe he gave everyone in the audience something to reflect on as they returned home.

This passionate night of poetry and prose alike moved the audience and inspired questions of identity, culture, and history that transcend all measures. Hope College thanks esteemed authors Tsering Yangzom Lama and Shane McCrae for giving us another powerful addition of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.

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