I confess I have a debilitating case of imposter syndrome, so every bit of success comes with a dark lining of doubt, but dear friend and writer Katherine Field, has urged me to celebrate this one, so this is me celebrating. I’m honored and excited to serve Saint Mary’s College of California’s Collegiate Seminar Program and January Term program in a new role as Visiting Arts Faculty for 2017-2018. More on this soon…
Most days I feel like a mess, other days I know I’m an educator, a wife, a mom, a hiker, a home cook and gardener, but I love the days when I can call myself a “Writer” and thanks to Melissa Sipin, I got a chance to escape the imposter syndrome and discuss some of my greatest loves and life’s passions. Professor Jee Yoon Lee, who teaches at the Georgetown University Writing Program, has created an incredibly comprehensive website featuring Asian/American writers and artists with “Writing Like An Asian.” The scope is astonishingly wide and the interviews are deep, such as Q&A’s with Sipin, Barbara Jane Reyes, Marianne Villaneuva, David Mura, and the list goes on and on.
Here’s a taste:
Every word I write is summoned by my mixed race heritage, and the hundreds if not thousands of miles my grandparents traveled from the Philippines and from Mexico to make a life for them selves and for our family here in the States. I feel in some sense I am re-telling the same story, the origin of our mixed ancestry. How opposing forces from different parts of the world came together to make new.
Read the entire interview here.
Peep out my interview and please share with lovers of lit to spread the word on “Writing Like An Asian.”
Stories map the cosmos of our curiosity, of our lived experiences, and of our hopes and fears. To chart these cosmos is to be comfortable creating amid paradox, to be at ease in a world of contrast, and to not fall back on bias or pre-ordained assumptions and fore-gone conclusions. Inciting a world awareness or a global imagination is a perpetual process of othering or defamiliarizing ourselves from reductive, schismatic, and discriminatory notions about who we are, the world we live in, and our connections to one another.
The above is just a taste of the research paper yours truly is trying to finish and soon present at Great Writing: The International Creative Writing Conference, UK at Imperial College, London, where I’ll be riffing off of Junot Diaz and his “MFA vs. POC.” Writing and researching (see above pic for some of the titles I’ve been diving into) for this topic has inspired a creative writing course, which thankfully got approved to be listed as part of Saint Mary’s College of California’s January 2017 Term described on their website as: “a monthlong session held each January in which every undergraduate explores a single topic in great depth and at an accelerated pace, featuring a unique blend of opportunities on and off campus.”
If yours truly can rouse the necessary enrollment, I’ll be piloting the following course (fingers crossed!):
Craft is Culture: Shadow Writing the Global Imaginary
“In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all…” author Junot Diaz states in his “MFA vs. POC” (New Yorker, 2014) thereby igniting an urgent conversation about diversity in the literary arts. For historically marginalized artists, creative writing begins and ends with perilous tension. As we read novels, short fiction, and poetry from various authors like Louise Erdrich, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Harryette Mullen, Kevin Young, Chris Abani, and Diane Glancy, we will ask how these writers subvert, make new, or de-center literary traditions. How do they make aesthetic and stylistic choices to challenge dominant narratives and to put center stage traditionally marginalized voices, neglected histories, and sub-histories? The aim of this course is to discover how craft is culture and how culture can complicate and challenge the craft of creative writing. In turn, we will also explore our own cultural and regional backgrounds to write our own creative works employing techniques from the authors we read.
Through writing, both creative and analytical, we will consider the different ways in which literary writing helps us understand identity and politics, and, conversely, how we can test notions of identity and politics to enrich and deepen our craft of creative writing. Recognizing that craft is culture and that tension drives all creative writing, this class explores reading and writing practices to incite a global cultural imagination that ultimately pinpoints intersections where truth meets art.
POSSIBLE READING LIST
selections from Harryette Mullen, The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be,“Imagining the Unimagined Reader: Writing to the Unborn and Including the Excluded”, “Kinky Quatrains: The Making of Muse & Drudge”, “Optic White: Blackness and the Production of Whiteness”
Selections from Kevin Young, The Gray Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, “The Shadow Book”, “How Not to Be a Slave: On the Black Art of Escape”
excerpts from Dorothy Wang, Form, Race, Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry
Diane Glancy, In-between Places, “July: She has some potholders”
John Yau, “Please Wait By the Coatroom”
Chris Abani, The Virgin of Flames
Louise Erdrich, selections from Love Medicine
Dinaw Mengetsu All Our Names
Selections from Barbara Jane Reyes and Dr. Raina León
More to come as the work progresses…
PAWA is proud to co-sponsor this free and important writing workshop.
POLITICAL CONTENT & ENGAGEMENT
in story, memoir, and poetry
five FREE writing workshops
participants’ reading gala
“i am ND” anthology
DATES | Oct. 21, 2012 at 2pm–4pm
and every other Sunday onwards
(11/04, 11/18, 12/02, 12/16)
LOCATION | Mills College
5000 MacArthur Boulevard
instructor melissa r. sipin and hosted by
ANAKBAYAN East Bay
TAYO Literary Magazine
Philippine American Writers & Artists
“Every colonized people—in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality—finds itself face to face with the language of the civilizing nation; that is, with the culture of the mother country. The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards.”
— Frantz Fanon
This political content & engagement workshop invites writers to shape their memoir, poetry, prose, or performance work with an emphasis on impacting perceptions, be thy political, personal, social, literary, or cultural. We exchange our writing and develop voice and authority while working on techniques to elevate the richness and toughness of our voice. We read and analyze authors to observe how they effectively move the reader, affect perception, and perhaps opinion. Class discussions focus how our work affects how we are perceived and how the events of the world are understood. The elements of each genre are addressed as well.
amplify your writing
cultivate your craft
This year’s 18th Annual Associated Core Texts & Courses Conference, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by Carthage College, and focusing on the theme: “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for, and Living in the Real World through Core Texts” took place 29 March through 1 April at The Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, where I presented with the following panel
“Conrad, Ellison, and Narrative Structure:
Blending Critical Thought and Student Engagement”
Aaron P. Smith, Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized;” Lamiaa Youssef, Norfolk State University, “Narrative Lenses and the Journey toward Self-Knowledge;” Justin Ponder, Marian University, “A Walking Personification of the Negative: Listening to Stories in Invisible Man;” Rashaan Meneses, Saint Mary’s College of California, “We’re All ‘Others’ Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”
Chair: Jean-Marie Kauth, Benedictine University
Some of the speakers and panels that caught my attention were the following:
Robert Gurval, Department of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles: “Harmony and Homer on the Pearl River Delta: The Foundations of a New Liberal Arts in China”-
- China is looking at Western liberal arts colleges to help shape their higher education though instead of calling their undergraduate core curriculum “general education” they’ve opted to use the term “gateway education” to indicate that students are beginning the path to learning
- self in search of self
- self as social institutions
- Liberal Studies as training for life
- introduce poetry first as foundation to politics, which is the gateway to political and economic theory
From the panel, “The Function of Core Texts and Their Programs,” Nicholas D. Leither, Saint Mary’s College of California, “Skepticism Destroyed Their Paradise: Generative Thinking and and ‘Believing’ in the Text”-
- argues that students lose innocence in college when they’re taught to become the skeptic
- more often than not in the classroom creative thinking isn’t valued, nor seeing several POV’s simultaneously
- Rational thinking limits
- “When we take a critical approach, we forget to believe.”
- Critical versus generative, students need to take a leap of faith
From the panel, “Concepts of the Self in East and West,” Yaqun Zhang, Xiamen University “Confucius’ Gentleman Personality and Its Influence on Academic Education”
- education as a cultural mission
- educating students to let them know they are part of a a social and civic commitment
- seeking harmony not sameness
- having a sense of appropriate conduct
From my own panel on Conrad and Ellison, Aaron P. Smith Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized” (concerning Ellison’s Invisible Man)
- one must have existence to become authentic, meta-alienation
- alienation requires confrontation
- those who create new values need an audience to receive
This year’s conference not only emphasized true and vigorous cultural exchange between the U.S. and China since ACTC has been collaborating with Chinese universities to help shape their curriculum, but another important theme emphasized again and again was inter-disciplinary exchange and pairing texts that weren’t so obvious on the surface, but in comparing say Machiavelli to Lao Tzu, professors made profound connections and demonstrated an exchange of ideas and values that spanned time and geography.
Thanks to professor and poet Barbara Jane Reyes and the sponsorship of the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program and Asian Studies Program, I was able to guest lecture for Reyes’ Spring 2012 course “YPSP 195-01/ANST 195-02: Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature” at the University of San Francisco on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. Before my presentation, sixteen savvy students read my short personal essay “Barbie’s Gotta Work,” published in Doveglion. The essay was included in the course’s unit on “Work and Domesticity.”
Reyes recently discussed this very same class and its inception in her recent post on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet The Blog:
One day, I’d casually asked our program chair whether he was interested in an all Filipina/Pinay (Filipino women) literature course, and he said, yes, draft a syllabus, and we’ll get it approved by the curriculum committee. It was approved. It was quickly filled. This is the first semester I am teaching the course, and I’m still in disbelief. All Pinay Literature. I always think, wow, where was this class when I was young, and when I needed it most. It seems a lot of people have been asking this question too, as I have been asked by more people than I can count, for my syllabus and reading lists. So, in this space, I will be talking a bit about some of the items from my syllabus, in the hopes that it will prompt readers further.
Read entire post here.
For my guest lecture, after giving a brief power point presentation, featuring pictures of my family, my maternal and paternal grandparents at work and at play in their youth, the students asked challenging questions about the superficiality of Barbie and how that was complicated in the essay and what it was like to be a professor of color. Another student broached the gap between generations, wondering how to relate with family members who might not share the same educational experiences. This brought on the idea of exploring the roots that hold us together and the stories family members share no matter where their paths in life take them.
We discussed looking at life and literature through a prism of lenses, much like looking through a kaleidoscope; we can shift the angles. We also talked about family memories that shape who we are. Some of the students shared their own experiences, remembering the work of their mothers, fathers, and grandparents.
Below is a sneak peek at the writing exercise students worked on, sifting through their past and their parents’ and grandparents’ pasts to uncover half-forgotten memories concerning love and labor, two themes that I keep coming back to with my own writing.
Love & Labor Writing Exercise
- How do your parents and/or grandparents use their body at work?
- How did work define your parents and/or grandparents?
- What sense of self and purpose did they find through their labor?
- Describe one of your parents or grandparents at work: What is the setting? What are their hands doing? Explain the actions of the body and mind.
- How are they interacting with their setting? With other people at work?
Reading the likes of Azedah Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad, Fareed Zakaria’s Post-American World, Jared Diamond’s Collapse, and revisiting Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma for two new classes I’m teaching within Saint Mary’s College’s Liberal & Civic Studies Program. Students are coming to me in class proud about how conversant they’re getting concerning world politics, global matters, and environmental issues. I must confess, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut during class discussions. Its hard to keep silent when the readings and subjects are so stimulating.
122 Environmental Responsibility in a Global Community
Taken the semester immediately following L&CS 121 whenever possible, this courses focuses on the natural world in which we lie, and the complex interrelationship between human activities, the values which determine these activities and their consequences for the environment. Different societies’ belief systems along with their responsibilities and attitudes toward the environment are examined. Students are required to devote time each week to a service-learning project, write essays, intellectual integrations and a self-assessment. Class sessions are supplemented by a biweekly activity lab. Prerequisites: L&CS 121, English 5, Collegiate Seminar 20/110.
123 Modern Global Issues
The purpose of this course is to gain broad-based exposure to some of the cultural, political and economic issues related to and arising from the processes of globalization. Students will study recent critical dialogues and philosophies of globalization, including issues of ethnicity/race, gender, identity, urban culture, post-nationalism, multiculturalism and post-colonial studies. Students are require to participate in class, lead discussion, write essays and news articles responses, give an oral presentation and complete a midterm exam. Prerequisite:L&CS 121 or permission of instructor.
We’ve watched some of the following videos to supplement subjects and texts recently covered:
Slajov Zizek on “Cultural Capitalism:
Hans Rosling on “The Magic Washing Machine”
Saving the Bay Documentary
A former student of mine, Antonio Venegas, shares his story and lends inspiration with a recently published article in the magazine Against the Current. His piece, titled “Where to Occupy Next?” covers the Occupy Movement and his community engagement.
Here’s an excerpt:
Where to Occupy Next?
— Antonio Venegas
I TRULY DON’T want to be another sob story. But when the rare opportunity comes along to tell my story and affect many, like a stone cast into the water, it is necessary to at least attempt to grab the hearts of people who will listen.
As I constructed the presentation that I was going to show my social justice organizing class at St. Mary’s College about my experience with the organization Causa Justa (Just Cause), I ran across something that froze me. I searched for “foreclosure” on Wikipedia in hopes of finding a comprehensive definition, and like most articles on that site, its words were displayed accompanied by an image.
Read the entire article here.
Excited and honored to be presenting at the 18th Annual Conference of ACTC: Association for Core Texts and Courses. This year’s theme is “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for and Living in the Real World Through Core Texts,” taking place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Yours truly will be presenting the paper: “We’re All Others Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”
In 1977, Chinua Achebe, through his essay, “An Image of Africa” tried and sentenced Joseph Conrad for being a “bloody racist,” charging that his novel, Heart of Darkness, captured Western imagination at its worst. In light of post-colonial theory, every culture and nation affected by Empire, both colonized and colonizer, was then shackled to a shared and brutal past. Post-colonial theorists like Achebe sought retribution and used discourse as a means of justice. Now that we’ve woken from colonial dreams and post-colonial nightmares of imagined communities, how do we read and critique a text like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness? And, if “multiculturalism has failed,” or if we believe it is possible to “transcend race,” what comes after post-colonial theory?
For more info on post-post-colonialism, check out the following source:
On Wednesday, 16 November 2011, I had the pleasure of guest lecturing for an evening session of Interpersonal Communication at Ohlone College. The students prepared for our class by reading the previously published post “Digital Citizenship: Cultivating an Online Presence, Part I.” After a quick introduction, they broke into small groups to review the text and come up with discussion questions where we dived into what it means to be a digital citizen, how and why we use social media sites. For reference to digital citizenry check out the NY Times recent article “Protestors Look for Ways to Feed the Web,” which is about social media’s role with the Occupy Movement where Jennifer Preston writes:
The movement counts more than 400 Facebook pages with 2.7 million fans around the world. On Tumblr.com, the “We Are the 99 Percent” blog continues to publish the personal stories of hundreds of people struggling with student debt, health care costs and foreclosure. There are also dozens of new wikis and Web pages, including OccupyWallSt.org and HowToOccupy.org.
Interpersonal Communication is the study of how we communicate with self and others. Relationships remain an essential component of human existence. We must ask ourselves: How well do we function in our relationships, and how might we improve our relational competencies? The class was wonderfully diverse, with students from all over the world sharing insights about their experiences with social media. We discussed the following topics:
- citizenship vs. consumerism
- digital community vs. face-to-face community
- what’s expected of citizens online
- what’s expected of digital communities
- how do different digital communities interact. For instance, Tumblr is for showcasing individual work and Facebook is for catching up with friends and family
The students then drafted group contracts between online users and online communities to determine what the community can do for digital citizens and what digital citizens can do for their community. Some of the policies they wished to implement included:
- no kids ten-years or younger should be on Facebook because they don’t have much to contribute to the community
- need to have expectations on what people can and should post
- users need to understand that sites like Facebook are not games
- time limits to ensure productivity at work and in school
- cut unlawful browsing
We concluded the evening with two writing exercises to help students become more conscious of how they present themselves online and how they interact with others:
1. Self- Evaluation from the Point of View of a Friend or Family Member
(This proves highly relevant to course content as the class discussed ‘Significant Others’ and how the relationship(s) affects our perception of ourselves. ‘Perceived Self’ / ‘Presenting Self’, Ego Boosters and Ego Busters along with Perspective Taking.)
For this freewrite you will want to assume the point of view of a friend or family member who knows you well. You will be writing from their perspective to give a critical evaluation of yourself. Imagine that they’ve been asked to give an honest and thoughtful assessment about your self. Your friend or family member must give a truthful evaluation about your character, your motivation, and your ability to follow through with action. In addition, they are required to support their opinion with concrete experiences, memories and events that illustrate their assessment.
To assist with this exercise you may want to answer some of these questions, again from the POV of a friend or family member who is evaluating you:
- How would you describe your personality?
- What motivates or inspires you?
- Who has influenced you and why?
- What past events demonstrate your strongest skills and traits?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How do you handle your weaknesses?
- If you could make changes to your life, your drive, your behavior, what kind of changes and why?
- When are you at your best? When are you at your worst?
- How well do you work with others?
- How well do you take direction?
- What kind of a leader are you?
- How do you inspire others?
- Other questions???
2. Personal Ad for Dating Agency
(This proves highly relevant to course content since the class addressed both mediated (digital) communication and the dynamics of ‘self-concept‘.)
Where did you grow up?
Get To Know Me:
About My Date (Describe who you’re ideal date is):
In My Own Words (give a paragraph description to entice potential dates):
If you could draw up a contract between digital citizens and digital communities what would be the roles each play for what purposes, and what policies would regulate the relationships?
For kicks, here’s a take on the internet from two favorite digital citizens: