Tag Archives: Jill Salahub

Diane Glancy is a teacher, poet, author and playwright. She was born in 1941 in Kansas City, Missouri, to a Cherokee father and an English/German mother. Early in her life, she chose to identify as a Cherokee Native American, accepting the consequences and struggles inherent in claiming a Native American heritage. She says that her father’s Cherokee heritage “has been the most important influence I’ve had. It’s odd. It’s also been the most discouraging, shameful, and has caused more trouble, as I am an undocumented Cherokee, which brings criticism from some people.” In an interview from 2015, she talked about how her complicated connection to her heritage manifests in her writing:

I think I write a literature of disenfranchisement. Of separation from origin. Yet the origin survives despite lack of direct contact with the culture from which it came. It may be the voice of America, land of immigrants, and though the Natives were here when the immigrants came, they still suffer a sense of separation on their own land. I think a sense of separation is felt more intensely because interconnectedness is part of the Cherokee culture, and when it is severed, there is a need to reconstruct. If you knock down a spider web, the spider starts building again.

When asked in an interview about the origins of her writing life, how she realized writing was her passion, Glancy answered, “Where was the beginning? I couldn’t do anything else. I always was shy, and there was something solid in writing. There was an identity there. It was something I might be able to do, and I could do it by myself— not in front of others. The irony, of course, is that you finally have to stand in front of others to give a reading.”

Glancy received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Missouri in 1964. She continued her education at the University of Central Oklahoma, earning a Masters degree in English in 1983. For six years (1980-86), Glancy was Artist-in-Residence for the State Arts Council of Oklahoma. Several of her books come from that experience. The next year, she attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, earning her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1988. The following year she began teaching at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she is now a Professor of Creative Writing in the English Department. She teaches poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and scriptwriting. She also teaches a Native American Literature course and a seminar in Native American Literature. In 1999, she also taught in the Bread Loaf School of English M.A. program on the campus of the Native American Preparatory School in Rowe, New Mexico.

Glancy is proficient in numerous genres—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and playwriting. 

I often feel like I work ground level on the prarie, flying under radar detection. Having a home in no particular genre, but working in and across fiction, poetry, essay, and drama further clouds my sense of placement. I write between cultures. I was born in a city (Kansas City, Missouri) with a name of another state. My own last name is a nationality I am not. My middle name, which I go by, is not included on forms asking for first/last names. Growing up, the Indians mentioned in school were Plains Indians who hunted buffalo and livid in teepees, yet my family was none of that; instead were from a woodland, sedentary corn-farmer culture. How could both be Indian? How does one work across barriers, erasures, syncretisms, misappropriations? How does one write about faith? These are themes I explore in the different genres.

Glancy’s work has earned her many awards: an American Book Award, Pushcart Prize, Capricorn Prize for Poetry, Native American Prose Award, Charles Nilon Fiction Award, Five Civilized Tribes Playwrighting Prize, North American Indian Prose Award, The Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, and Oklahoma Book Award. Glancy’s collection of poems, Primer of the Obsolete, won the 2003 Juniper Prize for Poetry. She has also received the the Cherokee Medal of Honor, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Sundance Screenwriting Fellowship. (See a full list of her awards, grants and fellowships).

Sadly, this is the final Native American Heritage Month post. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the influence these authors, educators, and advocates have had on the literary and academic community.

We are going to miss the attention and effort of Native American Heritage Month. It has left us feeling so grateful for the many, many, many (many more than we could profile in only 30 days!) amazing authors, scholars, educators, activists, and speakers who have and continue to enrich our studies, our understanding, and our lives.

We are so lucky to be the recipients of their work — their activism, wisdom, creativity, strength, compassion, and even their suffering and anger — and so glad that we were able to honor them in this small way. May we carry this gratitude and continue to honor them, every day and always. To see the whole series of posts from this month: https://english.colostate.edu/tag/native-american-heritage-month/

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Winona LaDuke is an environmentalist, economist, and writer. Her father was from the Ojibwe White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, and her mother of Jewish European ancestry from the Bronx, New York. LaDuke was born in Los Angeles, California, but raised mostly in Ashland, Oregon, where her mother was an art instructor at Southern Oregon College.

Growing up with her mother in Oregon, LaDuke attended publish school and was on the debate team. While studying at Harvard University, she became part of a larger group of Indian activists. She began making a political name for herself at age 18 when she addressed the United Nations on Indian issues. She graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, concentrating in rural economic development.

LaDuke was an enrolled member of the Ojibwe tribe from an early age, but didn’t live on a reservation until she started work at White Earth after she graduated college. As the principal of the high school, she worked on a graduate degree through the distance-learning program of Antioch University. She completed research for her master’s thesis on the reservation’s subsistence economy and became involved in local issues, earning an M.A. in Community Economic Development. She also has an honorary doctorate degree from Augsburg College.

While working as a principal on the reservation and finishing her graduate degree, LaDuke also was an activist. She helped found the Indigenous Women’s Network, and she worked with Women of All Red Nations to publicize American forced sterilization of Native American women. She became involved in the struggle to recover lands for the Anishinaabe, and founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project in Minnesota with the proceeds of a human rights award from Reebok. LaDuke is also Executive Director of Honor the Earth, an organization she co-founded with the non-Native folk-rock duo, the Indigo Girls in 1993. LaDuke ran as the vice-presidential candidate with Ralph Nader on the Green Party ticket, twice. She was most recently involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

LaDuke has received many honors for her efforts. She was nominated by Time magazine as one of America’s fifty most promising leaders under forty years of age, given the Thomas Merton Award, granted the BIHA Community Service Award, won the Reebok Human Rights Award, was named Woman of the Year for her work with Honor the Earth by Ms. Magazine, was honored with the Ann Bancroft Award for Women’s Leadership Fellowship, was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and received the Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance.

And even though it can be easy forgetten in light of all her humanitarian work, LaDuke is also an accomplished author. She’s authored five (fiction, non-fiction, and even a children’s book) and co-authored many other books, as well as having editorials and essays published in national and international media. In possibly her most recent piece, published only a few weeks ago, she made the following plea,

I am tired of being invisible to you all. I am tired of the lack of compassion from a president who slashes health care. I’m tired of the state of Minnesota, which seeks to contaminate the remaining wild rice with sulfide to keep a dying mining industry afloat. And I am tired of North Dakota pretending that Standing Rock does not exist, and balking at a forum on Standing Rock at the University of North Dakota. What I want to say is that we are beautiful, amazing, tough-as-can-be people. It would be nice if we thought of each other kindly and with compassion. I am certainly not too tired to battle, but I would really like us all to do our part, beyond Native American Heritage Month.

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~from Jill Salahub


Indian writers might come from different eras, from different geographies, from different tribes, but we all have one thing in common: We are storytellers from a long way back. And we will be heard for generations to come. ~James Welch

As an undergraduate at Oregon State University, I took a Native American Literature class taught by Linc Kesler, who is of indigenous ancestry himself, (Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge South Dakota). In that course, we read two novels by James Welch — Fools Crow and The Death of Jim Loney. Even though I’ve long ago donated various Norton Anthologies and Shakespeare plays and a collection of other novels from those days, I still have my copies of James Welch’s books, along with all the others we read in that course. They are worn, with pages of underlined text and notes written in the margins. With close to twenty years of time passed, I can’t remember the exact discussions we had in class or what I may have said about them in papers I wrote for the course, but I do remember how those stories haunted me. Fools Crow and Jim Loney were characters both heartbreaking and epic, beauty and brutality that stays with a reader for years after.

According to a piece published in The New York Times upon his death in 2003, James Welch “grew up on an Indian reservation, determined to become a writer and put into words the stresses on a people left out of the American dream.” While best known for his novels, Welch was also a poet, and considered a founding author of the Native American Renaissance. In an interview from 2001, Welch said, “Although I consider myself a storyteller first and foremost, I hope my books will help educate people who don’t understand how or why Indian people often feel lost in America.”

James Welch was born in Browning, Montana on November 18, 1940. His father was a member of the Blackfeet tribe and his mother of the Gros Ventre (A’aninin) tribe. After high school and before beginning his study of English Literature at University of Montana, Welch worked as a firefighter for the U.S Forest Service, as a laborer and as an Upward Bound counselor. Once he finished school, he went on to teach and write. In addition to his literary work, Welch served as the Vice Chairman of the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole for ten years. He has honorary doctorates from the University of Montana, Montana State University and the private Rocky Mountain College in Billings.

James Welch wrote poetry exclusively for 7 or 8 years before writing fiction, even though he’s best remembered for his novels. When at University of Montana, he studied with poet Richard Hugo, who told him that “his poetry needed roots, so he should write what he knew about. Write about Indians and Indian culture. Write about home.” Even though at the time he was skeptical that anyone would want to read about the Indian experience — “I knew that nobody wanted to read about Indians, reservations, or those rolling endless plains that turned into Canada just thirty miles north” — he took the advice and began to publish and find his audience. “Happily, I was wrong in thinking that nobody would want to read books written by American Indians about American Indians and their reservations and landscapes.”

Along with writing and teaching, Welch also worked with Paul Stekler on “Last Stand at Little Bighorn,” an Emmy award winning documentary which aired on PBS. Together they also wrote the history, Killing Custer: The Battle of Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians. Welch’s first novel, Winter in the Blood, was adapted as a 2012 feature film by the same name with Native American writer Sherman Alexie helping to produce the film. Welch’s work earned him many awards and accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.

James Welch died in 2003 in in Missoula, Montana. He suffered a heart attack after battling lung cancer for ten months. Upon his passing, poet Richard Hugo’s widow said, “He was a lovely man, a warm friend. He was great fun in the gentlest kind of way. His writing style was beautiful imagery. It has the poet in it, a quiet mastery of characterization. He was a great man and a great writer.”

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Image by Ericson Herbas

Noel Alumit is a novelist, actor, and activist. He was born in Baguio City, The Philippines, and grew up in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles.

Alumit earned his BFA in Drama from the University of Southern California and is currently working toward his Masters in Divinity at the University of the West. He received an Emerging Voices Fellowship from PEN Center USA West and a Community Access Scholarship to UCLA’s Writers Extension, studying fiction and the personal essay form.

Alumit’s first novel Letters to Montgomery Clift received many awards, including the Stonewall Book Award, Violet Quill Award, the Global Filipino Literary Award and the Gold Seal.

Alumit created not one but two one-man shows. His one-man show The Rice Room: Scenes from a Bar received critical praise and played to sold-out houses in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Boston, and Philadelphia. It was voted one of the best solo shows of the year by the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

For his efforts in art and activism, Noel Alumit was listed as one of Out magazine’s “Out 100 for 2002” and named one of Genre Magazine’s “Men We Love.” He has been involved in the AIDS field for over twenty years, most of them with the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team. Alumit is a founding member of the Los Angeles County HIV Prevention Planning Committee, served as a California Commissioner on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, sits on the Advisory Board for the UCLA Art/Global Health Center, and provides feedback as a Community Advisory Boardmember for the Childrens Hospital Healthy Young Mens Study.

Recently, Alumit was honored with the James Duggins Award, a prize that recognizes talented mid-career gay writers. In an interview, his advice to emerging writers was as follows:

Find that story that you and only you can tell. What stories do you have to tell? I also want to stress the importance of establishing a literary community. This community has been vital to my development as a writer, and I highly encourage any serious writer to establish his/her support network as soon as possible, both for the emotional support we need as writers, but also for readers. And on this note: pick varied, trusted readers. Some of the best readers in my writing group have a life experience way different from my own. Be careful who you lock out.

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Author and editor, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard was born and raised in the Philippines. The death of her father when she was nine prompted her to start writing, first in journals, then essays and fiction. She went to college in the Philippines, then did graduate work at UCLA.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award winning author of 10 books. Her work has been translated into both Finnish and Turkish, with many of her stories and articles widely anthologized. She has lectured and performed in worldwide literary arts organizations and universities, and now teaches creative writing at the Writers Program at UCLA-Extension.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard co-founded Philippine American Women Writers and Artists, (PAWWA). She also founded Philippine American Literary House. She has received a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction, a Brody Arts Fund Award, a Special Recognition Award for her work dealing with Asian American youths, as well as a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate, and the Outstanding Individual Award from her birth city of Cebu, Philippines.

When asked in an interview if there are good and bad reasons for being a writer, Manguerra Brainard responded, “The bad reasons are for fame, money, immortality, and revenge. The good reasons are because you have no choice but to write; for self-expression, to keep sane, to create something beautiful out of something painful or unpleasant; to educate others and ultimately to educate yourself.” In the same interview, she shared her advice for beginning writers:

1) Keep a journal and write, write, write.

2) Read a lot, and read the type of pieces that are similar to what you want to write (articles or stories or poems).

3) Don’t compare yourself with the others. It will do you no good to fret because some of your contemporaries are getting published or getting awards. You have your own struggle, your own stories to write.

4) Take classes or join workshops so you have a structure.

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I write really because I have to and if the writing also destroys some of those myths and subverts forms and makes people question the very idea of the writer, the woman, the Filipino-American, the whatever, great! ~Jessica Hagedorn

Playwright, writer, poet, and multimedia performance artist Jessica Hagedorn was born and raised in the Philippines, moving to the U.S. with her mother as a teenager. It was then, at 14 years old, that she started to write poetry more seriously.

I started writing seriously then. I had always written. As a child, I loved to read and I always thought of myself as a writer. You know, I was very dramatic. I would write little poems and I loved to make little comic books. I would illustrate them, four-page comic books, and thought of myself as a writer. When I was fourteen, my mother gave me a typewriter, thank heavens, and I guess she thought that would be a healthy way to keep me at home. I would type poems and read.

Early on her focus was on writing poetry and plays, as well as making music. She moved to New York City in her late 20s to pursue these interests. Her first play was produced the same year. She’s since produced three more plays. Her mixed media style often incorporates song, poetry, images, and spoken dialogue.

Hagedorn received three MacDowell Colony fellowships, which helped enable her to write the novel Dogeaters, winner of the American Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. She later turned the book into a play by the same name. She’s written three other novels as well — ToxicologyDream Jungle, and The Gangster Of Love. “What made me want to write a novel was reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez.” When asked what she brings to fiction from her background in poetry and music, she replies simply, “Rhythm. And I think the love of language, the sheer word play. I love words. The sound of words.”

Hagedorn has written a screenplay, scripts for TV, and for 10 years was the leader of a band called The Gangster Choir. Her list of honors and prizes is long, including a Gerbode, Hewlett Foundations’ Playwriting Award, a Lucille Lortel Playwrights’ Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fiction Fellowship, a Kesselring Prize Honorable Mention for Dogeaters, an NEA-TCG Playwriting Residency Fellowship, as well as fellowships from the Sundance Playwrights’ Lab and the Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab. She’s taught in the MFA Playwriting Program at Yale, and in the MFA Creative Writing Program at LIU Brooklyn, NYU and Columbia University.

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Because we got a late start for Hispanic Heritage Month, (it actually started September 15), we are going to spend this whole week, the final week of this particular celebration, featuring Hispanic authors, scholars, educators, and speakers. Next week we’ll get back to celebrating LGBT and Philipino American History.

Sandra Cisneros is an activist poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist and artist. Born in Chicago, she was the only daughter in a family with six brothers. The constant migration of her family between Mexico and the United States instilled in her the sense of “always straddling two countries … but not belonging to either culture.” She continues to be a dual citizen of Mexico and the United States.

Cisneros wrote her first poem at age 10. She describes much of her initial writing as trying on other voices, copying authors she admired. She didn’t discover her own unique voice until working on a MFA degree in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. It was in this workshop that she discovered how her particular social position and cultural experience made her unique.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t know who I was. I knew I was a Mexican woman. But I didn’t think it had anything to do with why I felt so much imbalance in my life, whereas it had everything to do with it! My race, my gender, and my class! And it didn’t make sense until that moment, sitting in that seminar. That’s when I decided I would write about something my classmates couldn’t write about.

Even though she has been writing for over 50 years, she’s also done many other things as well. She’s worked as a teacher, a counselor, a college recruiter, a poet-in-the-schools, and an arts administrator, and has maintained a strong commitment to community and literary causes.

Cisneros’s numerous awards include:

  • NEA fellowships in both poetry and prose
  • the Texas Medal of the Arts
  • a MacArthur Fellowship
  • several honorary degrees
  • both national and international book awards
  • the Ford Foundation’s Art of Change Fellowship
  • Chicago’s Fifth Star Award
  • the PEN Center USA Literary Award
  • the Arthur R. Velasquez Award from the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago
  • Loyola University’s Arts & Science Damen Award
  • the 2015 National Medal of Arts, presented to her by President Obama at the White House
  • the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 2017 CHCI Chair’s Award in Washington, D.C.

Cisneros is best know for her first novel, The House on Mango Street, a coming of age story that has sold over six million copies and been translated into more than twenty languages. Literary critic Claudia Sadowski-Smith has called Cisneros “perhaps the most famous Chicana writer,” and Cisneros has been acknowledged as a pioneer in her literary field as the first female Mexican-American writer to have her work published by a mainstream publisher. At the ceremony where President Barack Obama presented Cisneros with a National Medal of Arts, he said Cisneros was being honored “for enriching the American narrative. Through her novels, short stories, and poetry, she explores issues of race, class, and gender through the lives of ordinary people straddling multiple cultures. As an educator, she has deepened our understanding of American identity.”

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Because we got a late start for Hispanic Heritage Month, (it actually started September 15), we are going to spend this whole week, the final week of this particular celebration, featuring Hispanic authors, scholars, educators, and speakers. Next week we’ll get back to celebrating LGBT and Philipino American History.

Isabel Allende is a Chilean journalist and author born on August 2, 1942, in Lima, Peru. As a young woman, Allende started her writing career as a journalist working in television and for magazines in the 60s and 70s. After a military coup in 1973, Allende fled Chile with her first husband and two children. They lived in exile in Venezuela for the next 13 years.

Upon learning that her grandfather, who was still in Chile, was dying, she wrote him a letter. The letter ended up being the basis for her first novel, The House of the Spirits, which became a worldwide bestseller and launched her literary career. She was 40 years old. Sadly, her grandfather died before he got to read the letter.

The author calls her writing style “realistic literature, rooted in her remarkable upbringing and the mystical people and events that fueled her imagination.” She explains that her writing is “equally informed by her feminist convictions, her commitment to social justice, and the harsh political realities that shaped her destiny.”

In addition to her work as a writer, Allende also devotes much of her efforts to human rights.  For example, following the death of her daughter, Paula, in 1992, she established a charitable foundation in her honor dedicated to the protection and empowerment of women and girls worldwide. “For over 20 years, I have lectured internationally about women’s rights and the empowerment of women; Latin American and world politics; Chile; writing and the creative process; spirituality; and my own work.”

Allende has been called “the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author.” In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2010, she received Chile’s National Literature Prize. President Barack Obama awarded her the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom. She gave a TED Talk called “Tales of Passion” in which she discusses “women, creativity, the definition of feminism — and, of course, passion,” which has been viewed 3,753,765 times.

On her website, she includes this impressive list of her accomplishments in her biography:

Isabel Allende became a U.S. citizen in 1993, but lives, she says, “with one foot in California and the other in Chile.”

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Because we got a late start for Hispanic Heritage Month, (it actually started September 15), we are going to spend this whole week, the final week of this particular celebration, featuring Hispanic authors, scholars, educators, and speakers. Next week we’ll get back to celebrating LGBT and Philipino American History.

Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American poet, novelist, and essayist. She was born in New York City on March 17, 1950, the second of four daughters. Three months later, her parents returned to their native Dominican Republic. They wouldn’t return to the U.S. until Alvarez was 10 years old, although she continued to spend summers in the Dominican Republic.

When I’m asked what made me into a writer, I point to the watershed experience of coming to this country. Not understanding the language, I had to pay close attention to each word — great training for a writer. I also discovered the welcoming world of the imagination and books. There, I sunk my new roots. Of course, autobiographies are written afterwards. Talk to my tías in the D.R. and they’ll tell you I was making up stuff way before I ever set foot in the United States of America. (And getting punished for it, too. Lying, they called it back then.) But they’re right. As a kid, I loved stories, hearing them, telling them. Since ours was an oral culture, stories were not written down. It took coming to this country for reading and writing to become allied in my mind with storytelling.

All through high school, college, and then a graduate program in creative writing, Alvarez knew she wanted to be a writer.

But it was the late sixties, early seventies. Afro-American writers were just beginning to gain admission into the canon. Latino literature or writers were unheard of. Writing which focused on the lives of non-white, non mainstream characters was considered of ethnic interest only, the province of sociology. But I kept writing, knowing that this was what was in me to do.

In order to make a living, Alvarez became a teacher, mostly of creative writing. At first, she traveled around teaching, (what she called being a “migrant writer”), but finally she decided to put down roots. First she taught high school, then college, and finally took a tenure track teaching position at Middlebury College. The same year she earned tenure at Middlebury College, she published her first novel, How The García Girls Lost Their Accents, the first major novel written in English by a Dominican author. “I was forty-one with twenty-plus years of writing behind me. I often mention this to student writers who are discouraged at nineteen when they don’t have a book contract!”

The success of her first book enabled her to finally “make her living as a writer,” and yet it was difficult for her to leave teaching at first, as she’d grown to love it. “After several years of asking for semester leaves, I gave up my tenured post. Middlebury College kindly invited me to stay on as a writer-in-residence, advising students, teaching a course from time to time, giving readings.” She and her partner created Alta Gracia, a farm-literacy center dedicated to the promotion of environmental sustainability and literacy and education worldwide, purchasing the farm in 1996 with the intent to promote cooperative and independent coffee-farming in the Dominican Republic. Her published works include five novels, a book of essays, four collections of poetry, four children’s books, and two works of adolescent fiction

Many literary critics regard Alvarez to be one of the most significant Latina writers. She has achieved critical and commercial success on an international scale, with her writing beloved by readers around the world.

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We recently featured English (double) major Avery Jones in an article for the Spring 2017 issue of the CLA online magazine. In the article she shared space with four other amazing English majors, and there just wasn’t enough room to share everything we wanted to about her, so we asked Avery to do a longer follow-up profile.

Avery Jones
English Double Major: Literature and English Education

What inspired you to get a degree in English? I decided to get a degree in English education at the age of 11. I was in the 7th grade, and I stole my mother’s copy of The Kite Runner, which had been explicitly forbidden to me. As I read through those pages, I realized two things: first, my mother was absolutely right to ask me not to read that book quite yet; and second, literature is capable of inspiring empathy beyond anything I’d ever experienced. Here I was, a young girl sitting in my mother’s Escalade with my hair braided in pigtails, weeping uncontrollably for the pain experienced by a fictional Afghani boy. I’ve always felt like the world would be such a better place if we could all take Atticus Finch’s advice: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” In this moment when I was 11 years old, I discovered a way to climb into someone else’s skin: through literature. I knew then that I wanted to be an English teacher so that I could show others how magical it was that books could put you in someone else’s life and make you feel the things they felt. I wanted to teach other kids just how powerful and important empathy is in this world.

Why CSU? I grew up in Greeley. From the time I was 14 I wanted nothing more than to get away from Greeley. I wanted to go to college far away and branch out on my own, away from my parents, away from my high school friends, and away from that terrible cow smell that permeated my childhood. But as the time came to tour college campuses, I looked all around–different cities, different states–and I came to realize something: people come from all around the country to go to school at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at a campus that is a leader in renewable energy in a town that is so full of life and history. The place where I truly wanted to be was only 40 minutes from where I grew up. It wasn’t quite as far as I had hoped to branch out, but it was the most beautiful and welcoming place that I could find, and it was just far enough away from that awful cow smell.

How did you choose your concentration? It was always education for me, but I’ve always adored reading. It is literally the only hobby I can come up with when people say, “So what do you do for fun?” The literature seemed like an awesome way to learn how to look at lit more critically, and I figured it would make me a better teacher anyway if I could more thoroughly analyze texts. It required me to take a few extra credits every semester, but it seemed totally worth it to me to get a double concentration and take as much away from my college experience as I could as long as I’m here.

We are always trying to debunk the myth that the ONLY options for an English major are to become a writer, teacher, or work in publishing. What sort of possibility, potential do you see for yourself as an English major? While I do want to teach–one of those stereotypes you always hear in regards to English majors–I think a degree in English makes a person much more globally aware, critical-thinking, and empathetic. Who wouldn’t want to be these things? These characteristics help in every field, certainly not just teaching, writing, and publishing.

Knowing what you do about it, how would you describe the CSU English department to someone? The English department at CSU is jam-packed full of the most incredible people I have ever met. Every one of the professors I’ve had in the English department are so friendly and welcoming. You could knock on any one of their doors and just walk in to talk to them about literature, writing, theory, and definitely just about life in general. Of course, you’d have to catch them when they’re not slammed with work which is fairly rare because all of them are so involved in their work as professors and as professionals in their fields and as active community members. It seems impossible, but every semester I leave saying, “I think I have a new favorite professor!” As for the students, I have found a community so welcoming and friendly and nerdy and fun and hilarious that it often blows my mind that these people exist at all, let alone in such high numbers right here on this campus. I have truly found a place that I belong here with my fellow English majors.

Why do you think the humanities are important? See answers about empathy–forming well-rounded human beings, capable of sharing insight and beauty and kindness in this world.

What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students? Don’t second guess yourself. Join. Join right now. It will be the best decision you’ve ever made. It was for me. It’s a lot of writing, and even more reading, but you will improve yourself in ways you didn’t know were possible, and you will have an absolute blast along the way.

What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students? Read the material! Do it. I know it’s a lot. I know you’re taking four other classes and you are absolutely swamped. But this is what you came to college for! We get to read the greatest works ever written and talk about them in class every day with other people who are passionate about literature and writing! We have professors that care about us as students and as people; take advantage of that. Go talk to them and get help when you need it. Find ways to enjoy what you’re doing, even though I know you’re busy and stressed out. This stuff is so much fun, and we have such an awesome community around us to do all of it with.

Avery volunteers with SLICE Adaptive Swim, (for three years, with the same partner for the past two years).

What are you currently reading? I just took a capstone course this semester on the short story, so I’m slightly obsessed with short stories right now. At NCTE’s book auction I bought a set of Mark Twain’s books of short stories that I am very excited to dive into now that I have time to read for fun!

What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time? I love playing tennis and being outdoors. If you can’t find me, look for the nearest sunbeam, and I’ll probably be there with a good book. I also really enjoy traveling. I’m all about widening your horizons, whether that be traveling in your mind by reading different experiences, or by physically exploring the world. You can learn so much by going places you’ve never been and searching out sights and experiences that jolt you into realizing how grand this world is and how connected all of us are in it. So far I’ve traveled to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Mexico, Scotland, England, France, and Spain. This summer I’m heading off to Iceland to live in a van and travel around exploring the island for three weeks. I’m very very excited about this trip!

Where will we find you in five years?  Hopefully in 5 years I’ll have a few years of experience under my belt and really know what I’m doing as a stellar high school English teacher. By this time, I hope I’ll be getting my Masters in English as well. I love school–enough that I want to be in it the rest of my life–both as a teacher and a student.

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