The largest literary conference in North America lands in the Twin Cities April 8-11, and our Creative Writing Program faculty and alums are all over it. English Chair Ellen Messer-Davidow recommends Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century--and a thriller or two. Plus an annotated list of the latest fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from professors, alums, and students, and information about our unique collaboration with Penumbra Theatre in February. Read the winter 2014 e-Quarterly!
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"There continues to be a large segment of the population that believes overcoming addiction is a matter of willpower," says Mark Mishek (summa cum laude BA 1974; JD with honors 1977), CEO and President of the recently merged Hazelden and Betty Ford Foundations. The former, which he's led since 2008, has of course been a pioneer for 65 years in defining addiction not as a crime or character flaw but as a disease. Changing minds is still difficult. "The thing that's helped right now in a sad sort of way," Mishek notes, "is that with the opioid crises affecting young males more than any other population, more parents are realizing that it's not a matter of willpower, it's not a matter of more education, more self-knowledge, and so on. While that stuff's important, it can't get you well in and of itself." How did Mishek come to lead the nation's largest nonprofit addiction treatment provider? Two words: liberal arts. Read more.
You may have read Mary Petrie's story in The Star Tribune this summer, or on the Today Parents site. Not long after her oldest child, Stryker, graduated high school last spring, he presented Petrie (PhD 2000) with a wrapped gift. Inside was a book proof of a novel Petrie had written more than a decade ago--a novel a New York agency had shopped unsuccessfully, and Petrie had put aside. Her son had proofed, formatted, and readied the book for self-publishing--to thank the Inver Hills CC professor for raising him and to, as Petrie has said, take "your mother's dreams off the shelf." A story that good needs a follow-up, and we did. Read more.
When the New York Times Book Review's thoughtful piece on his book debut described him as "the young author," 37-year-old alumnus Josh Ostergaard (MFA 2011) wasn't about to complain. Just the fact that the august Manhattan newspaper would cover his baseball essay, The Devil's Snake Curve, was thrilling. Especially given that it's a book in which Ostergaard denounces the wealthy, self-confident, and mighty New York Yankees to further, as the reviewer recognized, a larger critique of American hegemony across the globe. The "young" descriptor probably was used to distinguish him from previous baseball writers such as George Will, Ostergaard points out: "Even though I love the game, I'm less reverent." Read on.
For BA alumna Mary Nyquist, entry level lecture classes at the U were large, yes, but also liberating: This small town native experienced anonymity as a refreshing freedom. But she wasn't anonymous for long. Encouraged by her professors, Nyquist went on to graduate school and ultimately became a literature professor at the University of Toronto. There she made a name for herself as a fearless scholar of Milton. These days she thinking and publishing about tyranny through the lens of literature and philosophy, among other interdisciplinary explorations. Read more.
Our professors don't just go home and read after class: As our profile details, one competes in high-level competitive ice dancing; another spins African music as a radio deejay. But, yes, they also read: Professor John Watkins describes his latest perusals, including Solzhenitsyn and other Russian novelists. Plus a boatload of great summer books from faculty and alums. Check out the new issue of our alumnae/i newsletter, e-Quarterly.
Minnesota Teacher of the Year Tom Rademacher teaches high school English at the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resources (FAIR) School in downtown Minneapolis. "[H]e teaches us that our thoughts matter," wrote a student who nominated him, "and that we are capable of anything we want to do with our lives." Rachemacher wins a $6,000 prize and will serve as a teacher ambassador in the state for the next year. On his home page on the FAIR website, he notes, "I know I'm doing my job right when a student says I don't act like a teacher." So what's his classroom like? "On bad days, it's a mess," he admits. "On good days, it's a mess with great questions. I have a rule that I will not try to teach my students anything they could look up on the internet, which means we're often pushing each other towards pretty challenging work and conversations." Read more.
What is our new Assistant Professor Amit Yahav reading (besides the 18th century)? What new books are out from faculty, students, and alums? How is English participating in Northrop Auditorium's Grand Reopening? Find out in the new issue of our alumnae/i newsletter, e-Quarterly.
Nadia B. Hasan (BA 2002; JD 2006) braved her father's disappointment when she chose to major in English; he preferred pre-med or engineering. But her degree prepared her for the reading and analytic rigor of the University of Minnesota Law School and nine years thus far of law practice, first with Johnson & Condon, then Hinshaw & Culbertson, and since last summer in the Minneapolis office of Cozen O'Connor. These days, she notes with amusement, her dad claims he was the one who suggested English. Read more.
How many first-time screen actors get to go to Sundance Film Festival with one of the buzziest films in competition? Naomi Ko (BA 2011) was busy January in Park City, Utah, with press interviews, brunches, luncheons, and parties around the acclaimed feature Dear White People (which was filmed on the U campus). Since graduating, Ko has acted and written for such local theaters as Mixed Blood, Theatre in the Round, Mu Performing Arts, and Bedlam. Last August, Ko heard from a theater producer she'd worked with, Jamil Jude, about movie auditions taking place the next day. Ko went, and she was the only cast member to win a principal role without an agent. The film follows four African American students at an East Coast private college. According to its director, Justin Simien, the film is "about the difference between how the mass culture responds to a person because of their race and who they understand themselves to truly be." Though the Asian American experience has been well-represented in theater, says Ko, there's as yet no Asian American film equivalent to DWP. "I'm working on one," she promises. Read more.
When Shae Moloney (BA) graduated in 2012, she was aiming for a career as an editor and writer, but she hadn't explored where she might find such work. Within three months she had secured a job that included editing and writing. The field was unexpected: human resources. She admits to nervously anticipating beastly labor-management brawls. But these days you can find her waxing cheerfully (and knowledgeably) about Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy, surrounded by snarling and growling beasts of the actual, not figurative sort. Read more.
When Kate Hopper (MFA 2005) reads from her new memoir Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood 7 pm October 23 at Subtext Bookstore, she'll be marking not only the book's publication but the 10-year anniversary of her daughter's premature birth in the fall of 2003. Both her daughter, Stella, and this memoir have thrived under Hopper's decade of care, with important assists from others (not forgetting husband). Hopper was able to work with her agent, Amy Burkhardt, twice--on this book and on her 2012 writing guide Use Your Words--before Burkhardt left that career. "Amy is a writer herself with an MFA in fiction, so she's a really smart reader," Hopper relates. "She helped me see that I had front-loaded back-story, and asked questions like, 'If the book is really about...do you need this?' I'm going to miss her!" Hopper's MFA student cohort and professors encouraged her as the manuscript was just beginning, in the years just after Stella was born. Read on.
"The [English] major provided for a deep analysis of written work for every detail, from words to punctuation," declares English honors alum Sukanya Momsen (BA '13), in an interview featured on the University of Minnesota home web page. "This will be especially helpful to me in law school," she continues. Momsen is entering the University of Minnesota Law School this fall, after completing her BA in two years. Her favorite place on campus? Yup, Lind Hall.
The two winners of the 2012 Barnes & Noble Discover Awards are both Department of English alumnae. Cheryl Strayed (BA 1997) won for her memoir Wild (Knopf), and Amanda Coplin (MFA 2006) won for her debut novel The Orchardist (Harper). The awards, worth $10,000, were announced at a New York ceremony March 6. Strayed, who also majored in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies, has been honored as a CLA Alumna of Notable Achievement. Coplin, a Gesell Award for Excellence in Fiction recipient while a student here, returns 7 pm Thursday, March 14, as part of the Creative Writing Program's First Books Reading at the Weisman Museum. Founded in 1990, Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers program promotes books of exceptional literary quality from authors at the start of their careers. Congratulations!
How did Angela Smith (PhD '02)--author of the new book Hideous Progeny: Disability, Eugenics, and Classic Horror Cinema--get hooked on horror movies? It might have been an episode of Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense that she saw as a child. As befits a scholar (she's Associate Professor of English & Gender at the University of Utah), Smith has gone back to the episode ("Child's Play") as an adult. "The show seems very clichéd and campy now," she admits, "but I remember feeling absolutely terrified." What macabre story so disturbed the small Smith? Read on!