Description of Class
Migration is at the heart of the American national ethos. We all come from somewhere and the perspective of the outsider looking in makes for great fiction.
In this four-week class led by author Dipika Mukherjee (Ode to Broken Things; Shambala Junction), you will explore the theme of migration and what it means to integrate into a new culture. Guided by important literary examples, discussions will center on themes and craft, with a special focus on developing a strong ending and beginning.
You’ll consider the work of ten writers who’ve dealt with “outsider” themes in modern American short stories, including Maya Angelou, Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, and Amy Tan. Using their work, we’ll discuss concepts of identity in relation to global diasporas, as well as movements within America. With ideas percolating in your head, you’ll begin writing your own story, whether fiction or creative non-fiction.
Week 1: A Sense of Place & Plot. The first pair of stories by Ernest Hemingway and Maya Angelou juxtapose the voice of expatriate Americans abroad with African-Americans in the South fighting for equal rights. We explore the notions of anomie abroad, but also the feelings of being an outsider in a relationship, as well as within our own communities.
Week 2: Writing from Family Life. Jhumpa Lahiri and Akhil Sharma both explore the concept of kinship and how Asian familial ties adapt to migration and assimilation. What are some family ties that bind, and others that provide a scaffolding?
Week 3: Dialogue, Dialect & Finding a Voice. Junot Diaz and Amy Tan shine their light on two very different American migrant communities, but both of these stories show us the tensions in what is said as well as left unsaid. In this class, we look at language and codeswitching and writing about cultures and traditions without needing a glossary.
Week 4: Imagery and Iconography. In both Steven Millhauser’s and Alyssa Wong’s short stories, ubiquitous religious and sociocultural objects steer the stories into brilliant and sinister endings. How can we take an object that seems ordinary and innocuous and weave it into a compelling narrative?
By the end of the course, you should be able to use our discussion and examples to write a draft of a story or an essay dealing with loss and anomie, or assimilation and adaptation. There will be weekly prompts assigned to get you started.
This course is suitable for both beginners and more experienced students.Top