Sunday, May 27, 2018

Spring Syllabus: Diaz, Lahiri, Loehnen, McCann, Mukherjee, Munro and Sittenfeld

For the past nine months, I've been teaching intensively. The lovely thing about teaching is that you have summers off, if you want them.This summer, I plan to meditate and drink lattes with steamed almond milk in the mornings and then drink cold brew iced coffee and write for long stretches into the afternoons and evenings. Teaching makes my writing time feel precious, but right now, I don't have enough of it. That said, I love teaching writing. I love my students and I love being paid to read great writing, unpack it, explore it and then teach it. It is in so many ways a dream job. I've been lucky in that I work with several groups of writers, who are committed to our writing workshops, passionate about reading fantastic short stories, novels, memoirs and essays, and committed to churning out their own great prose. So many writers I work with are also fun and funny. It is a pleasure to know them and read their work.

Below are some of the readings my students and I have unpacked and discussed together these past few months. The best thing about  reading and teaching great writers? You are always in excellent company.


Junot Diaz, The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma (non-fiction). There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding Diaz and this piece. It’s a brilliant, disturbing read.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Trading Stories: Notes from an Apprenticeship (non-fiction). Great piece on how she became a writer.

Ben Loehnen, On Losing a Husband and (Almost) Losing a Wedding Ring (non-fiction). Lovely piece about what happens to a man's wedding ring after his husband unexpectedly dies.

Colum McCann, The Word Shed (non-fiction). Beautiful piece about McCann's writer-father.
Colum McCann, Looking for the Rozziner (non-fiction, originally published in Granta). Breath-taking piece about McCann's writer-father.
Colum McCann, But Always Meeting Ourselves (non-fiction, The New York Times). Lovely piece about how McCann was able to finally write about his late grandfather.

 Siddhartha Mukherjee, My Father’s Body, At Rest and in Motion (non-fiction). Beautiful piece about Mukherjee's last months with his father.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Runs in the Family (non-fiction). Great piece about how schizophrenia runs in his and other families.

Alice Munro, Passion (fiction). *See note below on more Alice Munro stories.

Curtis Sittenfeld, And They Said It Would Never Last (non-fiction). Wonderful piece about a shirt Sittenfeld wore again and again.

Curtis Sittenfeld is a novelist and the author of a new short story collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It, which is terrific--- funny and tart. During the past year, we’ve read three of her pieces in The New Yorker: The Prairie Wife, Gender Studies and Show, Don’t Tell. The Prairie Wife and Gender Studies appear in her new collection.

*More Alice Munro stories: Reading Alice Munro always makes me want to write. She’s not always easy to dive into, but she creates beautiful, vivid worlds, and if you set aside a half hour or so to immerse yourself in one of her stories, she will take you to another place and will probably inspire you want to write too. Right now, I’m finishing up Munro’s short story collection, Runaway, which is terrific. Please see below links to the Alice Munro short stories I have assigned over the years. They are all fiction except where indicated and are all available free from The New Yorker, except for Train, which is available through Harper’s archives. Here also is a link to everything Alice Munro has published over the years in The New Yorker.  Enjoy!

Deborah Treisman Q&A with Alice Munro about Dear Life (interesting to read how she mixes fact with fiction)

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