Westfield State to hold panel discussion

WESTFIELD – Westfield State University will hold “Literature, Gender, and Culture: A Cross-Cultural Conversation,” a panel of academic papers, readings, and performances on Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Scanlon Banquet Hall.
The event is part of the university’s annual Month Celebrating Women calendar. For nearly 30 years, Westfield State has held events dedicated towards awareness and celebration of women’s rights and issues involving women globally. What started off as a week-long celebration organized around International Women’s Day (March 8th) is now a month-long tribute complete with guest speakers, concerts, and art exhibits. The month is organized by faculty and staff and the department of diversity, inclusion, and student activities and is led by Ron’na Lytle, administrative assistant of the ethnic and gender studies and world language studies departments.
The event will bring together post-colonial scholars for a presentation that demonstrates how multiple fields intersect and contribute to current debates about the lives of formerly colonized and marginalized people, focusing on female experiences.
“Literature, Gender, and Culture” was organized by Carol Bailey, assistant professor of English, to coincide with three classes she is teaching this semester: Contemporary Cultural Literature, Post-Colonial Literature, and Black American Literature.
“I want my students to gain from everything they encounter, much of which will take place outside of the classroom,” Bailey said. “This event introduces students to texts from diverse places in the world and different points of view. It connects them to a community of learners, evoking conversations similar to what we would discuss in class.”
The featured author will be Marie-Elena John. Born and raised in Antiqua, John is a former development specialist of the African Development Foundation. In 1986, she was the first Black woman valedictorian at New York’s City College. She then earned her master’s in international affairs from Columbia University.
John will discuss her debut novel “Unburnable,” which follows Dominican born Lillian Baptiste who fled the country at age 14 after learning the true identify of her birth mother. She returns to her native country 20 years later in attempts to heal old wounds. Alternating between contemporary D.C. and post- World War II Dominica, the book interweaves American and African culture. “Unburnable” was named “Best Debut Book of 2006” by Black Issues Book Review and was nominated for the 2008 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
“I know from experience how compelling students find her book,” Bailey said. “John is very effective at connecting with students and linking her lecture to the broader issues we discuss in class.”
Other panelists include: Brian Chen, assistant professor of English (Westfield State); Enrique Morales-Diaz, professor of world language studies (Westfield State); Katwiwa Mule, associate professor of comparative literature (Smith College); Asha Nadkarni, assistant professor of English (UMass Amherst); Chelsea Orifice ’16 (Westfield State student); Anna Schur, associate professor of English (Keene State); Lucía M. Suárez, associate professor of Spanish (Amherst College); Matthew Shand ’18 (Westfield State graduate student).
The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please call Ron’na Lytle at (413) 572-5573.

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