In this thoughtful and funny interview, award-winning Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz discusses his own writing process, the importance of revising and rewriting, his whole-hearted support of young writers of color, and his predictions about the zombie apocalypse.
“I write in order to peruse myself” – Henri Michaux
“Writing can be an artificial arena where we mash the world into a shape we can stand to look at.” –Tim Kreider
From Approaches to What?
…In our haste to measure the historic, significant and revelatory, let’s not leave aside the essential: the truly intolerable, the truly inadmissible. What is scandalous isn’t the pit explosion, it’s working in coalmines. ‘Social problems’ aren’t ‘a matter of concern’ when there’s a strike, they are intolerable twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.
Tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, tower-blocks that collapse, forest fires, tunnels that cave in, the Drugstore des Champs-Elysees burns down. Awful! Terrible! Monstrous! Scandalous! But where’s the scandal? The true scandal? Has the newspaper told us anything except: not to worry, as you can see life exists, with its ups and its downs, things happen, as you can see.
The daily papers talk of everything except the daily. The papers annoy me, they teach me nothing. What they recount doesn’t concern me, doesn’t ask me questions and doesn’t answer the questions I ask or would like to ask.
What’s really goind on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recus every day: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infraoridnary, the background noise, the habitual?
To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we habituated to it. We don’t question, it it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a probme, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither questions nor answers, as if weren’t the bearer of any information…What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us…
Describe your street. Describe another street. Compare.
Make an inventory of your pockets, of your bag. Ask yourself about the provenance, the use, what will become of each of the objects you take out…
-Georges Perec from Species of Spaces and Other Pieces published by Penguin Books, 1999
Anyone remember “Reading Rainbow,” the show geared toward getting kids to read? It ran on PBS from 1983-2006, and in 2012 it became a downloadable app. Now it has a funny new Kickstarter campaign, starring its longtime beloved host, LeVar Burton, raising money to improve the app. Check it out below.
In his dynamic and humorous Ted Talk, former Denver Broncos running back Reggie Rivers discusses how to achieve goals through focusing on behaviors that are within our control. It provides some interesting food for thought when considered in the context of the Purpose-Centered Education model of MCNY and the LEC’s goal of setting the groundwork for you to take charge of your education!
I was raised in Coney Island, Brooklyn, along with my three sisters and brother. I witnessed issues such as addiction, domestic violence, and gun violence damage many of the families around me. During those years, I was also lumped into stereotypical assumptions of character based on my ethnicity and what neighborhood I called home. The discrimination that I experienced and my environment are reasons I am enrolled in MCNY’s Human Services degree program today. My first attempt at college was in 2004. The transition from Leon M. Goldstein high school to John Jay College was not easy. I was 17 years old, fresh out of high-school, and full of anxiety. Reasons for dropping out of John Jay were: 1. Confusion, 2. Enrollment in courses I was not interested in and 3. The inability to juggle the demands of work, school, family and my social life. Subsequently, I spent my time quitting every job that hired me because there were no opportunities for growth. I also completed training programs along the way, which I felt would broaden my horizons. Although I did well, I exited each program with an overall sense of unpreparedness and lack of sufficient work experience. I decided to return to college because a degree is necessary for me to achieve the level of success I desire. My first college experience was a culture shock. I felt like I was doggy paddling my way through my classes, barely able to keep my head above the water. The second time around, factors that have contributed to my success at MCNY are: accepting feedback, having clear goals, utilizing available resources, and learning how to manage my time. In addition, the faculty continuously challenges me to raise the bar of my own expectations. I have learned not to be ashamed to ask for help, to take charge of my learning; revisiting the basics often is necessary, and achieving a balance is difficult but possible.
Click on the picture below for two minutes of glorious — and perhaps challenging — nothing. It might show you some things about yourself — at least, I had no idea how hard it was to settle my frisky fingers (and brain). Upon my return to the world, I felt much more ready to engage. Courtesy of Jaya Kanan, previous Coordinator of the LEC.
Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, I was selected with five other Haitian students to come to New York and study Emergency and Disaster Management at MCNY to help Haiti for future disasters. I was very excited because it was one of my dreams to study in the U.S. But when I took a seat in class, I could barely understand what was said because the way I used to pronounce words was completely different from the way there are pronounced in the United States.
During that first week, I submitted my first assignment for my writing class to my writing professor. She gave me back the paper and said that she was not able to grade because she did not understand it. At that moment, I felt I was going straight toward failure in that Master’s program. I could read in the professors’ eyes that we were a casting mistake.
During our welcoming ceremony at Borough Hall, I made a speech that made everyone clap their hands. At that moment, I realized my chance to succeed in the program was not over, but I was at the beginning of a challenging journey. I knew my failure would have been a failure for my country and giving up was not an option. It was one of the greatest challenges of my life. Therefore, I decided to read more, take ESL classes, make the MCNY library my new home, and go to the LEC to improve my writing. At the end of the semester, I had an A for my writing class. And now, I just finished my first novel: I Dare You To Try It, that will be published soon. Thanks to LEC.
I was shy because of my accent, but Prof. Motola advised me to speak up. So I became more confident in my presentations. Some professors especially Prof. Chuck Frank and Prof. Mick Maurer, challenged us regardless of our origin, which built our capabilities. The college also organized a trip to Chile where we gained more knowledge and skills in disasters. I was very proud of my 3.83 total GPA.
What really makes MCNY special is the way the staff empower students with knowledge, skills, and self-confidence. A special thanks to God, my family, the Council Member, Matthieu Eugene, and MCNY. It was a wonderful experience for me at MCNY. The MCNY staff (admission, financial aid, registrar, LEC, etc…), my classmates, and my professors were amazing.
Clarita was born in Pereira, Colombia. She lived there into her adult years, and earned a masters degree there in Educational Administration. Throughout her years of eclectic professional experience in Colombia and here in the United States, she has worked as a teacher, a public health educator, a city government interpreter, and a chauffeur! Her sculpture has been commissioned by various institutions, and she has been awarded various recognition for her other art work. She came to MCNY with a desire to further develop her professional skills and contribute to the fascinating field of emergency and disaster management. As English is her second language, she still struggles a bit with pronunciation, but she does not let that impede her from engaging enthusiastically with her studies and following her curiosities with tireless passion. She practices her pronunciation by repeating new words aloud until they become more familiar. Though challenging and frustrating at times, this practice is important to her because she wants to ensure that her speaking ability matches her level of intelligence – it’s important to her, as it is to everyone, to be understood! She loves New York City and is passionate about being involved in the city’s emergency and disaster management in meaningful ways that make a difference.
Did you ever wonder what will happen if (/when) no one writes by hand anymore? As explained in this article, psychologists and neuroscientists have found new evidence that suggests deep links between handwriting and broader educational development.