[Blackstudies-l] DECOLONIZING LITERATURE: WELLESLEY STUDENTS HELP BUILD “EMW COMMUNITY LIBRARY,” FEATURING GUEST SPEAKER JUNOT DÍAZ

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Sat Apr 16 07:11:15 EDT 2016


lisaparavisini posted: " An article by Tina Xu for The Wellesley News.
Wellesley students joined hundreds packed onto the floor of the East Meets
Words Bookstore in Cambridge on Saturday, April 11 to celebrate the opening
of the Community Library. For all those who have strugg"
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<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> DECOLONIZING
LITERATURE: WELLESLEY STUDENTS HELP BUILD “EMW COMMUNITY LIBRARY,”
FEATURING GUEST SPEAKER JUNOT DÍAZ
<http://repeatingislands.com/2016/04/15/decolonizing-literature-wellesley-students-help-build-emw-community-library-featuring-guest-speaker-junot-diaz/>
by
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Screen-Shot-2016-04-15-at-11.22.15-AM.png]

An article by Tina Xu for *The Wellesley News*.
<http://thewellesleynews.com/2016/04/15/decolonizing-literature-wellesley-students-help-build-emw-community-library-featuring-guest-speaker-junot-diaz/>

Wellesley students joined hundreds packed onto the floor of the East Meets
Words Bookstore in Cambridge on Saturday, April 11 to celebrate the opening
of the Community Library. For all those who have struggled to see
themselves reflected in the curriculum of educational institutions, the EMW
Community Library has launched a collection featuring marginalized voices
and lesser-told narratives. The audience was joined by guest speaker Junot
Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar
Wao,” who opened and closed the afternoon with a conversation on
decolonizing literature.

The event began with an open mic with the theme “Mirrors,” where members of
the community came on stage to share from a book, chapbook, album or film
in which they saw themselves reflected. The theme was drawn from a quote by
Junot Díaz that embodies the Community Library’s mission: “There’s this
idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always
thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that
if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the
cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a
monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like,
‘Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that
people like me don’t exist?’ And part of what inspired me, was this deep
desire that before I died … I would make some mirrors so that kids like me
might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”

Helping literally build the library from the ground up was Amanda Zhang
’13, Assistant Director of EMW and alum from Wellesley. As a previous
Co-Coordinator of the Wellesley Asian Alliance and an active leader in the
movement establishing Asian American Studies at Wellesley, Zhang has
continued her commitment for social and racial justice at EMW.  Zhang
commented, “When I was at Wellesley, I inherited the work previous Asian
American students and students of color had been doing in addressing the
College’s structural default to whiteness. My peers and I sought to create
palpable, affirming spaces for students of color in all dimensions. From
that experience, I practiced getting organized … Moreover, I came to
understand how severely we need physical and cultural spaces like the
Community Library to bear witness to our own histories, pains, joys and
futures so that hopefully, at the very least, we feel a little less crazy
and alone in this world.”

Perhaps driven by a lack of multicultural spaces at Wellesley, scores of
Wellesley students have flocked to EMW to find a sense of home and
empowerment. Simone Labbance ’15 worked on the development team that
secured a grant from the Forward Fund allowing the Community Library to
come into fruition. Emcee-ing the open mic was Ally Ang ’17. In a blue
polka dot button-up and dark red lipstick, she reminded the audience to
practice self-care and to “leave racism, sexism, classism, homophobia,
transphobia and all that shit at the door.”

At the mic, EMW communications team member Sruthi Narayanan ’17, read her
favorite excerpts from Rupi Kaur’s book of poetry, “milk and honey”: “i
want to apologize for all the women i have called beautiful / before i’ve
called them intelligent or brave / i am sorry i made it sound as though /
something as simple as what you’re born with / is all you have to be proud
of / when you have broken mountains with your wit.” Narayanan described the
afternoon as “a room full of 100+ people all undergoing the same sort of
‘becoming woke’ process … by challenging us to reflect on the way we think
about books and how they’re written.”

Díaz called the Community Library “a space that’s the materialization of
the hope and love that a community has for its own community … This to me
is perhaps the greatest artifact of love that one can produce … diversity
is not white people writing about us. Diversity is us, writing about
whatever we want, and occasionally, if we want to, writing about us.”

Students and faculty are encouraged to engage with and donate to the
Community Library’s quickly growing collection of books, chapbooks, comics,
zines, cassettes, vinyls, CDs, DVDs and other media. Books include fiction
and nonfiction by people of color, including women of color and queer and
trans people of color; subjects include critical theory, history, ethnic
studies, feminist studies, and queer studies; resources include materials
to promote an understanding of community organizing. Reading hours and
other information can be found on the EMW Bookstore website (
www.emwbookstore.com).

Lily Luo ’16 summarized the charge in the air that afternoon. “As we sat
there, crammed on the floor of the stage, we felt the precious and
precarious weight of the loving and compassionate energy around us. Each
speaker came up and held their hearts in their hands for us to see, to
observe, to understand. It was beautiful to see the books, songs, movies,
ideas, dreams and hopes that contributed to each person’s journey of
liberation. I felt the superhuman power exuding from the community around
me, the power of maintaining one’s dignity in a world structured around
destroying radical voices of color. Junot Díaz said that the great faith of
an artist is reaching out one’s hand into the darkness and hoping someone
reaches back. At the library opening, we were all reaching back.”
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
April 15, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-oRW

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