Alumni & Alumnae

A Fordham English Degree Opens Doors

Kamrun Nesa, Fordham ‘16, has only been out of school a short time, and she’s already making her mark on the publishing world. Kamrun is an associate publicist at Grand Central Publishing and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in USA Today and The Washington Post.

Kamrun Nesa, ‘16.

Kamrun Nesa, ‘16.

When asked about her experience at Fordham, Kamrun says, “Fordham’s English Department was instrumental in launching my career as a book publicist and freelance writer, namely three professors who provided a strong support system during my time at Fordham: Mary Bly, Elizabeth Stone, and Vlasta Vranjes.”

Kamrun took several journalism classes––taught by Elizabeth Stone––for Fordham’s award-winning student newspaper The Observer, which inspired her to take up freelance writing during college.

“I also took Mary Bly's Publishing: Theory and Practice class my junior, which introduced me to the many facets of publishing and also inspired me to pursue creative writing and craft my own stories. I received my first internship through that class, which put me on a trajectory that culminated in a full-time publicity job at a book publishing house after college. 

While the professional courses helped me hone my career (and craft!), the literature courses I took, namely Victorian and 19th-century literature, deepened my appreciation for books. I loved books long before college, but Vlasta Vranjes’ creative approach took that to another level and enhanced my understanding of subtext. This level of deep analysis is something I continue to use in my writing and my full-time job. It’s how I come up with angles for the projects I work on and write press releases.”

Click here see Kamrun’s most recent article in the Washington Post: "Misconceptions about arranged marriage abound. Romance authors are here to help."

Congratulations to Kamrun! We wish her continued success.

Fordham Teaching Fellow Releases Book

Congratulations to Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow and English PhD alum Caroline Hagood, whose book Ways of Looking at a Woman will be released March 1st by Hanging Loose Press, the same publishing house that launched such notable authors as Maggie Nelson and Sherman Alexie.

In Ways of Looking at a Woman, a book-length essay that interweaves memoir with film and literary history, Hagood assumes the role of detective to ask, what is a “woman,” “mother,” and “writer”? By turns smart, funny, and poignant, Ways of Looking at a Woman is a profound meditation on the many mysterious layers that make up both a book and a person.

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Here’s what people are saying:

“A profoundly unique and honest piece of work, somehow executed with an astonishing lack of ego. She will break your heart with her naked sincerity; a masterful, singular writer who sheds light with every page.”

—Mary-Louise Parker

“This book is for the poetry lovers whose brains have gone fractured after childbirth, fractured by love and focus and television and books, every influence jostling for precious space. Is this a poem? Is it a memoir? Is it a book on art and motherhood and love? Yes. I’ll shelve it next to Maggie Nelson, on the shelf marked Necessary.”

—Emma Straub

“A riveting portrait of a mind at work. Referencing high and low culture, family, academic syllabi, and most importantly, her body, Hagood has made something entirely new and all her own.”

—Elisa Albert


Congratulations to Dr. Hagood on this fantastic accomplishment. For more information on her book, click here: http://hangingloosepress.com/newtitles.html

Fordham PhD Alum Celebrates Book Launch

Congratulations to Fordham Ph.D. recipient Dr. Michael Andindilile, now the Dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Dar es Salaam, who’s recent book launch received national recognition on iTV Tanzania.  

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As Dr. Andindilile explains it, his book, The Anglophone Literary-Linguistic Continuum, explores “the various uses of the English language on the African environment to represent various and diverse experiences on the continent.”

After the panel discussion and celebration at the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr. Andindilile expressed his joy and gratitude for the entire publishing process.  

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“I’m grateful to enter the world of publishing because I used to think it was mission impossible, but now it’s mission possible.” 

With the publication of the book, Dr. Andindilile looks to the future and the positive impact he can have on young writers in Tanzania. “I know I can inspire others, and since my book came out, so many people are coming to see me, and I’ve been encouraging them. Also, I know I can mentor some of them, so they can also end up publishing."

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Congratulations, once again, to Dr. Andindilile on this remarkable accomplishment. 

For more information about his book, click here:  https://goo.gl/oLtBJr

Fordham PhD Alum Inspiring Undergrads Through Collaboration

Recent PhD graduate Kate Nash inspires students every day in Boston University’s General Studies Program. Collaborating with computer engineering and psychology undergraduate students on her various projects, Dr. Nash is leading the next generation of thinkers and researchers, while also gleaning new perspectives from students of a wide variety of disciplines.

Nash is currently working on a critical analysis of Muriel Spark’s 1963 novel, The Girls of Slender Means, and she’s employed the help of Psychology/English major Coleen Ilano, to collect research materials for the project.

Kate Nash with Coleen Ilano.

Kate Nash with Coleen Ilano.

Ilano says she loves her classes with Nash—so the project was a perfect fit: “I am able to learn more about the subjects I love while also being able to assist a professor who I greatly admire and respect.” Ilano says that working on this project has taught her “the ways that women in fiction can exercise agency and maintain autonomy over their bodies” even when those acts might also conform to “restrictive social standards.”

Nash is also collaborating with her students on a book she’s writing “on how twentieth-century writers—among them Virginia Woolf, Betty Miller, and Muriel Spark—incorporated wartime food ephemera into their fiction. During the austere years of World War I and World War II, governments aimed to manage food consumption through mass-media campaigns. Nash looks at how women writers incorporate these propaganda materials—from posters to infant feeding manuals to domestic pamphlets—into their writing as they confront how the state regulates femininity and the female body in service of the nation. In the books that Nash studies, young women use chocolate as a form of currency during the hungry years of wartime London, and a restaurant meal becomes a symbol of racial discrimination.”

For more information on Kate Nash and her current projects go here:

https://www.bu.edu/cgs/2018/05/04/a-look-at-undergraduate-research-women-writers-food-and-wartime/

Q&A with Fordham Alum, Naima Coster, Kirkus-nominated author of Halsey Street

Naima Coster (GSAS), acclaimed author of Halsey Street, isn’t interested in asking the easy questions. Her debut novel tackles gentrification, explores psychological complexity, and invites self-interrogation on the part of its readers. Halsey Street has brought Coster critical recognition, including a Kirkus Prize nomination and a place on the must-read lists of publications across the country.

This week the Creative Writing program spoke with Coster about the thought process underlying the novel and her experience of writing about flawed humans in a very real world.

Q: Your debut novel Halsey Street has been lauded for its skilled depiction of family, loss, and renewal. What motivated you to tackle the messiness of life and relationships and in the way that you did?

One of the reasons I love fiction is that it’s one of the only avenues we have for slipping into the consciousness of another person. We’re stuck inside our own heads, our perceptions, memories, and reactions the rest of the time. But while this is one of the pleasures of fiction, it’s also uncomfortable. It can be troubling, it can hurt, to inhabit someone’s mind, to become so well acquainted with the inner life of another. I knew that if I was going to be writing so close to my characters, the book would become difficult, charged with all the emotions and wounds and aspirations the characters are carrying. But there’s no other way I’m interested in writing. And the difficulty, the discomfort of being so close to these complicated characters, is fitting for the novel. Halsey Street is in part about unbearable emotions and the ways we attempt to cope. In the book, characters lose themselves in music, turn to gin, run, make art, garden, seek intimacy. Sometimes we’re not sure how to hold the messier facts of our lives, our difficult emotions, but fiction can hold it for us, and so can other literary forms.

Q: You alternate between the perspectives of Penelope and Mirella in Halsey Street. What was the experience of alternating consciousnesses like in writing the book, particularly for two characters in such different physical and mental states? What did you hope to reveal through these particular voices?

At the level of the prose, the two perspectives in the book sound quite a lot like one another. The perspectives differ chiefly in terms of the quality of mind of each of the characters. There were periods of time when I wrote solely in Penelope’s point of view for long stretches; there were times when I was looking only at the sections of the book that belonged to Mirella. The trickier moments were the ones where their points of view collide later in the book. I hoped that these voices would complicate and illuminate one another to tell a moving, fraught, sticky story of a broken family. Neither of their versions is quite right, but they’re both telling the truth from where they’re standing. And this truth telling is essential if the women are ever going to find their way back to one another.

Q: In your work you address gentrification in Brooklyn, an issue that has gained much attention and media coverage in recent years. How have your themes changed with and been influenced by the world around you?

I knew there was no way I could write a book that would tackle every potential facet of gentrification--it’s too huge. I also knew the pressure to represent the issue could squeeze out any nuance or depth from the book. Gentrification is the context pressing in on the lives of the characters, but the story told here is actually quite small: about one neighborhood record store that closes, about two families: one old and one new. I let the lives of the characters shape the fiction, although I was always collecting details from news stories, anecdotes from friends, my own time in New York City. Anytime I thought I’d perhaps gone too far in my depiction of gentrification, the real world corroborated my fiction. I wanted to make the book bold but not didactic; I wanted to raise questions for the reader, unsettle any easy ideas about gentrification and its impact.

Q: Halsey Street has been able to reach a wide and diverse audience as it has been on the must-read lists of publications including People, Bustle, and Kirkus Reviews. What kind of effect do you hope your work has on readers, and what would you like them to take away from the novel?

I hope that my readers will be able to locate themselves in my work. I think that’s a bit different than relating to the characters; rather, it’s about being able to see more clearly how you’re operating in the world, in your neighborhood, in your family, with respect to yourself, after spending time in the fiction. I’ve heard from fathers who told me they wanted to spend more time being emotionally attentive to their daughters after reading Halsey Street because they saw themselves playing the role of material provider above all in their families; I’ve heard from young transplants to Brooklyn that they’re reevaluating how they regard their neighborhood after reading about the newcomers to Bed-Stuy in the book. The richest books, to me, are the ones that in some way leave me thinking about myself, the people around me, and how I want to live. Fiction isn’t self-help, but it can lead to self-interrogation and self-reflection, which, I believe, are invaluable.


Q: You said in another interview that you probably wouldn't write about gentrification again. Going forward, what kind of themes, questions, and mediums are you looking to explore through your writing, and has the experience of writing your debut novel influenced how you address these topics?

I’m certain that I’ll continue to be interested in family and memory, race and belonging, place and how it forms us, and the interior lives of women. But even with these thematic commitments, anything is possible. I have two novels that I’m working on now. One is a story of how the integration of a local public high school in contemporary North Carolina brings together two different families and intertwines their lives and fates forever. The other is a work of speculative fiction, and it’s about a young woman’s quest to save her family. While she is on this journey, she’s learning how to be tender at the same time that the world requires that she be hard. In both of these works, I’m paying careful attention to the physical world, to the social forces that shape my characters’ lives, and to their interiors, their relationships.

Halsey Street is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Author Naima Coster, pictured above, delves into themes of “family, loss, and renewal.“

Author Naima Coster, pictured above, delves into themes of “family, loss, and renewal.“

Cover of  Halsey Street.

Cover of Halsey Street.

Please consider a tax-deductible donation to the Lauer Scholarship

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In her 42 years of teaching at Fordham, Professor Kristin Lauer fostered the varied aspirations of her legions of devoted students--from dancers to those in law and law enforcement, from social workers to professional writers--by sharing her passionate belief in the great usefulness to life of writing well and studying the examples of great writers.

This scholarship will annually draw attention to a student who has embraced the major with a demonstrated sense of direction and purpose. She might have an internship where her music reviews are already appearing on-line.  He might be volunteering as a tutor of English at a local school and have begun work toward a teaching degree.  She may have written an account of her experience working in a hospital, or a lab, or aan animal preserve on her way to applying for a Fulbright or other prestigious fellowship. In putting a spotlight on examples like these (drawn from actual students), this prize will inspire majors and potential majors to connect their work in the classroom and the library with their ambitions in the world beyond.

Honoring Kris’s inspiring legacy, this scholarship looks to the future by recognizing and supporting students who see the English major as integral to a directed and meaningful life.

 

In honor of Professor Kristin O. Lauer's legacy, an anonymous donor will double all gifts, up to $100,000! For every $1 given, this generous donor will contribute $2 to the campaign! To donate,  please go to https://www.givecampus.com/schools/FordhamUniversity/kristin-o-lauer-scholarship

Words of Advice from Lauren Duca, Fordham English Alum

Teen Vogue contributing editor Lauren Duca, who graduated from Fordham with an English major in 2013, returned to campus on March 6 to speak to students at Rose Hill. Fordham News covered the event in the story below--which was written by Alexandra Loizzo-Desai, who got her MA in English in 2011 herself. Our former students are everywhere! 

For Lauren Duca, FCRH ’13, simply being a member of the media industry has become a form of political activism.

Duca, a contributing editor at Teen Vogue, came into the spotlight after one of her articles, “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America,” went viral last December. Since then, she’s been praised on Chelsea Handler’s Netflix showberated on Tucker Carlson Tonight, trolled on Twitter, and profiled in The New York Times. So, many of the almost 50 students who gathered to hear her speak on the Rose Hill campus on March 6 nodded in agreement when she made the connection between their intended field and political engagement.

Natalie Zisa introduced Duca

Natalie Zisa introduced Duca

Natalie Zisa, a Fordham senior and the outreach coordinator for Fordham’s branch of the communications honor society Lambda Pi Eta, said the way Duca has handled both her sudden fame and her responsibility as a journalist has sparked a fire in her.

“I see her as a role model for myself and for a lot of other young female writers,” she said. After Zisa discovered that Duca is a Fordham grad, she and a communications professor decided to invite her to campus to speak to students about the role of young people in politics and the future of journalism.

During her talk, Duca encouraged students to be dedicated to both the truth and their own voice, which she said she first started developing at the paper, a student publication at Fordham.

“The conversation online is often just about asserting things,” she said. “People do things like take each other’s anonymous sources. It spreads a contagion of unreliability. You have to remember that things are taken and distorted much quicker online, so think about your journalistic responsibility there. You want to be empowering the public with truthful information—especially now, when there’s so little trust in the media.”

But she reminded the students not to forget themselves in the process. “Be aware of the power in passionate idealism. As long as you’re informed, don’t let people tell you that you’re less than or separate from because of your youth. Just make sure your analysis is driven by the truth.”

Duca said that critics who assume that she and other young women can’t write about politics because they also write about celebrity culture are “denying me access to a political conversation and participating in this stealthy condescension that many women feel is familiar. You’re going to be taken less seriously because of your age as it is, free of gender. So insist on being taken seriously.”

That’s why Duca’s new Teen Vogue column is called “Thigh-High Politics.” She said she’s proud to work for a magazine that covers everything from shampoo commercials to the Pulse nightclub shooting, and that acknowledges that all of these are “just another piece of your world.”

“There’s this idea that women’s journalism isn’t serious journalism,” said Zisa, who admires the way Duca pushes against that misperception.

Duca answered questions from the audience

Duca answered questions from the audience

Throughout the talk, Duca offered a wide range of practical advice to students interested in the media field—on everything from the benefits of finding a first job that allows for movement to the advantages and disadvantages of freelancing

She also urged students to start approaching contentious conversations differently and to develop a more nuanced view of both the media and the world.

“Call-out culture is unproductive. Everything is complex. Checking structures of power is important, but think about what the full story is. It’s easy to just be mad,” Duca said. “Nobody is unbiased. Only the facts are unbiased.”

Photos by Dana Maxson