Congratulations to Fordham graduate student Jordan Windholz. He has been selected by Averill Curdy for the 2014 Vassar Miller Prize in poetry for his collection Other Psalms. His book will be published by University of North Texas press in Spring 2015.
Congratulations to Melissa Castillo-Garsow (GSAS, '11) who published her first novel Pure Bronx with Fordham University African and African American Studies Professor Mark Naison in November 2013. A short interview with Melissa follows below.
Pure Bronx is your first published novel. When writing Pure Bronx, did you have a general idea of where the story would take the reader, or did you work out the plot as it came to you?
When I first started writing Pure Bronx, I had no idea where the plot would go. In fact, the character I wrote, Rasheeda, came as a response to a first chapter written by Dr. Naison in the voice of the other main character Khalil. The idea to write a novel came out of a provocation by Dr. Naison while I was in a class he taught titled "Hip Hop Street Narratives." The class was to write our own version of street literature. At first I wasn't at all interested in either writing street literature or collaborating with the class, but then his first chapter peaked my interest. As an exercise, I wrote a second chapter, and he wrote back, and no one else joined in. After a few weeks we sat down and came up with a plot, but it was very organic. We really just followed the characters as we got more engrossed in their lives.
Pure Bronx was co-authored by Fordham University African and African American Studies Professor Mark Naison. What was the collaborative creative process for this novel like?
It was actually really straight forward and simple. He would write a chapter and I would respond with one. He wrote Khalil's voice and I wrote Rasheeda's. Every two weeks or so we would meet to discuss where the book was going, and about how the characters were developing. Collaboration was also easy because we're both insomniacs! I would write late into the night, and by the time I would wake up in the morning I would have more material from Dr. Naison or at least commentary on what he thought of my latest chapter!
What is your personal relationship to the Bronx, and what drew you to it as a source of inspiration?
I have lived in New York City since 2003 and grew up coming here several times a year (I grew up upstate), but I never really spent much time in the Bronx until I came to Fordham. So I got to know the Bronx, especially the south Bronx where the book is mostly set, as I got to know Rasheeda and the other characters in the book. The inspiration really came from soaking up my new environment. Luckily, Dr. Naison is a 40 year veteran of the Bronx so I was also guided and inspired by him.
What social issues does Pure Bronx aim to address, and how?
Pure Bronx addresses a lot of social issues - poverty, racism, wall street corruption, drug use, immigration, religious intolerance (towards muslims), the hyper-sexualization of women of color, etc. But the main thrust of the story is the tragedy of these two young, talented, bright people, Khalil and Rasheeda, and the limited options they face due to their family and home circumstances. In that way they reflect a larger story of social inequality, but also the tremendous talent that is being wasted in many inner city neighborhoods like the South Bronx.
Can you describe your research process for Pure Bronx?
I tried to inhabit the areas that Rasheeda would frequent as much as possible - the Mitchell Houses, local restaurants, etc. Rasheeda works in a strip club and that material actually came out of research for a short story I had written previously which included frequenting and talking to young women who worked in these establishments. I was also lucky to have access to materials from the Bronx African American History Project which Dr. Naison runs, a project with a wealth of materials including oral history.
What was your goal when you set out to write this novel (in both form and content), and did you see this goal accomplished in the text by the time the book was complete?
I wouldn't say I had a set goal. At first, I had no intention of even writing a novel. I was just following Rasheeda and responding to Dr. Naison's writing. So everything that has come out of this experience is completely unexpected and amazing!
More information on Pure Bronx can be found here.
Kim read a first person creative non-fiction piece that used the repeating word "almost" in hypnotic and unexpected ways. Meera read first chapter of her second book Harvest that detailed the harrowing story of an Indian girl who finds that she has been promised away as a servant to a wealthy landowner. The event ended with a spirited question and answer session on the writing life.
Fordham University's national literary magazine, CURA: A Literary Magazine of Art and Action is accepting 2013 - 2014 submissions through March. Featuring creative writing, visual art, new media and video, our aim is to integrate literary art publishing with social justice. CURA contributors have won Rockefeller, Guggenheim, American Book, and National Endowment for the Arts awards. Past issues have featured work by: Brenda Hillman, Robert Bly, Evie Shockley, Patricia Smith and Idra Novey.
For submission guidelines, click here.
We are proud to be continuing our partnership with The Doe Fund. Through its pioneering program, Ready Willing and Able, The Doe Fund combines paid transitional work and a holistic, individualized service package to catapult individuals into the workforce and out of cycles of homelessness, crime, and addiction. All magazine publication proceeds directly benefit The Doe Fund.
To announce the call for submissions, CURA is running a "Literary Crushes" project. CURA staffers gave out strawberry Crush sodas at Fordham University, Rose Hill in return for expressions of lit-love. Add to the love-fest on our Tumblr.
The Creative Writing Program conducted a Literary Fair, an all creative writing class reading and a reception at Lincoln Center on December 2nd. Students were able to browse through Fordham's vibrant literary publications: Ampersand, Bricolage, The Comma, The Concubine, CURA, The Observer, and the paper .
The Fall 2013 creative writing classes performed blitz five minute readings that entailed everything from choral readings, video and computer based writing. Below is Mark Lee's wonderful video piece Liking Girls which was developed in Elizabeth Stone's Writing Autobiography class.
This Thanksgiving season, CURA Magazine is sponsoring a “Give Thanks" fundraiser to support The Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing & Able Youth Initiative which provides education, personal growth and job readiness programs for homeless youth in New York City. A recent publication by the Center for Economic Opportunity reports that 15.8% of the youth in NYC are not engaged in work or school. As part of this new initiative, 18- to 26-year-olds who enter The Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing & Able program without a high school diploma or equivalent will have the opportunity to participate in a mixed week of work and education. Of this population being served, 50% have a history of incarceration, 23% grew up in foster care, 93% are African-American or Hispanic, 28% are fathers, and 48% lack a GED or high school diploma.
While traditional youth programs emphasize transitional employment or education, The Doe Fund’s program allows participants to pursue both work and education at the same time without having to choose one over the other.
We have some fabulous perks for donations including: a year's subscription to luxury beauty and lifestyle products through Birchbox, art-piece wood postcards with a quote by the great James Baldwin, dog tags from The DogTag public art exhibit and more. Please join us in our cause. Every little bit of support helps. Click here to access our Indiegogo campaign.