Q&A: M. Amah Edoh on the Isabelle de Courtivron Writing Prize

The Isabelle de Courtivron Writing reward was created in 2010 honoring Isabelle de Courtivron, teacher emerita of French scientific studies, in the occasion of the woman retirement. The award is granted annually for student composing on subjects associated with immigrant, diaspora, bicultural, bilingual, and/or mixed-race experiences. This season, the award committee is chaired by assistant teacher of African scientific studies M. Amah Edoh. Edoh replied a few questions concerning the origins and goals of this award, and about its namesake. Entries are now available for the 2019 Isabelle de Courtivron Writing reward.

Q: The de Courtivron award attracts submissions about “immigrant, diaspora, bicultural, bilingual and/or mixed-race experiences.” How come this the focus?

A: quite a few students at MIT real time across multiple social identities, whether as a result of having moms and dads from different nationwide, religious, or racial backgrounds, or as being a product of migration — their own or their parents’, or ancestral dislocation, as with the case of members of the African alongside diasporas. I think that it’s incredibly necessary for young people from such experiences having rooms in which they are able to both process and share the experiences that living between several globes result in. Specially because, regrettably, there’s an easy method by which whenever we are youthful, we can encounter this multiplicity like a burden — because we don’t fit into any one tradition nicely, versus while the asset that it happens to be — the ability to be fluent in several social mores (and often, languages). This demographic of pupils was of certain interest to Professor de Courtivron during her time at MIT, owing both to her intellectual activities also to her own individual experience, having lived and worked in France, the U.S., and other nations, throughout her career. The writing competition offers pupils a place where they are able to think on their particular experiences, and share them with the MIT community all together. For people all it’s an excellent possiblity to find out about the wealth of life experiences that define the fabric of your community.

Q: what type of writing is accepted for award entries?

A: Both creative and expository writing tend to be welcome. It may be an individual essay or perhaps a short-story. In addition, our students tend to be already engaged in contemplating concerns highly relevant to the award in their SHASS courses — particularly, who they are in the world, and just what it’s supposed to be all of them in numerous places. So sometimes they curently have papers they’ve written for courses on these topics that talk with the theme associated with the award. We welcome those too.

Q: exactly what is your guidance to budding authors?

A: I think the essential poignant writing for the prize such as this happens of authenticity. And by that, i am talking about composing that is correct towards vocals, your heart, as well as your experience. Occasionally we’re able to utilize that easily, other times it takes a bit more energy. Physically, whenever I don’t know the place to start, i love to make use of “critical moments” reflection in order to start generating a few ideas: reflecting on a minute that stands apart for its strong mental cost — whether you felt particularly happy or sad or crazy or amazed or confused. Under these powerful emotions lies a significant experience, which might simply supply a kick off point, or even a signpost while you continue to develop greater piece; compose from that. The technique can be useful for both fiction and non-fiction. Additionally, just what grabs us as readers when we study stories could be the specificity of what’s being communicated. Due to the fact author, it may be attractive to wish to focus on the universal dimension of what you’re writing about, nearly at the expense of the specifics associated with particular experience you’re relaying. However you need to let the tale itself do a lot (perhaps most!) of the meet your needs. That will require many trust in your sound plus your tale. It’s also where in actuality the secret occurs!

Q: The writing award is named for Professor Emerita Isabelle de Courtivron. I realize you understood the girl whenever you were an undergrad at MIT.

A: Yes, two decades ago, whenever I was a first-year pupil right here, as with any other first-years, I think, we participated in a regular first-year seminar. The workshops were tiny teams led by way of a professors member, that could satisfy around a style. The one I took part in was led by Professor de Courtivron, and its own focus had been on so-called “Third tradition children,” a term which was quite fashionable at the time. TCK are kids which was raised inside a culture or cultures other than their particular parents’. They often feel just like they don’t totally belong to either of the cultures, pinpointing rather with other those who share similar experience of living across countries. This the “third tradition” they are part of, the mash-up, in the event that you will, of numerous cultural experiences. All of us inside workshop had resided all over and occupied greatly different areas in the field just before arriving at MIT, but our experiences resonated deeply together. My loved ones is from Togo. I invested my early many years there as well as in Zimbabwe, and later my loved ones moved to the U.S. We went to French schools in Zimbabwe in addition to U.S., and then found college here. Another member of our first-year seminar was a youthful white man from the south US who grew up in Latin The united states because their parents were missionaries, another was from Myanmar, and was raised in Europe, easily keep in mind correctly. We had been all from various majors, lived in various dorms, had been involved with different student groups. We would have likely never ever met otherwise, yet we so required the affirmation a room similar to this supplied — particularly because it ended up being led with a faculty user just who comprehended our experiences worldwide firsthand, Professor de Courtivron.

Q: reveal more about Professor Isabelle de Courtivron.

A: Oh, from the her becoming therefore vibrant and engaging. And irreverent! She developed a room for people, the pupils, to-be no-cost and open. She had a unique ability to connect with young adults, and I believe she relished hearing about our experiences up to we liked having a “grownup” pay attention to united states and guide us once we reflected on our very own experiences and the ones of numerous “TCK” authors. I recall indeed there being fully a large amount of laughter. Isabelle made us feel heard and seen, and these small, cozy sessions with her offered a very important counterbalance towards large first-year lectures for core curriculum classes, where you were one of a group of hundreds. Isabelle remained a valued mentor to me throughout my many years as an undergrad, and now we nevertheless remain in touch. She presently life in Paris, and I’ve experienced a chance to see the woman there. Her legacy goes on through this writing reward, and it’s also an unique delight and honor in my situation to come full-circle in this manner, if you will, by chairing the committee that award the award this current year.

Submissions tend to be due by March 6. Interested students will get out more about simple tips to publish by going to mitgsl.mit.edu/writingprize. The winning entry is supposed to be posted online, and there’s a $400 very first prize.