By Staff Writer Kylie Cooper.
The Claire T. Carney Library Associates hosted their 13th annual Authors’ Brunch on Sunday, April 7 featuring Gish Jen, Susan Wissler, and Lauren Wolk. The winners of the Claire T. Carney Library Associates’ student essay contest were also recognized.
The essay theme was “Invent Your Future” and prompted students to discuss an “issue [they] believe is important.”
The first place winner was Jack McDonald ‘22, physics, who wrote about his belief that eighteen year olds are not as prepared for college as they could be in an essay titled “Indecision.”
“I’m 24 years old and I’m a freshman, but I feel better equipped and can better handle all of the challenges that are thrown at me,” McDonald said.
The second place winner was Monica Anderson ‘20, business management with a minor in accounting, with her essay “They Need a Voice.” She wrote about her volunteering experience at Lighthouse Animal Shelter in New Bedford.
While this was the first time the Claire T. Carney Library Associates hosted the essay contest, the Authors’ Brunch is held each spring and is the organization’s major fundraiser. Each Brunch, three guests who have made a mark on the literary and cultural world are invited to speak about their work. This year’s theme was all about women.
Dr. Mel Yoken, Program Chair and former President of the Library Associates, said Jen, Wissler, and Wolk were chosen because “they’re the best of the best.”
The event began with Chinese-American author Jen, who discussed the theme of her most recent book, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: the difference between Eastern and Western global cultures. Her multimedia presentation commenced with two videos, the first of which being a Western man talking about individualism represented in video games and the second of a group of Columbia University students explaining the significance of their Chinese names to their familial connections.
From there, Jen offered two types of people: the “avocado pit-self,” commonly found in the West, and the “flexi-self,” commonly found in the East. These terms, paired with graphics of Mr. Avocado Head and Gumby, respectively, drew much laughter from the audience. Yet, her message resonated and prompted self-reflection.
“I thought hearing what she had to say was probably the most enlightening,” said attendee Sandra Freedman.
Jen’s presentation was “insightful” to Freedman, as it helped her make greater sense of when she lived with her White son and his Asian wife. There had been very subtle cultural differences that she hadn’t understood at the time.
The second speaker was Wissler, editor of Edith Wharton in France by Claudine Lesage and executive director of Wharton’s estate The Mount.
Lesage had died before finishing the book’s manuscript, but provided a perspective of the 19th and 20th century American author’s life in France that had never been explored before.
Despite having to edit Lesage’s occasionally “highly critical” commentary on Wharton’s attempts to become Parisian, Wissler said Lesage had a “voracious” intellectual appetite and an “incredible sense of humor,” which she experienced firsthand while spending a week with the author before her death.
Wolk, the final presenter and author of children’s book Wolf Hollow, shared her writing process with the audience.
“What is the book that inspired me to write?” Wolk began, and then read an excerpt from the book that drew smiles from the audience.
The excerpt was from Goodnight, Moon and she frequently drew back to the excerpt’s green room visual throughout the rest of her presentation.
She also discussed how writing shouldn’t be for the profit, but to unite people.
“If I as a writer can communicate my senses, I can reach readers across the world—across time,” Wolk said.
She relies on the universal languages of “sensation and emotion.”
Wolf Hollow has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird because of its themes that address social issues.
In addressing how some claim her books are too dark for children, Wolk said children must “learn what’s wrong to help make it right.”
Amongst the audience was UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry Dr. Chang-Ning Wu.
Dr. Wu was a founding faculty member of the university—before it was even called UMass Dartmouth—and continued to work until his retirement.
Since he moved, Dr. Wu usually doesn’t come back to campus, but the Authors’ Brunch allowed him to reunite with old friends and see the campus again.
“It’s very exciting to see the growth of the university,” Dr. Wu said.