The WNBA-NYC chapter is happy to announce the appointment of our new NGO Youth Representative at the United Nations Department of Public Information for 2014-2015, Pace MS in Publishing Student, Caitlin Estelle Morrow. Please join us in welcoming her. Caitlyn will be joining fellow classmate, Dena Mekawi who has been serving as a NGO Youth Representative at the United Nations Department of Public Information since the fall of 2013.
I am so excited to have been given the opportunity to represent the WNBA on the world stage. I double majored in International Studies and English Literature in college and I never thought I would have the chance to use both degrees simultaneously…until now. I was an active member of Model United Nations and having access to the real UN is surreal. Through my briefings at the UN, I hope to increase my awareness of major global issues and effectively communicate these concerns back to the WNBA members.”
Caitlin Morrow recently graduated magna cum laude from Elmira College, receiving BA degrees in International Studies and English Literature. She is currently a graduate student at Pace University pursuing an M.S. in Publishing degree. Upon acceptance into the program, she received two merit based scholarships: the Graduate President’s Scholarship and American Media Inc. Scholarship.
She has extensive experience with Amnesty International, serving as treasurer of her college’s club. An active member of her college’s Model United Nations club, she participated in several conferences along the East Coast and Montreal. She also served as club secretary as a sophomore. During her junior year, Caitlin was selected to study abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan. Here she was able to immerse herself in the Japanese culture, living with a host family and traveling on the weekends. On her trip to South Africa, she assisted a community garden in planting sustainable food for local families. She has also traveled to India, where she visited a boys’ orphanage to play and interact with the children.
Caitlin has been a summer intern for the Independent Publishers of New England, helping them increase membership by 20%, while performing editorial and marketing tasks for three publishing companies. She currently lives in Brooklyn.
Introduction by Andrea Baron, VP Programming, WNBA-NYC
Over 100 people attended our November 5th panel discussion on Political Fiction at Pace University in New York City. The Dyson College departments of Pace Publishing, Women’s and Gender Studies, and English departments co-sponsored the event, and the many students in the audience set the tone for a lively discussion of the traditions and inspirations for political fiction, as well as the challenges facing women writers.
Our authors discussed the challenges of writing political fiction — framing language, developing character, and structuring plot to dramatize conflicts of class, race, gender, and politics while avoiding the pitfalls of authorial intrusion and didacticism.
Alex Grover, a current Pace MS in Publishing graduate student who attended the event, shares his insights about the panel and what the authors had to say:
Duty against the Norm: How Five Authors Write Political Fiction in Order to Change Their World
By Alex Grover
Why aren’t more books tackling tough and ambiguous subjects?
That was my question after having the privilege to attend a powerful panel hosted by the WNBA-NYC called, Balancing Commitment andCraft in Political Fiction. The five novelists—Céline Keating, Elizabeth Nunez, Tiphanie Yanique, Ellen Meeropol, and Marnie Mueller—in a discussion moderated by Susan Breen talked about their united cause in not only giving voice to important, impactful movements but also giving themselves voices as women. As Yanique stated early in the conversation, “to be a woman writer, even today, is a political act.”
The novelists first discussed their books as examples of the niche political fiction genre, including a story of growing up as a white non-prisoner in a Japanese internment camp, a mindful revision of The Tempest, and a discovery of self-identity during the feminist movement of the late 60s and early 70s. Why did they write these books? For Mueller, it was wanting “to know my background, what my parents did during World War II.” For Nunez, it was a way to articulate how those who appropriated her culture in the past had generalized and transformed her people into something they weren’t. In writing Prospero’s Daughter, Nunez “talks back to Shakespeare.”
Breen, an author herself and an instructor at Gotham Writers’ Workshop in Manhattan, then asked the panel, “What is political fiction?” At its core, it’s “tersely political material,” said Mueller, “strung together with a plot.” From Meeropol’s experience, “Real political fiction should be partisan, but should ask the reader to take a stand.” As Yanique put it, writing political fiction meant “consciously writing against a particular kind of patriarchy.” No matter the interpretation of the question, the panel met at an agreement that all novels, no matter their structure, are political to some degree. “If you have a book that exclusively features white people in a white suburb,” she said, “that’s still political. That’s still making a statement. It’s just that that statement doesn’t go against the status quo.”
On writing and craft, the authors gave advice for those who wanted to pen their own novels. While a novel may be a vital tool in influencing our society, it must also be entertaining. “We are wrapping you up and pulling you in,” Nunez said, comparing the process to a sequence from Charlotte’s Web where a fly allows itself to be captured by the titular spider. “You don’t know you’re being eaten.” From implanting “zingers” in a work to using mystery as a vehicle for political subversion, as Céline described in her own observation of the genre, authors must still keep the audience’s attention.
As powerful as their statements were, the panelists recognized that there are barriers that must be overcome in the publishing industry. Considering minority writers, Nunez talked about how a publishing house will say they publish black writers, yet those writers are still gathered in marginal imprints, or ghettoes as Nunez referred to them, and not exposed to mainstream audiences. As Nunez asked when considering the problem, “Are we not human?”
The evening with these authors was an exploration of the underpinnings of contemporary thought, a writing workshop, and a challenging view of current publishing paradigms. Some standards of writing we consider to be normal are not. As Yanique asked, “There’s not one gay person in Maine?” She was referring to an unnamed and popular author that actively influences our perception of the times. Considering the many social issues of the present still unresolved, the panelists recognized their moral obligation—and accepted.
Alex Grover (@AlexPGrover) is a graduate assistant at Pace University Press. He has written articles for Quirk Booksand Apiary Magazine and has work published in Strange Horizons (forthcoming) and Acappella Zoo. He is currently participating in NaNoWriMo.
Dena Mekawi is a current Publishing graduate student at Pace University, and also holds the position of Youth Representative for the Women’s National Book Association. This article was included in the WNBA’s October Newsletter.
One of the most memorable conferences I attended as a Youth Representative was on August 18, 2014, with special guest Malala Yousafzai. Secretary general of the United Nations, Bank Ki-moon, and education advocate and co-founder of the Malala Fund, Malala Yousafzai joined the audience for an interactive conversation about the Millennium Development Goals. Questions were asked from young people about how we can all play a part to achieve the MDGs, from boosting education, eliminating poverty and hunger, empowering women and girls to protect the environment, improving maternal health, and combating infectious diseases. Amy Robach moderated the discussion, news anchor with ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA).
Malala spoke out again a year after her first speech at the United Nations, where she shared her near death experience being shot by the Taliban. This year she is back sharing her story on how she never gave up on her beliefs on education, and she wishes every child the same opportunity. First way to do this is to advocate to our community, she demands that we need to make sure every child is going to school, also to do work on the ground and overseas. She discusses how Malala Fund is slowly making a difference worldwide. Malala says that education has brought change to the community; she encourages everyone to change the concept of bravery. Before Malala was abducted she had a passion for learning and was campaigning for education rights. Malala says, “If a girl isn’t getting an education, I can see her future getting married at the age of 13- 14, and that’s all her life, she would never realize that yes she’s a human being and has an identity, and she should be accepted in society, and she should be treated with equal rights. She would never know these things without education.” Malala explains that from her experiences, that a child doesn’t want anything but just a pen and a book.
Amy Robach asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon how the crisis worldwide would impact the MDG goals. Secretary General explains how we are seeing many dedicated committed young leaders like Malala and like everyone else. Secretary General says, “One may think I’m just a young girl or young boy, I don’t have any power, but each one of you can make a difference. You are the rear voices; we must walk with the young people.” Malala states, “The strength of a woman does not depend on her physical strength but rather on her skills and education.” Malala explains how we need to believe in the power of our voices, and her message is to highlight the issues and address them.
As a student living in New York, I do feel lucky to have access to education. However after witnessing Malala’s struggle and hearing her fight for educational rights, allowed me to really reflect on all the things we might take for granted. We need to translate our blessings into advocacy for youth and women worldwide that are waking up everyday praying for quality education, clean water, ending of violence against women, gender equality and every other human rights that they should be living by. We need to take control of our society and use our voices to represent millions globally, we need to use social media to start movements and implement change day by day. I do see a brighter future; because of the strong young leaders that are taking control I hope to see more girls like Malala fighting for what they believe.
As the current UN DPI/NGO Youth Representative for the Women’s National Book Association, not only did I have the privilege to attend this moving and inspirational discussion, I was given the opportunity to take a picture with Malala, and shared a moment with her that was memorable, and one that I will truly cherish forever. This young girl is living proof that every single person with a powerful story, and with a strong belief can make a difference. We need to stand up for what we believe, and keep fighting towards equality and women’s rights.