Why am I Here

Blog Home    |     04.21.2016 by     |    



Audrey Harris

This summer I plan to facilitate a women’s creative writing workshop at the CERESO (Centro de Reinserción Social) de Mérida, in the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula. My project is entitled, “Stories from a Mexican Women’s Prison.”

I write, and teach writing, because a story is a place where we can write our truths, and where no one can say that our experience does not count. It is a place where the writer’s version of events, and his or her vision of the world, prevails. Sharing stories, reading our own stories and listening to others, can produce a sense of community with people who know sides of ourselves through our writing that we would never reveal in our daily lives.

As Sandra Cisneros writes in her recent essay collection A House of My Own, writing can also transform suffering into light. For Cisneros, stories are medicine that soothe the soul. While writing my dissertation about Cisneros’s work, I have been inspired by her writing and her ideals but also by her active public engagement. Her work in Chicago’s public schools as a counselor, along with her mentoring of younger writers through the MacArturo writer’s program, in turn informs her writing, particularly in the pieces of The House on Mango Street.

I believe that the short prose-poetry style of The House on Mango Street lends itself to a creative writing workshop setting, as do the short pieces of DreamTigers (El hacedor) by her one of her great literary influences Jorge Luis Borges. I look forward to reading and writing with the women of the CERESO de Mérida, and am excited to have this opportunity to share what I know, to inspire and in turn be inspired by the stories that emerge.

I am also here because I want my academic work to serve others besides myself or even just my institution. I believe the humanities exist to serve a positive and productive purpose in society, and I am interested to learn some of the possibilities for making that happen in a meaningful and responsible way. I am interested in thinking in horizontal rather than top-down terms about this project and would also like to think of ways to facilitate a creative and collaborative environment in the workshop, so that it is a safe space for free and empowered expression.