Meet our new faculty
Where are you from? Say a little about your hometown.
I grew up in the Chicago area. We moved from West Rogers Park to Wilmette when I was five. Wilmette is home to an exquisitely domed Baha’i Temple—just one of seven in the world—my favorite spot to take visitors. Across the street is Gilson Park, Wilmette’s slice of Lake Michigan beach and harbor. There are many lovely cobblestone tree-lined avenues with old-fashioned streetlights. I also spent a good bit of time in the Logan Square neighborhood where my Puerto Rican grandparents lived. I fondly recall picking and shelling beans with my grandmother in the large back lot of her building, which led from a concrete patio with a picnic table and grill to a carefully plotted vegetable garden that then opened out into an unkempt field of dandelions. It was a thoroughly urban space which nevertheless inspired my grandmother to tell me stories about her rural childhood in Juncos while my grandfather barbequed delicious chicken, pork and corn on the cob.
Where did you attend undergraduate and graduate school? What was your favorite thing about each school?
I’m currently teaching at Carnegie Mellon University, where I received my undergraduate degree. The good fortune of returning to my alma mater as a postdoc means that I can step out from my office and wander the winding trails of Schenley Park down to Panther Hollow Lake and relive all my favorite undergraduate moments. I most valued the tightknit creative writing community I was a part of at CMU and am delighted to be walking these famously sloping halls (they filmed Wonder Boys in Baker Hall where English is housed) with some of my favorite teachers once again. After CMU, I moved to New York for an eleven-year spell (and a magical time it was, living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, then Washington Heights in upper Manhattan and finally Greenwich Village), gaining an MFA degree in Poetry from New York University and a PhD in English from Rutgers University. My favorite aspect of the NYU program was the unquestioned commitment to writing poetry that joined me to my brilliant classmates and teachers for that time, and the many laughs we shared going out for food and drinks after our intense weekly workshops. At Rutgers I learned how to shape my intellectual, political and creative interests into research projects that contribute to scholarly and collective knowledge about what it means and feels like to live in a hyper-globalized world. I am endlessly grateful to my teachers at Rutgers for showing me how to incorporate my different disciplinary interests in poetry, performance, gender and globalization studies. During these spring months, I especially miss the cherry blossoms canopying the walk to Murray Hall, the English building at Rutgers.
What is your favorite book/genre/literary period?
My favorite literary period is the present. I’m always on the lookout for poems, plays, performances, novels, and mixed genre works that formally capture what it feels like to live in our postmodern world of collapsing/entrenched borders, speed-up/historical paralysis, digital connection to the furthest of places and immense distance from what it right before our eyes, financial and environmental crisis, public self exposure alongside a crushing lack of intimacy—in short, the contradictory world of uneven development commonly referred to as ‘globalization’. I’m most interested in works that interject the rhythms of daily life with the dizzying realities of global capital; I sense these forces aligning most strongly in feminist poetry and performance. Favorite texts of mine to read and study again and again include Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, Coco Fusco’s English Is Broken Here, the plays of Caryl Churchill, the poetry and prose of Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, and Don DeLillo’s novels. Right now, I’m teaching and reviewing Lorna Dee Cervantes’ most recent book of poetry, Sueño, which has inspired me to take in all at once the impressive trajectory of this poet, beginning with her first book, Emplumada.
What do you plan to teach next fall?
Next fall I will be teaching “Introduction to Literary and Cultural Analysis” (English 118W). My section will focus on “Literatures of Globalization”—that is, poems, plays, short stories, films and street performances that address a world where borders collapse for the privileged but are relentlessly (re-)erected for the dispossessed. We will survey a diverse array of writers and artists from across the Americas.
What are you most looking forward to about Vanderbilt?
I am most looking forward to meeting the undergraduate students I will be teaching next fall and developing writing exercises that take advantage of the tremendous intellectual and creative resources at Vanderbilt. I am also very much looking forward to participating alongside my colleagues and students in the activities of the Latino and Latina Studies program as I continue to develop my own research projects in transnational Latina literatures.