There are all kinds of reasons to take English 322: Postcolonial Literatures of the Americas with Dr. Heather Smyth this fall. Award-winning books? Definitely, including Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Wayde Compton’s The Outer Harbour, and Dionne Brand’s What we all long for. Culturally current? Absolutely: who isn’t thinking about Black Lives Matter or the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Suspenseful, dramatic page-turners? Books you can’t put down? Of course! Those are just a few of the valid reasons. But how about completely random reasons for taking the course? I sent Dr. Smyth short, odd, questions about course readings. I wasn’t disappointed with her answers.
5 (admittedly odd) questions:
1. Strangest character names? The crones of the Republic of the Graeae: cosplayers in a live-action role play game in Compton’s The Outer Harbour.
2. Most improbable plot? A very old Japanese-Canadian grandmother becomes a bull-riding star named Purple Mask.
3. Biggest cliff-hanger? Brand’s What we all long for: I can’t reveal what happens, but it involves a character’s long-lost brother Quy who was left behind when the family fled Vietnam, and in Toronto their worlds collide.
4. Best book cover? Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: the cover image is a photo of David Hammons’ art piece In the Hood–the hood of a dark sweatshirt ripped from its body and nailed to the wall. Because of its contemporary echoing of Trayvon Martin’s death (though it was created in 1993) it evokes so many visceral connections between the shootings of young black people in North America and the history of state-sanctioned lynchings in the US; the physical and emotional fragmentation of experiences of racism; and the ability of art to help us think through the complexities of things like racism and injustice.
5. Most mouth-watering description of food? “Plastic crinkles, crackers dipped in soya sauce, lightly fried, crackle crunch between teeth, and flat leather sea squid, tentacles twisted and wrinkle-dried so tough to chew until the ball, the socket of the jaw aches but the juices linger salt and sea. Tiny crocks of pickled plums, the brine so strong the mouth drenched with a passing thought.”
English 322 is scheduled Fall 2016, Wed/Fri 10-11:20 am
Image: Wayde Compton, Tumblr