MnWE News Early Summer Issue
In this issue:
MnWE AT SCSU MARCH 31-APRIL 1: A HYBRID SUCCESS!
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AS NECESSITY
2. Careers: WHERE HAVE ALL THE ENGLISH JOBS GONE?
3. Book Review:
PANDORA’S BOX REVISITED—WILD THINGS
4. Equity/Diversity Literary
(in each issue)
(in each issue)
6. About MnWE
(in each issue)
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Introduction: MnWE AT SCSU MARCH
31-APRIL 1: A HYBRID SUCCESS!
MnWE’s fourteenth annual
two-day conference at St. Cloud State saw 114 registrants gather to
talk about a wide variety of subjects on pedagogy and equity. The
first morning, an ice storm closed the campus; the second day,
snowstorms were a problem. However, all of our events went forward
thanks to our hybrid nature: those who could not drive to St. Cloud
were able to join us by Zoom. Our low-cost registration fees and the
generosity of site host SCSU English allowed us to offer a
full-service conference to a large number of people and still break even. We had presenters from many
universities and colleges within Minnesota and from surrounding states,
all in a great conference building. Next spring, join us at Normandale
College in the southwest Twin Cities area for MnWE 2024!
What did the Sat. Plenary say?
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AS NECESSITY
The MnWE Conference offers
two plenaries each year.
Saturday’s Plenary was “Community Engagement as Necessity: Is the
School a Part of Community or is Community a Part of the
School?” The speakers were Dr. Taiyon J. Coleman, St. Catherine
University; Ryuto Hashimoto, Minnesota State University, Mankato; and
Dr. Carla-Elaine Johnson, Saint Paul College. The three speakers
explored the necessity of community engagement.
Taiyon Coleman started with a consideration of successful
programs such as the PBS Independent Lens documentary Precious
Studies (2012; link below), which details the success of Tucson High
School’s Mexican American Studies
program integrating identity and community in the classroom. Dr. Coleman
uses the clip in her classes to encourage students to think about their
identity, the role of education, what it means to be successful, and how
education is connected to citizenship.
Coleman acknowledges a strong need for texts that reflect the
students in our classes. She views community in how her students show up,
their intersectionality, and in assignments that might reflect the
students and their experiences. Coleman expands on this by a reframing of
the question: look at what students are reading that is not being
acknowledged, rather than criticizing what students are not
She notes Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry’s
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America,
which discusses the ways in which, when we build structure and
pedagogy, students can’t see
themselves; then we are forcing them to bend themselves. Coleman notes how
connecting access and freedom as tied to education creates a sense of
“otherness” as opposed to community.
Coleman concluded with examples of educators like Brooklyn Democracy
Academy’s Principal Dez-Ann Romain,
who succeeded with students over 16 who failed in a traditional high
school environment. (See below.) In the end, the challenge as teachers is
to remember how community plays a role in what and how we are teaching.
Ryuto Hashimoto began by detailing the course
“Human Relations in a Multicultural
Society” offered at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and its
connection with service learning. Hashimoto noted the challenge due to
Mankato’s primarily homogenous campus
population, with many of the 80% white students considering themselves a
cultureless people. The course builds community through an initial
Cultural Autobiography assignment: students reflect upon six of their
social identities through researching a self-chosen identity, conducting a
literature review, interviewing elders to identify their ethnic history,
and seeing a reflection of themselves. Later in the semester, students
engage in a service-learning project, widen their perspective by using a
diversity association map, and complete a research report and reflection
The experience allows students who start the term feeling
cultureless to finish with the realization that they do have a culture.
Hashimoto concluded by addressing the question of how educators can
encourage students through writing activities to understand themselves and
Carla-Elaine Johnson explored how including the college in
community can increase enrollment rates and stabilize them. On the
surface, a good foundation starts with a quality education. Saint Paul
College is in the city’s Rondo neighborhood, a formerly prosperous Black
area until it was disrupted with the construction of Interstate 94. The
college is stronger by including this community and giving back to the
Institutions, says Johnson, are in partnership with their
surrounding community, even if it is not clearly visible. How the
neighborhood is viewed is how the college is viewed. Colleges are not
silos, but providers of services that help with trauma and healing. The
larger question is what gifts does the community offer? Using service
learning and bringing in community speakers who can provide learning
opportunities strengthen the college as a whole. Johnson concluded with
considerations for the audience including exploring how institutions
identify themselves, and the importance of remembering how and why we are
The remainder of the plenary included a lively audience-and-speakers
discourse of many ideas regarding the connections with community and the
reality of diminishing resources; and observing what can be done to create
visibility for students in the classroom, as educators cannot affect what
is going on outside of the classroom. An important part of the discussion
also was the overall emphasis of creating community in the classroom
PBS’ Precious Studies
Brooklyn Democracy Academy
Resources for Mankato’s “Human Relations in a Multicultural Society”
Brief History of the Rondo Neighborhood
Careers: WHERE HAVE ALL THE ENGLISH JOBS GONE?
One of my students fell in love with the humanities. Yet she now
is finishing her bachelor’s in a medical field, which she describes
as a necessary career move. However, she still dreams of doing
something in the humanities: grad school or maybe a side gig
someday. And that, perhaps, is exactly what we need to encourage in
our English courses: asking people what, after you are making money,
will you do for a lifetime of literary love?
Lately, the Modern Language
Association has been encouraging graduate programs to recommend to their
students that those soon to gain a degree consider English and writing as
a springboard to nonacademic careers. For example, according to a January
Star Tribune, Minnesota “has 3.7 job openings for every unemployed
person, double the U.S. rate” (Kumar, “State faces...”). As a result, most
of our English students eventually will find employment, building to
middle-class pay. However, their careers most likely will be in
nonacademic fields. So, just what is an English major/grad student to do?
One piece of good news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is
that, in their lifetime, men and women hold, respectively, 12.6 and 12.3
jobs (“Number of Jobs Held,” bls.gov). An online consensus of full-career
changes in life is about three to seven. Dare one think that some of those
switches of profession might involve teaching or research in English?
It is possible, with a little thought, to help students
consider a different future in English. Perhaps it can be a second, third,
or fourth profession: their later “joy career.” It could be, someday, a
side gig of part-time teaching or volunteer work in literary endeavors.
K-12 teachers are needed everywhere. Even just the question “What will you
teach your children about literature/the humanities?” may set a student on
the path of an English concentration or minor. And, as always, there is
tremendous value in the critical thinking and imaginative creation that
knowing literature, writing, and the humanities fosters.
Because of the surplus of jobs and lack of enough applicants,
students who are starting careers right now may have more room for
innovation during the next decade and beyond. A faculty member can plant a
seed for growth that may blossom in surprising outcomes. In so doing, we
may help English, writing, and the humanities survive and even thrive in
new and previously unimagined ways.
Listings of English/Humanities/Languages Jobs
High-Paying Jobs for English Majors (Coursera)"
Great Jobs for English Majors" (w/salaries; Indeed.com)
"Careers after an English Major" (Stanford)
Book Review: PANDORA’S BOX REVISITED—WILD THINGS BY LYNETTE
REINI-GRANDELL. 336 pp., Minnesota
Historical Society Press. Reviewed by Deborah Kellogg
It looks so innocent
sitting on a shelf or lying beguilingly on a table, but pick up a book
and you can be sucked into another reality and someone else’s world.
Yet being transported into another existence can make you rediscover
and remember so many things about your own life: some things perhaps
you never thought about at all or maybe would rather not examine too
closely. Innocent wishes, broken dreams, anger, loneliness, hanging on
when you want to give up and finally, catching the last thing to fly
out of Pandora’s box—Hope—all of these things can be found in Lynette
Reini-Grandell’s painfully honest and ultimately beautiful new memoir
Wild Things: A Trans-Glam-Punk-Rock Love Story.
Her story touched me in so many ways because I,
too, had a trans spouse, but where my marriage failed, Lynette has been
able, often through sheer strength of will and a love that wouldn’t give
up, to reach a place of stability and acceptance with her spouse. From her
story you realize love isn’t enough, but without it, there’s no reason to
Different from an autobiography, a memoir captures and
arranges certain memories to tell a story, in this case the story of
Lynette’s singular and often lonely journey in her relationship with her
trans spouse Venus de Mars. Their story begins in Duluth, Minnesota, in
1973 when she’s 17 and meets Steve Grandell for the first time. The story
moves ahead into specific time periods and places as scattered as Duluth,
Minneapolis and New York as she recounts their long, often rocky path as
Venus tries to understand and express who she really is, and Lynette’s
running alongside, trying to keep up with the changes and new realities of
her life with the person she chose and loves.
The writing style is spare, unadorned and to the point,
clearly expressing both the bones of their outward life as well as the
questions, turmoil, anger and loneliness she often experienced during
those years. Winding like a soft refrain through the whole book is her
love of jazz and horses, two things that comforted and sustained her
through many of the difficult times in their lives. Her story is also
illustrated with many pictures over the years that in their
black-and-white simplicity perfectly pair with the style and the story.
Venus is the lynchpin around which their story revolves, but
the story is an examination of the life of a trans-person’s spouse and the
inner topography of their thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams. Lynette makes
herself so vulnerable, and in doing so, connects us to our own deepest
humanity. It’s an honest, sometimes painful and raw but ultimately
triumphant story of how one remarkable woman has been able to make and
hold together (sometimes with guitar strings and duct tape) a grueling but
inspiring life with her trans-glam-punk-rock amazing spouse. It’s a story
of love that didn’t give up.
Is Wild Things suitable for teaching? Grandell is well
acquainted with Minnesota higher education. She has held tenure-line
positions in English at Rochester and Normandale Colleges and is a past
president of Minnesota Council of Teachers of English. Her book will
inspire awe among students who find the glam-punk-rock connection,
pictures, and love story especially interesting; and heated discussion,
possibly anger and disdain, from others. Assigning several chapters could
set the stage for interesting reading responses about the power and uses
of nonfiction narrative.
Certainly, her story is a beautiful, realistic take on living
with, loving, and being a trans person. Just from these alone, a teacher
with trans students can learn much.
Minnesota Historical Society Press—Publisher’s
description and author information
author, this, and other books
Diversity Books: What might you or your students enjoy reading
Graphic Novels and Diversity:
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Minnesota Writing & English
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