Center of the American West examines literary diversity
The Campus Press Article
Issue date: 11/13/08
The Center for the American West is promoting a new way of getting the experience of American immigrants across to a large audience.
Members of the CU and Boulder community gathered in Old Main Chapel on Wednesday night and listened to speakers present tales of immigration for the center’s 12th annual Words to Stir the Soul event.
“This is not immigration policy night… no one is reading from bills or acts of legislation,” Patty Limerick, director of CAW and CU history professor, said to a diverse crowd. “The focus tonight is on the down-to-earth, lived experiences of immigrants who came to the West.”
Limerick explained that the readings would provide a non-partisan human context to the heated topic of immigration, as well as establish a grounding from which the center will connect with immigrants in future projects.
“No one speaks of what illegal immigrants have done for us,” read Helen Thorpe, a freelance writer, from Richard Rodriguez’s essay “Thank You”. “It occurs to me I have not heard two relevant words spoken. If you will allow me, I will speak them: ‘Thank you.’”
Besides Limerick, who emceed the event, a total of 11 speakers were present. Speakers included reporter Bruce Finley of the Denver Post, CU history professor William Wei, and Manuel Ramos, author of Chicano literature and director of Advocacy for Colorado Legal Services.
The speakers chose excerpts from passages relating to immigrants of all nationalities, with the main focuses being on understanding and enjoyment, Limerick said.
“It really is a darned shame that it’s only children who get read to as a rule,” she said to a laughing crowd. “This is a night where that unhappy turn of events is reversed.”
Sophomore communications major Kiyoshi Koga, 19, said that it was by chance that he discovered the Words to Stir the Soul event, and that hearing the readings changed his outlook on the issue.
“I didn’t have a strong opinion of immigration before,” Koga said. “Hearing different stories about immigrants brings a personal perspective to the issue, definitely.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Conor Doyle at Doylecp@colorado.edu.