Junior | Las Vegas, NV
What made you decide to become an English major?
During my freshman year, I was determined to be anything but an English major. English had been my favorite subject all throughout school, and I’d been writing stories ever since I was a kid writing “chapter books” on construction paper. But the performing and visual arts had also been hugely influential in my life, so I went into college wanting to find a way to study all of the storytelling forms I loved. I was scared that I would end up feeling limited if I chose a major that focused on the written word alone. However, after a couple cross-listed English electives expanded my definition of what it meant to read and analyze a text, I realized that the English department was the best fit for me.
What has been your favorite class in the English department thus far, and why?
My favorite class so far has been Women of Color Feminism, Literature, and the Politics of Visuality with Pacharee Sudhinaraset. It exposed me to ways that women of color have confronted, exposed, critiqued, and reimagined the world. It also taught me that I still have a lot to (un)learn when it comes to writing and talking about race, gender, and experiences of marginality. Though I’ve come to realize that this learning process is never really going to end, I’ve been working to make as much forward progress as I can.
You participated in Writers in Paris. How was that experience?
It was a lot of fun! Spending an entire month surrounded by skilled classmates and professors was super energizing, and I ending up learned a lot about how I write and what I enjoy writing. I tend to rush through creative projects during the regular school year, so it was great to be part of a program that asked me to devote myself to writing for a little while. Also, Paris was very busy during the month that I participated in the program. It felt like there was always another big event to suddenly find myself standing within, or another little park to hide in when I wanted some quiet. I’m still drawing from these experiences in my writing today.
What has been the most influential work of literature in your journey as a writer thus far, and why?
I always struggle to answer questions like this, because I can’t confidently say that any single piece of media—much less any single work of literature—has influenced my writing more than all others. It seems like I find something fun and new to learn from every month. To name a few recent-ish influences: When Fox is a Thousand by Larissa Lai jumpstarted a need to fill my work with queer women of color. Its use of elements from Chinese folklore also made me want to look into Filipino folklore, which I’d heard very little of while growing up. I also finally finished the first two volumes of the Monstress comics series by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. The way the series blends Eastern and Western artistic traditions in everything from its art style to the world it portrays has made me want to be more inventive with the worlds I create for my own stories. And both of these works have fed my recent interest in playing around in the fantasy genre!
You're in the English Honors Program--congratulations! Have you decided on the topic of your honors thesis? What themes do you plan on discussing in your work?
I have! I plan on studying the collaborative storytelling that takes place when people play fantasy tabletop roleplaying games—essentially, games in which players invent fantastic characters for themselves and improvise a story together. Dungeons & Dragons is the example most people probably know about. Since these games are heavily collaborative and improvised, players have the potential to control anything about their story’s world, from its geography to the racial makeup of its inhabitants to the ways in which groups of those inhabitants interact with one another. I’d like to look at how players of marginalized identities use these games to reimagine social worlds. What do these imagined worlds look like? How do they represent their real world race, gender, and/or sexuality, if they choose to do so at all? If a player wants the story’s social world to veer wildly from reality, how do they get their fellow players invested in the new world they want to create? What can all of this tell us about marginalized experiences and activism in the real world? Etc.!
What do you consider the most rewarding part of being an English major?
Studying literature means studying the world, too. Being an English major hasn’t just taught me how to read and analyze novels. It’s also taught me a little bit about all kinds of other areas of study, from indigenous studies to metropolitan studies to performance studies and beyond. I’ve felt more invested in the world at large ever since committing to this major.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
Don’t be afraid to make this major your own, especially now that the department has changed how the core works. It’s going to be easier than ever to shape your experience within the major to fit your interests and needs. At the same time, try to give every text you encounter a chance! Even if you feel yourself resisting something at first, you might be surprised by how eye-opening and applicable the densest of theoretical texts can be, or by how charming a sailor named Ishmael can be after hundreds of pages of symbolic whale facts.