The University of Central Oklahoma has recently hired Dr. Iliana Rocha, whose debut book, Karankawa, won the 2014 Donald Hall Prize in poetry. Along with her Creating the Poem class of her inaugural year, she also taught Ethnic American Literature. It may be safe to say to the reader that Oklahoma has a strong cultural vibrancy strongly linked to Indigenous People, and we certainly must not forget the struggle of our African-American brothers and sisters who suffered one of the most violent race riots in Tulsa, and of course all other peoples facing oppression in these confusing times.
Past events, not only in Oklahoma, but throughout the nation have and will forever be a solidified presence (as it should) in literature. Having said that, the syllabus for Dr. Rocha’s Ethnic American Literature course in Fall 2016 took me on a roller coaster of emotions and offered a new lens and perception into reality of America I had subconsciously put on the backburner, as a white male–while coping with my own struggle transitioning from soldier to student. To read poetry and feel its struggle to be a voice from the lens of war in its purity. Below is the reading list of the course, which if you love literature and rollercoastered emotions, then you should pick these up!
Translating Mo’um by Cathy Park Hong
Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua
Please by Jericho Brown
Look by Solmaz Sharif
She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo
Hum by Jamaal May
Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia (this was our novel we covered)
Dinosaurs in the Hood by Danez Smith
We also read several short stories, flash fiction, and studied some spoken word poetry. I am very fortunate to have taken this course; otherwise, I may not have read the war poetry of Solmaz Sharif, or the multiple narrators found in Jericho Brown’s Please. This thought has now opened not only my understanding to an oppressed group in a clearer way, but it has shaped my own writing and my hopes of being a voice for the voiceless.
With love and hope,