We’ve mentioned a few times now that as part of the promotion of The Polish Boxer, Words without Borders would be arranging for Eduardo to meet with high school students in New York and London, but I feel like I should say a bit more about what that entails.
Last school year, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, we piloted a program that placed six international authors in high schools around the United States. We didn’t know what to expect or where it would go, but we knew, that to fulfill Words without Borders mission we needed to try. What resulted was a terrific series of readings and conversations between students and authors they would likely have never otherwise encountered otherwise. We recognized early quite quickly that this was the work Words without Borders needed to do.
One of the authors who participated in last year's series was Eduardo Halfon. We brought him to the June Jordan School for Equity in San Francisco. Whereas the other visits were for a single class period or a single day, Eduardo visited seven classes over a four-day period. He spoke about his grandfather’s experience as a prisoner at Auschwitz, he talked about Guatemalan politics, about his unlikely career as an author, about being bilingual, and he conducted several creative writing workshops, in both English and Spanish. Having been a teacher himself, he was a natural with the students and weeks later he received a thick packet stuffed with thank you notes from the students at June Jordan.
For Words without Borders, the San Francisco program will be our model going forward—week long residencies that foster intimate and direct conversation. While we raise the funds to launch and sustain that program, we want to continue to facilitate conversations of all kinds. As part of the planned New York and London visits, we’ll bring Eduardo to the Bard High School Early College in New York, a unique public school, where he’ll speak with the tenth grade class and a still-to-be-decided school in London.
We worked with BHSEC a good deal last year, facilitating conversations with Hatian author Evelyne Trouillot, and, on separate occasions, Israeli writers Galit Seliktar and Etgar Keret. What did students ask about during these visits? Foreign aid, compulsory military service, the relationship between a nations politics and its culture, the crafting of the very, very, short story, the line between fiction and memoir, and so much more. We believe that Eduardo will provide yet another unique opportunity for the BHSEC students, particularly since Bellevue Literary Press has generously offered to donate copies of The Polish Boxer to all 170 students.
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