Notable author slated to speak

It’s not just the Williams School and Contact Committee bringing speakers to campus — the English Department is getting in on the action

Sam Bramlett

Helena Maria Viramontes, author of The Moths, and Their Dogs Came With Them, is set to read at Washington and lee on March 5th.  Viramontes is an English professor at Cornell University that specializes in Chicana literature—literature written by Mexican Americans in the United States.

Professor Deborah Miranda, who is teaching a class on Chicana literature, was the one to speak to Viramontes and get her to come to Washington and Lee.

“I met her briefly once and talked to her over email,” Miranda said. “[Then] I read Their Dogs Came With Them, which compares how the original conquistadors from Spain treated the native peoples to the way modern Latino and Native Americans are having highways built through their communities while more of their land is taken from them, and thought it was heartbreakingly brilliant. She tries to write for people who don’t have a voice.”

By having Viramontes come to read, Miranda hopes students realize that there’s a huge canon of American literature they do not know about.

“It is about as powerful as the classics [students] know, but it is more applicable towards their lives,” Miranda said. “This is Mexican American canon. It’s going to be [their] life. [They’re] going to go out in the world and meet people whose culture is reflected in this material.”

Viramontes is just one of many important authors to come to Washington and Lee this year. Some in the English department view the large amount of readers coming in to be a misuse of resources, vying that students have so much work and so little time on their hands that by not incentivizing attendance with extra credit there would be no crowds.

While a valid concern considering the workload of the average W&L student, Dean of the college and Professor of English Suzanne Keen said, “A lot of lecturers is better, it gives people more opportunity to catch something that’s different or exciting. If [a student has] never heard of a writer, [they should] go to the reading, it’s more fun that way.”

If ever there was a time and person to begin one’s literary journey with, it would be on March 5th with the award winning author Helena Maria Viramontes, as she discusses Chicana literature and her book Their Dogs Came With Them.