Literature goes global

Scholars and authors converge on campus this weekend for Multi-Ethnic Literature conference

Distinguished authors and scholars from across the globe will gather in Fresno this week as the 21st annual Multi-Ethnic Literature in the United States conference kicks off in a celebration of diversity.

The MELUS conference, running Mar. 22-25, will be come to Fresno State for the very first time this year.

Dr. Samina Najmi, an assistant professor in the English department and a member of the MELUS Conference Committee, is excited to be part of the host school.

“When they told me that Cal State Fresno was going to be hosting MELUS, my favorite conference, I felt that it spoke volumes for its institutional commitment to this field,” Najmi said.

Playwright and film director Luis Valdez will serve as the keynote speaker. Hailing from the Valley, some of Valdez’s famed works include “La Bamba” and “Zoot Suit.”

Najmi believes Valdez is the right man for the job.

“He is seen as having brought Chicano theater center-stage,” Najmi said. “It just makes so much sense for a conference centered on work, migration and globalization, which is our theme. We’re absolutely thrilled.”

In addition to Valdez, professors from many universities will present their works in a number of panel discussions, ranging from topics like sexuality and racism, to Asian-American literature.

Among those representing the other side of academia, a handful of graduate students have also taken leadership roles in organizing the conference.

“The graduate students on the MELUS Conference Committee were indispensable to the organization and execution of every detail of this conference,” Najmi said. “Lejla Tricic in particular was central to every aspect of it.”

Tricic, a graduate student and member of the conference committee, hopes students will take advantage of the experience while it is here in the Valley.

“What students need to realize is how big this conference really is,” Tricic said, who believes MELUS has helped put Fresno on the map. “This conference is really providing common ground, to express those things we all share as humans.”

“Love, death, pain and happiness” are some of the underlying themes students will discover and relate to during the conference, Tricic said.

Other points of interest recommended by Najmi and Tricic are the readings Wendy Rose and Lillian Faderman.

Najmi looks forward to readings of Rose, who is from Fresno and is part Hopi Indian. “She is another figure of national stature,” Najmi said. “My students have been reading some of her poems.”

Fresno State English professor Dr. Lillian Faderman is best known for her work in gay and lesbian literature.

“Her work is a wonderful example of recognizing the interlocking connections among gender, sexuality and race – and not prying them apart to talk about them separately,” Najmi said.

Faderman will speak on Friday, discussing what it was like before the many voices of MELUS came together in the organization.

Students are more than welcome to attend the two public events of the MELUS conference. Najmi recommended that students get their free tickets in advance to claim a seat.

“Take advantage!” Tricic said, calling out to students to participate in the conference. “Without students, we don’t have a profession. Seize the day.”

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