Story by Brianna Willis, Staff writer
Jennine Capó Crucet brought a new perspective to the Murray State Reading Series last Thursday. A sharp contrast from the previous author, Adam Day, Crucet brings to life the experience of Cuban-Americans and a unique college experience.
Crucet read excerpts from her novel “Make Your Home Among Strangers” and a brief excerpt from a short story in her collection of short stories titled “How to Leave Hialeah.” She said that she combined a real world news story with her own experiences and a touch of “revisionist” beliefs. This is the notion of “what could have happened” and writing a narrative that takes a moment and attempts to understand outcomes if things had gone differently.
“I think playing around with what could’ve happened fascinates us,” she said.
She said this concept of alternate realities influenced her writing in “Make Your Home Among Strangers.” The story centers around the main character’s struggle with being a first generation college student with unsupportive parents, as well as immigration reform and a little boy who might be deported.
Crucet said she herself was a first generation college student, but unlike the main character in her novel, she had supportive parents. The character’s story plays on this “revisionist” idea and attempts to reimagine a different outcome for the character loosely based on a real-life young boy.
Crucet is a different type of writer than the last author to visit Murray State for this year’s Reading Series. Carrie Jerrell, assistant professor of English, said that is intentional.
“The Reading Series brings four visiting writers every year: a poet, a fiction writer, non-fiction and a Kentucky writer,” she said. “We aim for a variety of styles and voices and subject matter.”
Throughout the night, Crucet made several jokes about her own life as well as her writing style. She divulged information about her personal life that aided in the understanding of her work. Jerrell said that hopefully writers, such as Crucet, can inspire and connect to students here on campus, enriching their learning experience.
“People think it is OK to interrogate you on your background,” Crucet said. “Lizzet [the main character of ‘Make Your Home Among Strangers’] deals with this as well.”
“We have a good number of English majors, and it is important for students to see living and working writers,” she said. “It helps to bring them because literature can connect in such a personal way. Someone could’ve felt lonely and this writer comes along and you connect.”
Jerrell said the combination of literature and the art gallery is beneficial as well. It allows students to see literature in the context of another art form. She said a benefit for students attending a reading is that they get to observe and make connections themselves.
While the Reading Series is over for this year, Jerrell said students should continue to come to future readings.
“They’ll always be surprised in a good way,” she said. “It is going to be constantly good but a different and engaging experience every time.”