Here at Drown Unbound we want to take some time to introduce the new faces in our department. In this new series, we thought we’d take some time to get to learn about their academic interests and to take some time to pick their brain about their own graduate school experience!
We hope this piece will inspire many future conversations with Marilisa(who was very excited to share this with us)!
We also want to thank Jenna Lay for lending her advice with getting this series off the ground!
Without further ado, here is what Dr. Marilisa Jimenez Garcia, a new assistant professor at Lehigh University, had to say:
Laura Fitzpatrick: What do you love about what you do?
Marilisa Jimenez: The issues I write about in Latinx literature and culture are things I wish I would have learned in college and/or school as a young person. Because Latinx literature is not often taught as part of U.S. Literature, I found Latinx writers during my doctoral program. I love that I get to unlock these narratives now for myself and others and feel part of a long line of revolutionary writers who impacted U.S. Culture.
LF: What drew you to apply for the Lehigh job?
MJ: One of the main things that drew me to Lehigh was the Literature and Social Justice focus in the English department. I had never seen such a commitment to social justice issues as part of a department, research, and curricular focus. My position is also a joint-appointment in Latin American Studies, so the opportunity to do interdisciplinary work really drew me.
LF: What is your favorite book outside your field of study?
MJ: Honestly, the Bible. Beyond inspiration purposes, I remember taking the “Bible as Literature” in college as an English major and falling in love with the imagery and language. The stories are so deeply rooted in many of the authors that really helped me fall in love with literature such as John Milton, Charles Dickens, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I just started reading two books I already love- Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina—it’s about New York in the 1970’s during the Son of Sam killings from the perspective of young people. And Jaqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn which focuses on a sense of collective memory for those who knew New York in the 1980’s. Just beautiful.
LF: Do you have a graduate school regret–something you did and wish you hadn’t, something you would have done in a different way, or something you didn’t do and wish you had?
MJ: I remember thinking I wanted to be done with coursework as soon as possible, and taking too many classes one semester which resulted in dropping one early on. I had a great graduate school experience, but if there was something I wish I would done differently, it would have been to seek out more practical mentoring opportunities for myself as a student with an eye on academia as a rich, diverse profession. I think sometimes we forget that academia is indeed a profession outside of our research area. We need to learn how to communicate our research and teaching interests both in avenues inside and outside our fields.
LF: What are you most looking forward to in your interactions with graduate students (in and/or out of coursework)?
MJ: I am interested in learning more about the needs of the students here at Lehigh, both in terms of the fields of study they are interested in studying and the careers they envision. I offer courses which intersect issues of race, ethnicity, nationality, and youth culture, and also center Latinx (alongside African American and indigenous) literatures in theory and pedagogy, so I am interested in seeing how this offers new approaches to student’s preparing research projects. Particularly, I am hoping to show another side to the kinds of books and narratives we grew up reading as young people, and the different ways they train us to think about and order our worlds. In terms of Latinx literature, it really is such a liminal space which challenges us to rethink U.S. Literature, history, and culture.