For Starters: Winter 2022
Marvelous mushrooms, Michelle Zauner, Queer Budapest, and more.
1. Star Turn
Fresh off Grammy nominations for “Best New Artist” and “Best Alternative Album,” musician and author Michelle Zauner ’11 returned to Bryn Mawr in December as part of the College’s Reading Series. Her reading took place in a near-capacity Goodhart Hall, where students and other audience members lined up for more than an hour before the 7:30 p.m. start time.
Zauner spent time earlier in the day meeting with students in the main lecture hall of English House, and at both events she talked about her time at Bryn Mawr; her best-selling memoir, Crying in H Mart; and the art of writing.
“I learned how to write at Bryn Mawr, truly,” she told students in the afternoon and echoed in the evening. “Daniel Torday and the creative writing department completely changed the way I read and write and taught me everything I know and carried with me into writing this book. It changed me tremendously.”
Crying in H Mart focuses on Zauner’s experience and grief in dealing with the death of her mother, Chongmi, from cancer at the age of 56. At the evening event, Zauner read from the second chapter of Crying in H Mart, in which she writes about growing up in Eugene, Oregon, and her relationship with her mother as a child and adolescent.
“Hers was tougher than tough love,” read Zauner. “It was brutal, industrial-strength. A sinewy love that never gave way to an inch of weakness. It was a love that saw what was best for you 10 steps ahead and didn’t care it if hurt like hell in the meantime.”
Zauner is currently working on a screenplay for the film adaptation of Crying in H Mart. Her band, Japanese Breakfast, has plans for a spring 2022 tour in Europe.
2. Campus Fungus
Bryn Mawr’s campus is strikingly beautiful. That’s no secret. What you might not know is that it’s also home to a “surprisingly robust variety of mushrooms.” That’s according to Alex Kelly ’22, who wrote about them in a recent blog post, “The Coolest Part of Campus (That no one ever talks about).” Kelly, a Houston native, revels in the rich biodiversity of Bryn Mawr’s sylvan Main Line locale. Among the fascinating types of fungi she has found on her campus walks are mossy maple polypores, turkey tails, goldenhaired inkcaps, puffballs, hen of the woods, and a mysterious beauty near Park, which Kelly thinks is an eastern jack-o’-lantern.
3. Queer Budapest
Assistant Professor of History Anita Kurimay has won a trio of awards for her recent monograph Queer Budapest (University of Chicago Press): the Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History, the Hungarian Studies Association Book Prize 2021, and the Hans Rosenberg Book Prize.
Kurimay’s research interests include the history of sexuality and gender, conservatism, and the far right. Queer Budapest explores the history of non-normative sexualities in Hungary between the birth of the capital as a unified metropolis in 1873 and the decriminalization of male homosexuality in 1961.
Budapest has been a famously cosmopolitan city, a crossroads between the East and the West and a center of artistic innovation. Kurimay argues that despite the modern assumption that “queerness and LGBT people arrived only on the wings of Western democracy,” there has been a long coexistence between queer sexuality and Hungary’s historically illiberal regimes.
4. Who’s Judging?
Professor Daniel Torday, director of Bryn Mawr’s Creative Writing Program, has been named one of the judges for the PEN/Hemingway award for a debut novel.
Torday is the author of two novels, The Last Flight of Poxl West and Boomer1. A two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction and the Sami Rohr Choice Award, Torday has been honored by
the Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays series. A movie adaptation of his second novel, Boomer1, based on his screenplay, is in development with End Cue Productions.
5. Poetic Props
Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Airea D. Matthews was recently named Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate for 2022–2023. Her poem From the Pocket of His Lip was featured in the November 11, 2021 edition of The New York Times Magazine.
Smoke rose under my father’s tongue. There, a strange man with
an oboe sat on the ridge of his tooth, playing wide vibratos
through nimbusfog. I asked why he was there, too.
Fine tuning the orchestra of lies.
I nodded. They play beautifully, don’t they?
Especially in your key. Hum for me
The poem was selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts, a poet and lawyer who created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country.
6. Space to Make
A new makerspace in Park 157 houses tools for 3D scanning and printing, laser cutting and etching, physical computing, sewing, textile arts, basic carpentry, woodworking, sticker printing, and risograph printing. “We’re here so that students have an opportunity to use emerging technologies, build skills in traditional making methods, and explore the ways the work they’re doing in their courses may be furthered by creative making projects—essentially, testing their ideas out in three dimensions,” says Bronwen Densmore, who operates the space.