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College Celebrates Immigration Writing at Literary Festival

A literary festival celebrating contemporary immigration writing featured notable authors and poets who lectured and read their work at the College in March. The program, "My New Life, My New Poem: A Festival of Contemporary Immigration Writing," was also sponsored by the Barron Arts Center.

Twenty-two award-winning authors gathered for public readings, workshops, panel discussions, book signings and open mic events.

The festival included creative writing workshops and panel discussions on immigration, American literature and the humanities; a book fair; an open mic program for writers from the community to read and perform, and readings by guest authors.

"This was an excellent opportunity for students interested in creative writing," says Festival Director L.E. McCullough. "All the workshops were geared toward tips in writing more expressively. And at the open mic program, people read their own poetry on the immigration experience. It was electrifying."

Participating authors included Middlesex County College faculty Wilson Class, Emanuel di Pasquale and Shirley Russak Wachtel, along with Michelle Cameron, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Andrey Gritsman, Charles H. Johnson, Sheema Kalbasi, Deborah LaVeglia, Timothy Liu, Irina Mashinski, Laura McCullough, Peter Murphy, José Antonio Rodriguez, Patrick Rosal, Basil Rouskas, Paul Sohar, Anantha Sudhakar, Rich Villar, Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Joe Weil and Gretna Wilkinson.

Joann La Perla-Morales, president of Middlesex County College, said the festival provided an important service in allowing voices to be heard on immigration issues.

"The process of being and becoming an American is something everyone in this country shares, either in their own life or in their family history," she said. "We want to see how that experience shapes our contemporary literature here in New Jersey and how it can get a conversation started about the role of humanities in our cultural discourse on immigration. 'My New Life, My New Poem' is a natural expansion of the College's ongoing mission to bring the community together via the arts. New Jersey poets since Walt Whitman have been writing about what it means to be American. This festival looks at that question with a fresh perspective from a very talented group of modern Garden State writers."