“Disembodied” is a term that floated around this academic year—among students and faculty alike. Being “present”—in class, at meetings, at Grandma’s birthday time zones away—meant finding a reliable internet source and logging on at the appropriate time. A boxy collage of talking heads awaited us every morning—from dorm rooms, benches, library basements, bedrooms converted to offices, kitchens where, somewhere offscreen, a toddler (or dog) disrupted a lecture. It was easy to forget that behind that pixelated visage—or mildly ominous black square—was another human trying to do one of the hardest things to do at this time: engage, reflect, and learn.
Within this period of mostly body-less pedagogy, what many of us will remember is not the grainy image, but the voice—the cadence, timbre, and volume issuing from our AirPods, jostling in our brains, vying for our attention amidst abounding ambient noise. Of the dozens of stellar submissions nominated by College Writing instructors this year, each cut through the din of digital discourse, the demoralizing ether that came to dominate daily life. Of the fourteen first-year voices selected by a faculty jury, a great variety of tone, style, and subject matter resonates on the page. One describes, in free verse, how the “orange yawns of Beijing bleeds into the delicate fabric of the room”; another analyzes, in meticulous detail, the irregular kerning on a MAGA hat. One recalls “the hill, where you picked sour strawberries that you never ate”; another explores the American bias against introversion.
In this video, we honor these voices as but a metonymic chorus representing the diversity—and resilience—of the first years of 2020-21.
Readers, in order of appearance:
- Grihith Varaday, Translation
- Tanner Smith, Fall with Hunter, 7 o'clock
- Kamala Madireddi, Technological Distractions
- Grace Teuscher, To Be a Girl Is to Be Too Much
- Gaby Mendoza, Whispers of the Past
- Jared Cunningham, My Youth Gambling Addiction
- Tania Domenzain Vera, Recollections
- Bleur Endom, Hat that Trumps Personal Identity
- Siyue Han, Why We Don't Like Introverts
- Jiawen Yu, Translations
- Alicia Kaufmann, Fish in the Middle
- Dear Liu, You and the Night and the Music
- Maya Phelps, Painful Goodbyes
- Sarah Ayala, From Grime to Greatness
Thanks to Tarrell Campbell and Allyson Didier of the College Writing Program for the creation of this video.