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Author Lorene Cary to explore power of narrative in African American experience Jan. 17
Author Lorene Cary to explore power of narrative in African American experience Jan. 17January 08, 2008Patrick Farrellpmfarrel@syr.edu
Lorene Cary is known nationally for creating moving narratives about the African-American experience in such works as “Black Ice” (Vintage, 1991), a memoir of her years first as a black female student and then teacher at St. Paul’s, an exclusive New England boarding school, and “The Price of a Child” (Knopf, 1995; Vintage, 1996), an adult novel about the Underground Railroad. This month, Cary comes to Syracuse to draw parallels between freeing and oppressing narratives in the home and school. She will examine how communities of adults function as entities that young people must negotiate — with understandable difficulty — to try to find meaning and guidance.
Her presentation, “Will the Stories They Tell Set Them Free” — this year’s first event in the Landscape of Urban Education Lecture Series — will be Thursday, Jan. 17, at 4 p.m. in Room 220 of Eggers Hall (Public Events Room). The lecture is free and open to the public.
The New York Times calls Cary “a powerful storyteller, frankly sensual, mortally funny, gifted with an ear for the pounce [of] real speech” and praises “The Price of a Child” as “a generous, sardonic, full-blooded work of fiction.” Cary’s latest book, “FREE! Great Escapes from Slavery on the Underground Railroad,” is a collection of non-fiction Underground Railroad stories published by New City Community Press, a nonprofit publisher aligned with The Writing Program at SU.
This past fall, selected students at Blodgett Elementary School and Grant Middle School in the Syracuse City School District were engaged in a writing project based on Cary’s “FREE!” The project involved faculty members from the Reading and Language Arts Center in SU’s School of Education and The Writing Program in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. The students and teachers explored themes of personal freedom and social justice; they also had the opportunity to interact with Cary to talk about their writing in relation to her book. New City Community Press will publish the results of this collaborative writing project, tentatively titled “FREEDOM: A Community Dialogue,” for use in Syracuse schools this spring.Cary teaches English at her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. She also visits universities and colleges around the world to speak on the themes illustrated in her books, specifically those based in personal experience. In her memoir “Black Ice” (Random House of Canada, 1991), Cary summarizes the personal theme that appears in all of her work. She writes, “I learned to hold myself to standards that were always just beyond my reach.” As a spokeswoman for underrepresented groups struggling to succeed in a white, male majority system, Cary’s literary success testifies to the possibility that awaits other African Americans.
The next Landscape of Urban Education series speaker will be NYU professor Pedro Noguera, one of America’s most prominent voices on education reform and diversity and an advocate for a strong and vibrant public education system. His lecture, “Content Matters: How Urban Schools Can Respond To and Draw Resources from the Communities They Serve,” is Thursday, April 3, at 4 p.m. in Room 220 of Eggers Hall.
For additional information about the 2007-08 Landscape of Urban Education lectures and other upcoming School of Education presentations, contact Florence Di Gennaro at (315) 443-4696 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://soe.syr.edu/lecture_series/.