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Immigration, Migration and Transition

Immigration. Most of us have a politically charged idea of the word in our heads and proclaim our opinion of it with confidence over a few beers with friends. Many of us have experienced immigration or have parents who made the sacrifice for us.

When it comes down to it, though, the question about immigration is: Whose stories are you listening to? 

On May 6-8, the UO will be hosting the fifth annual CSWS Northwest Women Writers Symposium. This year’s theme is “Crossing Borders: Women’s Stories of Immigration, Migration and Transition.” 

The topics at hand brought Reyna Grande to the table. Grande, winner of the American Book Award and author of the memoir The Distance Between Us (available in Spanish and English), began writing in middle school after growing up as a child whose parents migrated to the U.S. from Mexico. “If we’re not a part of the story,” Grande says, “then we get erased.” 

Grande says she found herself between two worlds when she began to write. On one hand, she struggled with being a Spanish-speaking woman in the United States, but the more she learned English and assimilated into U.S. culture, the more she was treated like an outsider in Mexico. 

Grande’s experience is a common one, though the multi-layered stories of immigrants (or children of) are rarely heard. To encourage more balanced, open conversations about immigration, “I try to humanize the issue,” she says. “I think it’s important to always keep in mind that we’re talking about human beings. They need to be talked about.”

Joining Grande at CSWS is a handful of other women who share pieces of their own tales of crossing borders. Ana-Maurine Lara, born in the Dominican Republic and raised in East Africa and New York City, has been engaged with LGBT and migrant communities around the U.S. through performance arts and writing. Lara spends time getting to know the area she performs in and opens conversations within that community, and this year, she will be hosting a poetry workshop at CSWS. 

Peeling open another layer of border-crossing, Ariel Gore will be on the symposium’s lineup with a memoir workshop titled “Traveling Through the Landscape of Our Lives: Going Beyond Gendered Traditions.” Gore started Hip Mama, a magazine largely credited for sparking maternal feminism and the contemporary mothers’ movement. 

Novelists Miriam Gershow (The Local News) and Chris Scofield (The Shark Curtain), along with a handful of other writers, will be hosting their own workshops, and Zapotec hip-hop artist Mare Advertencia Lirika will be performing. 

Grande will deliver her keynote talk 6 pm Friday, May 6, at the Eugene Public Library during First Friday ArtWalk downtown and will have a seat in a panel discussion earlier that day at 1 pm in UO’s Knight Library Browsing Room. The workshops will be held May 7 and are free, but space will be limited.

Pre-register for events by calling Eugene Library at 541-682-5450. For event details and the full schedule, visit csws.uoregon.edu/events-2.