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Wednesday, June 1 • 9:45am - 10:45am
Community Writers Draft Stories inside a Homeless Shelter: An Iowa Public Writing Arts Project

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In the world "as it is," deficits dominate narratives of homelessness, associating poverty with lower literacy skills and skewing social policies about access and equity in schools, jobs, healthcare, and community. These pervasive cultural discourses work to immobilize individuals and families, leaving them without access to education and resources that could facilitate their reengagement with the community. Yet if our role in the academy is to advocate for change, disrupt social apathy, and organize ourselves toward a just world, then we must commit ourselves to public engagements that open access to literacy spaces and opportunities-that invite, for instance, community members whom we marginalize to enact identities of strengths rather than lack. In this presentation I discuss the Community Stories Writing Workshop (CSWW), a writing group I founded at the local homeless shelter and the Veterans Affairs in 2010. Premised on the principles of public engagement that recognize the necessity for, and the power of, mutually beneficial collaborations between the university and the community, the workshop serves as a literary and scholarly space where community writers of diverse backgrounds (e.g., homeless) co-construct literacy practices/meaning/stories through writing-art forms. Through their weekly participation, they challenge deficit discourses prescribed to them and of them, informing, if not changing, what we in the academy assume about writing and writers, reading and readers, and what literacies we privilege, and whose. To this end, attendees of this session can expect the following: 1) an overview of the CSWW; 2) a public reading by community writers from the CSWW; 3) critical conversations about our roles and responsibilities in bridging literacies between the academy and the community.


Rossina Zamora Liu

Clinical Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow, The University of Iowa

Wednesday June 1, 2016 9:45am - 10:45am CDT
Nebraska Room 335