Award-winning author Grace Talusan was brought to Illinois Wesleyan this week by the combined forces of the English department, Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Student Senate.
Talusan is the author of The Body Papers, a memoir that explores a variety of themes, including immigration, illness and race in America.
The pertinent themes relate to IWU’s current intellectual theme, “Fact or Fiction,” and because of the book’s relevance, Talusan was invited to do a reading of her novel as well as hold a creative workshop afterwards for students.
“Talusan’s book is a memoir–a true story told creatively.
Creative nonfiction–including memoirs, essays and autobiographies–definitely challenges generic norms and boundaries.
For this reason, we felt Talusan’s book would provide us with a better understanding of the genre,” said English department chair Dr. Joanne Diaz.
Students attending were encouraged to bring “a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness about the writing process,” according to posters inviting student attendance.
Talusan’s novel focuses on a number of impactful moments, drawing from her experience navigating the personal journey of immigration and heavier themes like mental and physical health struggles and traumas.
Born in the Philippines, Talusan and her family immigrated to the U.S., where her father had been working before he brought her family to join him.
She focused on the paper trail her life exists through and discussed the ways in which her body wears her journey.
She does this through medical papers, immigration documents and passports.
She also focuses on the many impacts from her journey of immigration.
Talusan explains in the novel how she found out her family was genetically predisposed to multiple cancers and, as a precaution, removed both her breasts and ovaries.
Through similar admissions within the novel, Talusan slowly explores how her body has been affected throughout her life.
She explores the way those moments changed her relationship with her body.
The novel brings the reader with Talusan as she reflects on the relationship she has with her body in the frame of many culturally current topics.
“I am so excited for Grace Talusan’s reading,” said sophomore English-major Isabel Sperry before the reading.
“Her book discusses things that take so much courage to share and for her to write such an impactful story is so incredible.”
“Fact or Fiction,” IWU’s 2019-20 theme and the reason for Talusan’s campus visit, is based on the University’s mission statement.
The mission which states “liberal education at Illinois Wesleyan fosters creativity, critical thinking, effective communication, strength of character and a spirit of inquiry.”
Talusan’s novel focuses on all aspects of the mission statement, and speaks on systems in detail that is often shared with the general public in such vulnerable words.
In her author’s note, Talusan writes: “While everyone has the right to report their own lives, I know that telling my secrets impacts other people.”
“Her willingness to do a reading and a workshop shows how determined she is to help students find a way to write about their vulnerabilities and reflections,” said Sperry in response to the note.
“I think her book relates to the theme of “Fact or Fiction” because she is discussing things that are facts, but often portrayed as fiction in our country.
She doesn’t shy away from sharing the hard truths about body image, immigration and other taboo subjects and it’s a privilege that we as students have the opportunity to work with her,” said Sperry.
“Talusan is an award-winning writer, an exceptional teacher and an experienced workshop leader.
PHOTO CREDIT: GRACE TALUSAN