It was an interesting semester. I taught three classes. One was on lyrical essays. However, I had several students interested in children’s lit. I offered to let students find their own creative voices. For many, this was a surprise.
I teach in Cairo, Egypt, and have observed an interesting phenomenon. Most of the writing, of my students- and much of what I have read in translation- is very must based within the confines of the real. Stories take place in the real world, or something like the real world. The characters are real people, or something like real people. Things that happen are real thing, or something like real thing. There is very little room for fantasy, outside of dreams. Even dreams mimic real life.
This semester, however, I had several student bring brilliantly unique pieces to class that offered unusual perspectives, fantastic and unreal, surreal, unlike the mundane and unlike anything I had encountered from students before. I know that Western work is read and appreciated, but here are kids (OK, not kids. These are rising seniors in their early 20s) writing pieces of science fiction and fantasy that could easily have come out of New York or London. Every stereotype of Egyptian genre I had begun to expect was crushed under the weight of such a creative class.
I suppose what it comes down to is every time we open a book we hope to find something that inspires. Every time w open a book from a different culture we bring expectations of what we are likely to expect. We can often be joyfully surprised.
- Eden Unger Bowditch