Low Plaza

With Her Debut Book, Tara Bray Smith (SoA, '03) Joins Growing List of Recently Published Columbians

"Internal West," by alumna Priscilla Becker

While still a student in the School of the Arts Writing Division, Tara Bray Smith has already accomplished what many spend a career striving for-signing an agreement to have her first book published. In late 2003, Bray Smith's "Haole: The Foreigner," a book weaving personal memoirs with the past 150 years of Hawaiian history, will be published by Simon & Schuster. In this work, Bray Smith, who was born and raised in Hawaii, tackles American colonization, race, inheritance and belonging, as well as the nature of historical memory itself, through the relationship between a mother and daughter.

"I came to Columbia knowing that I wanted to write a book based on my family and Hawaii over the past 150 years, encompassing the rise and fall of the sugar industry," says Bray Smith. "The writing program gives you the gift of time to work on a piece."

In addition to working on her book, Bray Smith has recently written an article for a special edition of Granta magazine, "What We Think of America," surveying writers around the world post Sept. 11. In her article Bray Smith looks at the parallels between the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center.

She is also the author of "Why Won't the Landlord Take Visa? The Princeton Review's Crash Course to Life After Graduation," a rewrite of the 1992 guide to life after college for "20-somethings." The book offers tips on finding a job and creating a social life with only a little money, explains Bray Smith.

Anna Rabinowitz's book-length acrostic poem, "Darkling"

Another writing student, Monica Ferrell, has had her poems published in the Paris Review and the Boston Review. In addition to her work at Columbia, Ferrell is the 2002 Van Lier Fellow of the Asian American Writer's Workshop, and as such will have a reading of her latest poems on Feb. 7 at the Asian American Writers' Workshop (16 W. 32nd St., Suite 10A). Ferrell is also the 2001 "Discovery"/The Nation Joan Leiman Jacobson Poetry Prize winner and a writing instructor at Brooklyn College.

"The Copper Kings," a mystery by first-year writing student Scott Wolven, has been selected for inclusion in the prestigious anthology, "Best American Mystery Stories 2002," to be published by Houghton Mifflin. Wolven's story was selected as one of the 20 most outstanding mysteries originally published in North America during the past calendar year.

These are three of many Columbia students and alumni who are making their mark on the literary world. Others include Kevin Chong (MFA, 2000), who wrote a novel entitled "Baroque-a-Nova," while pursuing his studies at Columbia. Chong's work explores a suburban landscape of teenage lust, broken families, book bannings and one 18 year old's desperate wish to leave town. "Baroque-a-Nova" was published in Canada in 2001 by Penguin Books and issued by PenguinPutnam in the United States in January. With the original publication Chong participated in the Pure Fiction tour of seven Canadian cities in April 2001.

The paperback version of alumnus Mat Johnson's (MFA, 2001), "Drop," has recently been relseased by Bloomsbury. The book depicts a young African American who travels to London to forge a new identity but ends by coming to terms with himself and discovering that he is far more American than he'd realized. Johnson is also a columnist for Time Out.

Recent alumna Priscilla Becker (MFA, 2000) is the recipient of the Paris Review's First Book Prize in poetry, and as such recently had her first volume of poetry, entitled "Internal West," published. She was also the subject of an in-depth portrait in the November/December issue of "Poets and Writers," tracing her path from musician to published poet.

Anna Rabinowitz (MFA, 1990) was awarded a 2001 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. This award provides assistance to help recipients write, conduct research and otherwise advance their art form.

Rabinowitz is currently working with theater director David Levine to develop a performance piece based on "Darkling," her book-length acrostic poem. The piece will be performed at "Poetry in Performance, On and Off the Page," a national conference that will be held at Barnard College in the spring. Her work has appeared in such journals as Atlantic Monthly, Boston Review, The Paris Review, Colorado Review, Southwest Review and Denver Quarterly. Rabinowitz also edits and publishes the nationally distributed literary journal, American Letters & Commentary. Her work "At the Site of Inside Out" won the Juniper Prize.

Bill Roorbach's most recent novel, "The Smallest Color"

Bill Roorbach (MFA, 1990) is the author of four books, including "Summers with Juliet" and "Big Bend," which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. His most recent novel, "The Smallest Color," was published in October. He is the editor of the Oxford anthology "Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: the Art of Truth."

In addition to these accomplishments, the works of six writing division alumni were included in the New York Times list of Notable Books for 2001. The list includes: "Demonlogy" by Rick Moody (1986); "Inspired Sleep" by Robert Cohen (1983); "Kissing in Manhattan" by David Schickler (1995); "Baloney (Henry P.)" by Jon Scieszka (1980); "P.S." by Helen Schulman (1986 and adjunct professor), and "A Cold Case" by Philip Gourevitch (1992 and adjunct professor).

These are just a few of the many success stories of students and recent alumni. Click here to read additional stories.

Published: Feb 07, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002


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