Acclaimed Author Karla Cornejo Villavicencio Is Baruch’s Fall 2021 Harman Writer-in-Residence
September 9, 2021
Author Karla Cornejo Villavicencio—who’s already made her mark in the literary world with her first book—is the Fall 2021 Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College’s Weissman School of Arts and Science.
Born in Ecuador, Cornejo Villavicencio grew up in New York City and is the author of The Undocumented Americans —the first book by an undocumented person to be named a National Book Award Finalist. At Baruch, she is teaching a course on creative nonfiction, a fitting subject for Cornejo Villavicencio, whose book blends interviews and reporting with powerful, first-person narrative to explore the lives and stories of the undocumented in the United States.
The Undocumented Americans earned national accolades following its publication in 2020. Former President Barack Obama listed it as one of his favorite books of 2020, and the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The New York Public Library, and TIME all included it on their roundups of best books of 2020.
Cornejo Villavicencio’s personal journey is sure to resonate with Baruch students, many of whom are first generation Americans themselves. CUNY has been a major advocate for students with DACA status; in fact, a Queens College graduate was a co-plaintiff in a U.S. Supreme Court case that sought to maintain legal protections for DACA recipients.
Author’s Story Connects with Baruch Students
“I am thrilled to welcome Karla Cornejo Villavicencio to Baruch College and to the Harman Writer-in-Residence Program,” said Professor Esther Allen, director of the Harman Program. “Her personal story is one that Baruch students can relate to on a profound level. The students in her course have a unique opportunity to learn from someone who has mastered the art of creative nonfiction. The Undocumented Americans is part-journalism and part-memoir, combining Karla’s powerful voice with the stories of others to paint a portrait of the experience of being undocumented in the United States today.”
In her course, “Being & Writing the Coming of Age,” students will explore classic themes of coming-of-age in essays, profiles, memoirs, film, and songwriting, with a focus on the psychological experiences conveyed and how these stories are often coded as heteronormative and white. The curriculum touches on Young Adult literature, New Journalism, and the recent phenomenon of “the first-person industrial complex.” Some of the texts and films studied will include Taylor Swift’s discography, Call Me By Your Name, and Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki. Students will also write vignettes, character sketches, and prose poems, and ultimately each student will design their own creative writing project.
Cornejo Villavicencio, who until last year was herself undocumented, graduated from Harvard University in 2011 and is currently a PhD candidate in American Studies at Yale. In addition to The Undocumented Americans, she has written about immigration, music, beauty, and mental illness for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Glamour, Elle, and Vogue, among others.
About the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program
The Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program, endowed in Baruch College’s Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, brings a distinguished writer to campus every semester. Past participants have been Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows, National Book Awardees, and Poet Laureates, including famed playwrights Tony Kushner and Stew Stewart, the novelist Xialou Guo, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri. Karla Cornejo Villavicencio is the 47th Harman Writer-in-Residence, as the Program closes out its 23rd year. Learn more about the program here.