March 7, 2012
From where we were sitting, we could see the different kinds of palm trees. Brian Breed, David Borman, Carolina Villalba, Izabella Zieba — fourth year, third year, and second year students in the English Department. There are 2500 palm species in Florida, all imported from elsewhere; the University of Miami seems to have quite a few of them.
Edwidge Danticat lives in this city. Escobar used to have his personal suite here, at the Mutiny Hotel, where I was being put up. So I was thinking Haiti,Columbia, the Dominican Republic, Cuba– the usual suspects.
But what is the de rigueur graduate course in the English Department? Of the four sitting with me, three had taken (or were taking) Eng 678, “Israeli and Palestinian Narrative and History,” taught by Ranen Omer-Sherman. The reading list features works by Yehuda Amichai, David Grossman, Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, as well as Daniella Carmi’s Samir and Yonatan; Sahar Khalifeh’s Wild Thorn; Ghassan Kanafani’s Palestine’s Children; Sayed Kashua’s Let it Be Morning; Yayha Yakhlif’s A Lake Beyond the Wind; Anton Shammas’ Arabesques, supplemented by films such as Faradis. Could you really do all of that in one semester? They looked proud.
Like other American universities, UM now has a sizable foreign student body, including significant numbers from the Middle East, mostly in the School of Engineering. People who took Eng 678 were Anglos, Latinos, Poles. There’s no reason why it should be so popular, except for the great reading list, and a professor crazy about the material.
The global south isn’t always what we think.