Candice Murdock, Staff Writer
If you aspire to write an autobiography in the future there is a chance to hone not only your writing, but also the story of your life here at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. This class is called Reading/Writing Autobiography and is currently available for graduate students and taught by Dr. Sally Ebest, founders professor of English, who is also dedicated in her classes to providing a balanced mix of gender perspectives in the class resources that she provides for her students.
Along with the process of writing, Ebest provides a host of materials that will supplement the writing their own autobiographies. The books that are covered in class include: “Love Warrior” by Glennon Melton, a book that was Oprah’s book club selection in 2016; “I’m Supposed To Protect You From All This,” by Nadja Spiegelman, a book that focuses on the author’s mother and grandmother’s relationship and aligns with themes such as being a woman and growing up; “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a book that the author writes to his son and addresses how to deal with prejudice; “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, discusses a romantic relationship between the author and Robert Mapplethorpe, an American photographer; and “The Narrows” by Daniel Tobin, a narrative poem that focuses on the author’s heritage as an Irish American and the history of his family traveling to America. The last book that the class reads is a graphic autobiography of their choice.
Each of the autobiographies were chosen to provide inspiration for when they write their own stories. Dr. Ebest described the class structure: “We alternate between spending a week analyzing what we’ve read and looking at all the strategies that these writers used, and then a week where they write the next installment of their own autobiography and drawing on these various strategies.”
One of the other defining characteristics of the class is that it teaches an important lesson in not judging a book by its cover and furthering empathy towards someone who may have a different life experience than our own. Dr. Kathleen Butterly Nigro, director of the gender studies program, expressed “the narrative in an individual’s life is so key to understanding a person’s perspective that might be different from your own. Knowing people’s stories helps us understand those biases and not act in accordance with those biases.”
Over the course of the semester the graduate students will have written multiple stories of their lives and will have to focus on three stories of their own to revise , make a portfolio and make an introduction. At the end of the semester, the students will have the option of having an open-mic session to present their stories to the class.
Six weeks into the semester, Christopher Reynolds, graduate, English, feels that he is getting a lot out of the class relating his stories back to veteran writing. He explained, “As a veteran, I think one of the things I have with veteran writing is that it tends to be autobiographical natured anyway so I see that as a building point for a lot of things I want to do, either working with the veteran community or adult learning department.”
Even if you do not aspire to being a published author one day, this class also provides an opportunity as a graduate student to fulfill a requirement such as American literature, composition studies, Master of Fine Arts, and gender studies.