Q&A w/ Micheline Aharonian Marcom – MFA Class of 1999

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September 22, 2017

Born in Saudi Arabia, Micheline Aharonian Marcom has become a celebrated literary voice and an influential member of the Mills community. Marcom teaches undergraduate and graduate fiction, and was an integral member of the Upward Bound Program, which promotes skills for success in college-bound low-income and first-generation students. In addition to teaching, her involvements now include serving as founder and director of The New American Story Project, an organization centered on creating dialogue around migration and human rights. She’s won the 2005 PEN/USA Award in fiction for her second novel, The Daydreaming Boy, a Whiting Award, and the 2012 United States Artists Fellow Award.

How important do you feel it is for colleges and universities to have student-run newspapers?

“It’s vital: it’s one of the main ways the university student body can think about, report on and provide analysis of itself in real time. Plus, it’s an incredible pedagogical ‘tool’ for students: they learn through the making of a paper all of the editorial and writing skills one needs and that one can then take out into the world. So many jobs these days seek people who have experience creating and curating what is so quaintly referred to as ‘content.’ So, yes, The Campanil helps with the conceiving and making of content!”

What is the importance of covering internal politics?

 “Well, as we all are aware, politics — both national and local — play a large part in our lives. So, I would say it’s important.”

What is the importance of journalism?

“I’m not a journalist, but a creative writer, so I’m no ‘expert’ on the subject. I do, however, read two newspapers every day. Why? To get a sense of what is happening nationally and internationally; in search of deeper understanding and analyses of current affairs; and to learn about things outside of my purview written by those who have greater expertise and experience.”

How did you first hear about Mills College?

 “I first learned about Mills when I applied for the Assistant Director of the Mills College Upward Bound Program in 1994. I worked as the Asst. Director for five years, and during my last two years doing that job, enrolled in the MFA Program as an employee of the college. Later after my first novel was published, I returned to teach in the Creative Writing Program.”

What have you been doing in the years since graduating from Mills (including teaching)? 

“I’ve been writing novels (8); teaching at Mills and at Goddard College; raising a son; doing a bit of yoga; walking my dog; developing and working on a digital project in support of refugees and new immigrants: The New American Story Project; reading; staring out the window; falling out of and into and out of and into love; and trying to cook more homemade meals before my son goes off to college in the hopes that this will make his childhood have seemed more ‘normal,’ or at the very least some good food memories will keep drawing him back home!”

 What is your most memorable Mills moment?

 “There have been so many beautiful, inspiring, moving and surprising moments in the classroom at Mills with my students over the years. The classroom remains for me a sacred space where learning, engagement and community happen in real time. But I do remember very well the night of the national election in 2008. My students and I were all on tenterhooks to see who would win, so I allowed them to project the election outcomes on live TV on the screen in the classroom (noise off) as we discussed that week’s reading, which I think was a Faulkner novel. And when, during our class, it became suddenly obvious that Barack Obama had won, we all of us leapt up out of chairs — with so much joy — and ended up going as a group to Parkway Theater in Oakland to watch him give his acceptance speech. Then later there was dancing in the streets. That was a good night!”

What advice would you give incoming and current students about studying/attending Mills?

“Mills is a special place. For so many years it has been a hub in the creative writing world of many talented writers of wonderfully diverse interests, passions, backgrounds and experiences. I have met a lot of friends here! I remain grateful to this place and its place in Oakland and the larger Bay Area.”


Q&A w/ Micheline Aharonian Marcom – MFA Class of 1999 was published on September 22, 2017 in Arts & Entertainment

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