GV holds second installment of Writers Series


Courtesy / GVSU

Ayron Rutan, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University Writers Series held their second installment of the series, welcoming award-winning author Sejal Shah, to read from her work and hold a Q&A session with audience members. 

In order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held virtually on Oct. 14 over Zoom by the GVSU Department of Writing. 

Sejal Shahis is the daughter of Gujarati parents who immigrated to the United States from India and Kenya. Her work is dedicated to exploring race, place, belonging, and South Asian American history. 

Her debut memoir, “This Is One Way to Dance,” has won awards and her stories and essays have appeared on numerous platforms online and in print, including “Brevity” and “Guernica.”

This collection of essays draws on Shah’s ongoing interests in ethnicity and place. More specifically, she uses it to explore the geographic and cultural distances between people, both real and imagined.

Shahis is the recipient of a 2018 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship in Fiction and residencies or fellowships from Blue Mountain Center, Kundiman, The Millay Colony, and the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop.

She received her BA in English from Wellesley College and her MFA in fiction from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

Shah is currently at work on a memoir about mental health and academia. She also teaches creative writing in community-based workshops, as well as privately. 

GVSU Associate Professor of Writing, Amorak Huey, said he was extremely excited to have Shah be a part of the Writer’s Series, as he has taught her work to his classes before.  

“I’ve taught Sejal Shah’s essays on nonfiction and introduction to creative writing courses for a long time,” Huey said. “She is a thoughtful essayist whose work takes on difficult, important questions about race and identity in 21st-century America — and she does so with such beauty in her language.”

Huey said he believes that her reading and work have a nice correlation with the curriculum being taught to all writing students. 

“When we put together the Writer’s Series, we’re always looking for a range of voices, for writers working in a variety of genres,” Huey said. “We knew we wanted a nonfiction author, and this reading takes place at the same time as our nonfiction class. It’s about finding a writer whose work complements our curriculum.” 

He said the event also held a certain amount of significance and offered a number of benefits to the Laker community. He said that it gave students an opportunity to come into contact with professional writing outside of school, and to see what is behind that writing. 

“The Writers Series offers Grand Valley students a chance to connect with accomplished, nationally known authors,” Huey said. “These events are a chance to encounter writing outside of the classroom and to see the real people behind the words. We are really lucky to be able to bring in writers of such high caliber — I think our lineup of writers is as good as any university writers series in the country.”

The Writer’s Series will host their third installment on Friday, Nov. 12 with a poetry reading from award-winning poets Nandi Comer and Sumtia Chakraborty from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. on Zoom.