Listening To My Student Read From Her Thesis

Yesterday my MFA student Lynn Bryant at Wilkes University read from her Masters thesis in front of a gathered crowd of her peers and other instructors. She read for ten minutes, a scene in which on the surface, very little happens: a couple has mint tea in a hotel restaurant in Fes, Morocco. But in this scene everything happens. The young man is Moroccan, A Berber who has chased this African American girl from Meknes, where they met in the restaurant of a different hotel, where Alae, the young man, is the maitre d’ — a pretty good job by Moroccan standards. Alae has brought his mother and sister to Fes to meet Willow, as if this is already a formal engagement, as if they’re already committed to each other. He has given Willow a family heirloom, a ring that in his mind binds her to him. Willow is not sure whether she should have refused the ring, run away; and now, she is deeply charmed by his wild sincerity, this impetuous show of affection. The scene shifts between their two point of views. They’ve known each other less than 24 hours and they are about to invest all their hopes, their fears, their dreams, in each other. She takes his hand and allows him to lead her into the lobby, where his mother is waiting.

I can’t stop thinking about this scene this morning. I am wondering if in a world where urgency — gaming, reality TV, and things like that — have taken over our appetite for entertainment, if a story like this, a story so smoothly written, so beautifully internal — a story about the clash between Christian and Muslin cultures — will be appreciated by the general reading public. I worry about this. I want this book to find a publisher and an audience. I think this book is very important.

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