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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Hoover joins creative writing department

Published: April 4, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Michelle Hoover, an acclaimed novelist and instructor, will join Brandeis University’s creative writing faculty in the upcoming fall term.

The award-winning novelist and instructor at Emerson College, Boston University, Bucknell University and Grub Street (a creative writing school in Boston), is joining Brandeis as its new creative writing fiction writer-in-residence. She was chosen because of the caliber of her first novel, “The Quickening,” and because of her “stellar reputation as an exciting, innovative and deeply committed teacher,” said Professor Stephen McCauley (ENG).

Brandeis’ fiction writer-in-residence position was originally funded by (and filled by) novelist Fannie Hurst. She greatly embodied Brandeis University’s values, addressing several social issues in her writing, including racism, issues in the labor force and women’s rights. Hurst also hosted a 1950s talk show in which she allowed homosexuals to discuss their rights on the air. Today, many popular film adaptations of her work exist. In fact, Brandeis’ philosophy of social justice was what drew her to this institution in the first place. In addition to her status as the first writer-in-residence here, she donated money to have Brandeis bring in fiction writers on a rotating basis.

Brandeis’ atmosphere is an aspect that attracted Hoover to campus. Recently, she said she loves the sense of community and students. “Brandeis seems to be the kind of place where students take risks and are willing to explore, while the school supports both. BU was a wonderful place, but it was overwhelmingly large and the thinking there was rather inside the box. I’m excited for a change,” she said.

Other notable writers-in-residence who have served at Brandeis include Alice Walker (“The Color Purple”), Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow and the current writer-in-residence, Colin Channer, whom Professor McCauley said is a “wonderful writer and a teacher many students have come to love, who will be greatly missed on campus by students and faculty alike.”

McCauley described Hoover’s “The Quickening” as an “elegiac and moving novel based partly on her own family’s history with farming in the upper Midwest.” It is about two women living on farms before and during the Great Depression, their friendship and how they cope with living in the rural Midwest. Hoover has been published in several journals such as “Story Quarterly,” “Prairie Schooner” and “The Massachusetts Review.” She is a MacDonald Fellow and the recipient of the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction. She hopes to contribute a new sensibility, energy and unique way of reaching her students.

Hoover thinks that the writer-in-residence position is perfect for her because “it allows me to join a great department, continue to teach what I love, while also giving me time to write without starving.” She wants to aid students with their own goals and sense of vision as much as she can. “I tend to challenge my writers to go deeper, to push into their own experiences, fears and eccentricities, in order to find what’s unique about their way of mirroring the world. I hope they are willing to take up that challenge.”

Hoover is teaching two courses next semester: Directed Writing: Short Fiction (ENG 109b) and Directed Writing: Fiction (ENG 119a). Students can expect her classes to be lively and inspiring and to find the same level of individual attention they’ve come to expect from the creative writing faculty.