Ricki Ervin reads poetry from ONU alumna, Khaty Xiong. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

Multicultural literature is the foundation of many English high school and college courses. Teachers feel as though students gain a new perspective when they read a text discussing a different culture than their own. Not only do students learn about the cultures, but they learn about themselves as they read the literature.

Ohio Northern University’s English Department attempts to engage its students in multicultural texts in various courses, including Topics in World Literature and American Multicultural Literature.

Co-sponsored by the English Department’s honorary society, Sigma Tau Delta, and the university’s Office of Multicultural Development, students met on Feb. 23 inside the Heterick Memorial Library for an evening of reading and discussion focusing on multicultural texts.

“The odds are good that you will take a course in multicultural literature,” addressed Douglas Dowland, assistant professor of English and adviser for Sigma Tau Delta.

Dowland continued to describe that readers value multicultural literature to understand new aspects of the world, and by learning about different cultures readers adapt the new ideas into their own beliefs.

By reading multicultural literature, people learn how to discuss the topics within the texts.

Dowland commented at the reading, “Multicultural texts teach us how to interact with others.”

He advised viewers at the reading to be generous with each other as students discussed their selections. Not only be generous that evening, but to always be generous during discussions surrounding multicultural literature.

Readers include: Nicole Glaza reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of the Yellow Sun”; Sofie Moeller reading poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks; Ricki Ervin reading poetry by ONU poetry alumnae Khaty Xiong; Kasy Long reading Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”; Aaron Tuck reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible”; and, Associate Professor of English Margaret Cullen reading poetry by Langston Hughes.

“Xiong’s poetry incorporates her Asian heritage into her writing,” said Ervin. “It makes us appreciate more about the struggle for immigrants arriving to America and adapting to our culture.”

After the readings, Dowland asked his viewers why we value and read multicultural literature. Many viewers commented on the learning experience multicultural texts provide, detailing that some people don’t have strong bonds across cultures. It’s difficult to talk about certain cultures when people lack the experience.

Dowland advised his viewers to create bonds across cultures, either through civic engagement or personal friendships, in order to make multicultural literature and topics more popular discussions. 

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