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Writing Memoir: Memoir and Migrancy

Summer 2022: Queen’s Global Summer Initiative


What does it mean to write about being or having been on the move? What forms of writing do people use to tell stories about their changed or changing relationships to place? How do the energies of departure, transit, arrival, and return shape ideas of home, community, identity and belonging in life writing? In this course, we will explore and experiment with the writing of memoir in relation to the experience of migrancy. Approaching memoir as a cultural practice, a personal process and a pathway to place rather than a fixed form, we will read a selection of texts about memories, perceptions, and understandings of displacement and mobility across nations, geographies, cultures, ethnicities, families, languages, generations, bodies, subjectivities, ways of knowing, and more. Our readings will include a small number of scholarly articles in migration studies but will mainly consist of memoirs that represent different types of migration and a variety of storytelling techniques, provisionally Shailja Patel, Migritude (2010), Wab Kinew, The Reason You Walk: A Memoir (2015), Malala Yousafzai, We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls around the World (2019), and Mondiant Dogon, Those We Throw Away are Diamonds: A Refugee’s Search for Home (2021). Alongside our readings and critical discussions, we will engage in our own writing practice, using the practical work of memoir to begin developing a voice, style, and form to narrate experiences of migrancy that—whether directly or indirectly—are part of our lived reality. Students are welcome to work in any written medium or blend of media (letters, journal/diary, documentary, poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, to name a few). There will be an optional day-long field trip on July 25th to Queen’s University Biological Station at Lake Opinicon where we will experiment with writing outdoors and in movement. The requirements of the course are that you attend and participate regularly in classes and writing workshops, prepare short critical responses to readings, and undertake (not necessarily finish) a final project.

This course engages with the following UNSDG Goals:
# 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
# 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.