Exploring Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Leah Milne

The momentum generated by Commencement continues throughout the month of May with the University’s observance of Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. The observance pays tribute to the generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans who have enriched our country’s history and who play a critical role in its future success. The University of Indianapolis Office of Inclusion & Equity is organizing the observance of AAPI Heritage Month at the University.

The observance was officially legislated first as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week (taking place during the first ten days in May) in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter and extended to a month in the 1990s by President George H.W. Bush. The term “Asian American” itself came into use in the 1960’s, explains Leah Milne, assistant professor of English.

Leah Milne, associate professor of English

Leah Milne, assistant professor of English

“The term is meant to be a pan-ethnic term that encompasses many nationalities. At that time in the 1960’s, this was very strategic,” she said, pointing out the civil rights movements that were happening around that time. “It began with the impulse to drive attention to Americans who have been previously marginalized or historically underrepresented.”

The Asian American & Pacific Islander term encompasses Americans who hail from vast geographical areas, along with their diverse peoples, languages and cultures, including dozens of countries in Eastern Asia, South Central Asia, Southeastern Asia, Western Asia, and some 30,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Milne notes that the Pacific Islander aspect of AAPI, which includes native Hawaiians, “often gets marginalized within that group, and that some Asian groups also get marginalized among Asian Americans, so it’s important to recognize every part of that designation.” 

The contributions of immigrants from these diverse backgrounds have historically been overlooked or unacknowledged in the United States. Milne observed the example of Chinese immigrants, who were largely responsible for the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad, nearly being written out of that history. The movement around the heritage month sought to rectify these intentional omissions, and also focused on the need to secure their rights as American citizens.

“They recognized that this was a way they would gain rights and recognition,” Milne said. “There’s this narrative of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as being invisible and part of the goal of the month is to highlight their contributions and achievements.”

Milne is a first-generation American and first-generation college student whose parents immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. in the early 1970s. Filipino-Americans are the third-largest subgroup in the U.S. AAPI population, according to the U.S. Census.

“I’m very proud of what my mom and dad did to be successful here. My father served in the Coast Guard for decades. He served his country and he’s very proud of that,” Milne said, noting that Filipino-Americans have been an influence in North America since the late 1500s.

She also pointed out the long and complex relationship between the United States and the Philippines.

“The United States colonized the Philippines. When we’re talking about the disparate stories of Asian Americans, one of the distinctions with Filipino-Americans is that they are living in the country that colonized their country of origin,” she said, adding that Filipinos were initially allowed to work in the United States – with many serving in the U.S. military in various capacities – without access to citizenship. That policy changed in the mid-1940s, and the legacy and culture of Filipino-Americans remain an influential force in the United States.

UIndy launches Race and Ethnic Studies Minor
AAPI Heritage Month and the University’s observance of Juneteenth the following month provide an opportune moment to explore the University of Indianapolis’s new Race and Ethnic Studies minor, which will be offered for the first time in Fall 2021. Organized by Leah Milne, the Race and Ethnic Studies minor equips students to address the impact of race and culture in shaping institutions, social relations, and identities. Students will examine the historical foundations of the social construction of race and how this construction continues to impact society today, and learn how to understand the implications of race and ethnicity in order to critique, better navigate, and help improve institutional and societal approaches to difference. 

“The pandemic has made it painfully clear how important it is to know the history of marginalized groups in this country,” Milne said. “It’s part of everything we do, whether we realize it or not. If we’re looking at any particular field, whether it’s nursing, law, sociology or history, there’s a way in which that story is different if we look at it through the lens of any one ethnic group. All students benefit from learning about this history, but especially students who have never seen themselves in a textbook before.”

About Leah Milne
Milne teaches courses on multiethnic literature in the Department of English. She recently received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a summer institute entitled Hurston on the Horizon. In addition to the financial support, the grant gives Milne the opportunity to participate in a summer institute in July on author Zora Neale Hurston. Her new book, “Novel Subjects: Authorship as Radical Self-Care in Multiethnic American Narratives” will be published in July 2021. The book, based on Milne’s dissertation, offers a new way to look at multicultural literature by focusing on scenes of writing in contemporary works by authors with marginalized identities. 

Learn more:
Census.gov: AAPI population in the United States

PBS documentary series: Asian Americans

Recommended reading:
“The Making of Asian America: A History” by Erika Lee

“Unfamiliar Fishes” by Sarah Vowell

“We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration” by Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura

“Echoes of History: Chinese Poetry at the Angel Island Immigration Station” by Ying Diao (Smithsonian article)

“Welcome To Chindianapolis: One of the largest populations of Burmese Chin refugees in the world lives on the south side of Indianapolis” by Susan Salaz and Steve Raymer (Indianapolis Monthly article)


University of Indianapolis Etchings Press announces 2020 Whirling Prize recipients

Etchings Press, the University of Indianapolis student-run publisher, has announced the recipients of the 2020 Whirling Prize.

The Whirling Prize welcomes submissions of published books related to specific themes that change annually. The 2020 prize focused on the theme of horror.

Laurel Radzieski

Laurel Radzieski

Laurel Radzieski was awarded the 2020 Whirling Prize in Poetry for her collection “Red Mother” (NYQ Books).

Joseph P. Laycock was awarded the 2020 Whirling Prize in Prose

Joseph Laycock (photo: Dan Addison)

Joseph Laycock (photo: Dan Addison)

for his book, The Penguin Book of Exorcisms” (Penguin Classics).

Author and cover photos available for download here.

Student judges would like to honor the following finalists in the 2020 contest:

  • “Enantiodromia” by Mike X Welch
  • “Lake County Incidents” by Alec Cizak
  • “Homesick” by Nino Cipri

Students enrolled in ENGL 479 reviewed submissions and selected winners in the categories of prose and poetry.

“The student judges explored and engaged with Horror this fall and ended the competition with a greater appreciation of the nuances of the genre, after having the opportunity to read the contest entries. It was an excellent learning experience,” said Liz Whiteacre, advisor of the 2020 Whirling Prize.

The winners will receive a $500 honorarium and broadsides celebrating their book designed by a Hullabaloo Press artist. They will each join student judges in conversation on episodes of the UIndy Potluck Podcast. For updates, follow @uindyetchings on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

About “Red Mother”
In “Red Mother,” Laurel Radzieski weaves a love story told from the perspective of a parasite. This series of short poems explores the intimacy, desire and devotion we all experience by following the sometimes tender, often distressing relationship that emerges between a parasite and its host. Radzieski’s poetry is playful, though often with sinister undertones. Far from romanticizing either role, “Red Mother” takes readers on a tour of their own innards, exposing the hooks and claws of all involved. Following the parasite’s life cycle, the book blurs the line between science and poetic license to create a fantastical romp not for the squeamish. Although parasites are not known as conversationalists, Radzieski’s guest has a lot to say.

About The Penguin Book of Exorcisms”
Believe it or not, fifty-seven percent of Americans believe in demonic possession. Spirit possession has been documented for thousands of years and across religions and cultures, even into our time. “The Penguin Book of Exorcisms,” edited by religious studies scholar Joseph P. Laycock, showcases a range of stories, beliefs and practices surrounding exorcism from across time, cultures and religions. Laycock’s exhaustive research incorporates scientific papers, letters and diary entries by the clergy, treatises by physicians and theologians, reports from missionaries and colonial officers, legal proceedings, and poetry and popular legends. The result is informative and entertaining, and proves that truth can indeed be scarier than fiction.

Call for 2021 entries
Student judges welcome recently published books of prose and poetry in response to the theme of nature published since January 2019. Students are employing a broad interpretation of these criteria in their reading and judging. The deadline for submissions is September 3, 2021. Details may be found on the Etchings website.

Senior spotlight: Brooklyn Raines (creative writing)

Brooklyn Raines ‘19 (creative writing) has not had the easiest journey to get where she is today. The death of two close friends, the birth of her son, and the post-partum depression that followed could have stopped her in her tracks. But Raines persevered. After graduation, she will pursue a Master of Arts in English with a creative writing concentration.

Raines credits many with contributing to her success: Assistant Professor Barney Haney, Associate Professor Kevin McKelvey, and fellow students Shauna Sartoris, Tyrah Cherry, Kylie Seitz, and Natalie McCann, to name a few. Someone who stands out even more is Assistant Professor of English Leah Milne.

“Dr. Milne is amazing in the classroom and is a great example of a woman of color taking charge and following her dreams. She has also helped me during some tough times in my personal life.”

During her time at UIndy Raines honed her skills in areas such as event planning and promotions, magazine design, publishing, reviewing, and writing.  Much of this has been through classes, clubs, conferences and extracurricular involvement with the Kellogg’s Writers Series and Etchings Press Literary Magazine.

“From these amazing experiences I learned how to trust the creative process and work hard through it even when times got tough because the finished product would be something I could truly feel proud of,” Raines said. “I also learned how valuable the skill of teamwork is and how important it is to pick peers up and have them pick me up when I need extra motivation or when my home life gets tough.”

Raines speaks highly of the entire Department of English and loves bringing her son Landon to campus events.  

“UIndy is the perfect place to grow, but in order to grow, you must take risks. Work hard and do the best you can during your time at UIndy, and opportunities will arise from that.”

Learn about the creative writing major at the University of Indianapolis

New book by Molly Martin explores role of castles in King Arthur legend

mollymartinbookIn the Arthurian legend, castles set the scene for power struggles, love and loss. A new book, “Castles and Space in Malory’s Morte Darthur (Boydell & Brewer) by Molly Martin, associate professor and chair of English at the University of Indianapolis, explores the role of castles in the famous story of King Arthur. Martin’s second book continues the exploration begun with her first book publication, “Vision and Gender in Malory’s Morte Darthur.”

Q: What are some of the key takeaways in your book regarding the castle setting?

A: Castles really do capture the imagination, both for readers now and in the medieval time, though certainly in different ways. For audiences today, there is often something magical about them. And while there is some magic in the castles of medieval romances, they also play a very literal role. That’s what I am often tracing in the book. Castles house characters in the stories (as they did the nobility in the Middle Ages, though not all were fully inhabited year-round), and thus they are the sites of their lives and loves, their fun and struggles, their business and pleasure.

Q: What do you suggest for readers who are returning to the King Arthur legend?

A: I have devoted a good portion of my life to [Sir Thomas] Malory’s Morte Darthur, and in it we see the convergence of multiple traditions of medieval Arthurian stories. Putting aside my bias, though, there are lots of great Arthurian stories from the 12th century through today, from across the globe and in so many languages. I am lucky to be able to teach a wide range of those texts in my classes.

Molly Martin

Molly Martin

Q: Have you visited any locations in England associated with Arthurian history?

A: In a couple of research trips that I took while working on this book, I saw most of the castles in England and Wales that are associated with Malory and his book. These were a couple of whirlwind trips, sometimes seeing multiple castles in one day. At each stop, I was thinking about Malory’s placing his characters in, on, and beyond the castle walls. I was thinking about how the space works, and how space defines us as much as we define it.

Q: What is the symbolic significance of some of the castles in Morte Darthur?

A: The biggest symbolic significance of Malory’s castles—and of castles generally—is the way they employ a “military vocabulary” (to use Robert Liddiard’s term) to convey power. Castles, which are by definition residential fortresses or fortified residences, might use those fortifications for defense, but often it is more for a show of strength. In the “Morte Darthur,” the symbolic reference goes one step further: castle ownership imbues King Arthur with authority.

Randall Horton to read at University of Indianapolis Kellogg Writers Series

Horton 1Award-winning memoirist and poet Randall Horton will read from his work as part of the University of Indianapolis’s Kellogg Writers Series. The free event is open to the public and will be held at the University of Indianapolis campus on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Schwitzer Student Center in UIndy Hall A.

Horton is the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Award, a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Literature, and is a Washington DC slam poetry champion. An associate professor of English at the University of New Haven, Horton is also a fellow of Cave Canem and a member of both the Affrilachian Poets and the experimental performance group, “Heroes are Gang Leaders.”

“One of the things that I find satisfying when performing on college campuses is the engagement with the student body,” Horton said. “I also love the question-and-answer portion of the programming which allows for an equal exchange in terms of dialogue.”

Horton, a past reader at the Indianapolis Etheridge Knight Festival, also has a personal connection to the city.

“I am excited about coming to Indianapolis,” Horton said. “I came to Indy in 2011 for my fraternity’s (Kappa Alpha Psi) 100-year celebration, and loved it.”

Plans for the event started over a year ago when Kellogg Writers Series co-chair Barney Haney and University of Indianapolis Black Student Association co-advisor D’ana Downing began collaborating. BSA was asked to choose an author to visit campus and Horton was their top choice.

“Members were asked to research his unique background—how he overcame systemic challenges and seized multiple opportunities for growth and success,” Downing said. “The Executive Board believed that his story was one that the student body needed to hear. This is the first BSA/KWS collaboration, and we are hopeful that there will be more opportunities in the future to work together.”

Haney said the BSA partnership has been very rewarding.

“Art unites us in deep and meaningful ways,” Haney said. “The Black Student Association’s choice of Randall Horton is so exciting. The Kellogg Writers Series is reaching out and listening carefully to create amazing opportunities that connect students and the broader Indianapolis community.”

Written by Zoe Berg ’19 (communication major, English minor).