Winter quarter 2023 reading list

What have you been reading this quarter?

With the Winter 2023 quarter coming to a wrap, I wanted to share some of the texts I’ve read as a Creating Writing major here at the University of Washington Tacoma. I read a lot as a writing major so I have plenty of recommendations for your upcoming travels this spring break. 

“Yellow Rain” by Mai Der Vang

“Yellow Rain” is a poetry collection written by Hmong-American poet Mai Der Vang. It discusses the painful history of the Vietnam War and the yellow rain that fell in the 1970s after the war ended. Vang also explores “what it means to have access to the truth and how marginalized groups have forbidden that access,” touching on the oppression minorities experience on a systemic level.

As a poetry collection, the mode in which the information and argument are conveyed can be off-putting for some, difficult to comprehend even. However, if you are able to get past that and are willing to work with unconventional writing devices, it approaches the information in a way that goes against colonial standards established over time. 

I was inspired by this work and used that inspiration in my writing throughout the quarter in both my poetry and academic writing. If you are looking for something to spark your creativity or passion for something, this is definitely the read for you. 

Photo by Celia Williams | Cover of “When My Brother Was an Aztec”

“When My Brother was an Aztec” by Natalie Diaz

“When My Brother was an Aztec” by Natalie Diaz is another collection of poetry that offers an understanding of the Indigenous perspective. It discusses culture, genocide, and systemic oppression. While it can be a tough read, specifically in regard to content, it is worth the read. 

This poetry collection is similar to “Yellow Rain” in the sense that it also defies colonial standards of poetry too. It addresses both the ramifications of colonialism that we are still feeling today and the many times throughout history that Indigenous people have been oppressed and targeted for their culture and beliefs. The poem “When My Brother was an Aztec,” specifically talks about the hand colonization played in alcoholism and addiction in the Indigenous community and the impacts it has had on individuals and the community. 

If you ever find yourself wanting to learn more about Indigenous culture or history, or even just the Indigenous perspective, this book along with many other Indigenous authors’ works is a great place to start. However, it is worth a mention to tell you that Indigenous cultures differ from tribal nation to tribal nation, meaning this is only one perspective of Indigenous culture. 

“Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” by Wells Tower

“Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” by Wells Tower is a collection of short stories rather than poems. It is a bit less serious and has many of the attributes of contemporary short stories from its time. These stories explore the concept of a grotesque and what exactly that is in literature in a way that is adventurous and encompasses a variety of life experiences. 

From the “dropout” to the “failed inventor,” Tower explores people at their lowest. In “The Brown Coast” he writes the story of an alcoholic father who moves to Florida and kind of discovers himself and what he needs to do in life. It was rather interesting, especially with the obsession the narrator had with catching fish and other sea life from the bay keeping them in a tank at home. 

This is a great read for entertainment and being able to see that everyone has their flaws, despite how flawless they may seem. 

This last quarter has been a whirlwind of assignments and readings, but I think I gained a lot from it. I hope you give these recommendations a chance when you’re considering your next read.