Ironmuanya’s legacy lives on through body of work

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Sometimes you have to write the messy things.

At least, this was part of the takeaway from Monday night’s “Voices in the Valley Reading Series” event with award-winning author Julie Iromuanya.

“Voices in the Valley” Director Arra Ross said the organization has brought a wide variety of authors and poets to SVSU in the past who have read and discussed many topics, and Iromuanya offers similar tastes, but a different experience for students.

“We were graduate school colleagues, and we kept up our connection through the years,” Ross said. “I really admired her work, so I thought she would be a nice addition to the series, and she had a lot to offer the students.”

Nigerian immigrants raised Iromuanya in the American Midwest.

She received her B. A. at the University of Central Florida and her M. A. and Ph. D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; currently, she is an assistant professor of English and Africana literature at the University of Arizona.

As of late, she has received attention for her novel “Mr. and Mrs. Doctor,” which won the 2016/PEN Robert W. Bingham Debut Fiction Longlist and 2015 National Book Critics’ Circle John Leonard Debut Fiction Award Longlist.

She said the recent praise has been both rewarding and interesting, but she’s tried to remain modest in light of the success.

“It feels good, but you don’t want to get those voices going,” Iromuanya said. “I’m humbled and excited at the same time.”

Pertaining to her achievements, she felt that, to persevere as an author and to accomplish their goals, students must make time to practice the fundamentals of writing.

“First, you absolutely need to read a lot,” she said. “But you also need to find somebody you trust to read your work. If you trust someone, you’ll listen to them when they say, ‘this doesn’t work.’ You don’t want someone who will tell you something you want to hear.”

Dr. Ross said “Voices in the Valley” was started by Judy Kerman, who retired and offered her the position, for which she was delighted to assume, as she thought it would be an advantageous position from which to attract talented artists to SVSU.

“We’ve had a wide variety of people, and usually I bring two to three poets over the year,” Ironmuanya said. “It’s made for both students and the public, and we are always trying to find better ways to advertise it.”

She added that students who are skeptical about attending a reading should allay their fears in favor of immersing themselves in writing, poetry and the arts.
“Students can be frightened about coming to a reading, because it’s an unfamiliar event,” she said. “But students who come here find it to be an entertaining and an educational experience instead. If they are interested at all,they shouldn’t be frightened about attending.”

The evening finished with Iromuanya sharing a sample from an unfinished novel titled “A Season of Light,” which she admitted was still a little rough.
Strangely, just as she began reading, the plaque decorating the front of the speaker’s podium detached and fell, bouncing off of a number of steps before resting on the floor before the stage.

“That’s a bad sign,” she said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Yet, as she began to read from her newest novel, the audience sat transfixed, listening to a talented writer prove why she is deserving of such high praise.