Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

HARTS Fund Sponsors Student Visit to Portland Book Festival

Nick Hengen Fox

Thanks to the generosity of HARTS, a group of seven students from ENG 104, Introduction to Literature: Fiction, was able to attend parts of the Portland Book Festival in November. On a Saturday morning in November, we met up outside the Schnitz and dived into the crowd entering Tommy Orangeto see Tommy Orange interview Viet Than Nguyen. We were especially interested to attend as we were reading Orange’s first novel There There in class. In the end, we were bummed that we didn’t hear as much from Tommy Orange (he asked great questions, but they were short) as from Viet Than Nguyen, but there was still a lot to learn.

We saw lots of connections between Viet Than Nguyen’s discussion of his new memoir and the short stories we’d been reading! The way he talked about racialized hierarchy in his experience (and in his fiction) was a question we’d explored; how his discussion of his immigrant experience tracked other writers we’ve read (like Jamil Jan Kochai); how he talked about using second person and first person in his writing, which had been part of our lesson earlier in the week. One thing we also found really cool was how, despite their different cultural experiences, Viet Than NguyenTommy Orange and Viet Than Nguyen were able to speak with care about shared experiences.

For some of us, it was our first big literary event and it felt intimidating – the crowds of people, many of them dressed up, the fancy interior of the Arlene Schnitzer auditorium. While it felt like TED Talk to some of us – easy to turn on and learn a little – we all realized that the more context we had coming into the conversation, the more we could have taken out of it.

After the conversation, we walked across the park blocks together and entered into the swirling crowds around the booksellers displays. Our PCC group broke up to explore on our own. For all of us, it was a chance to see how studying literature in class has lots of connections to the world beyond campus.

To support students attending events like these, please consider a tax-deductible gift to the HARTS Fund. Under “Designation,” click “Other” and write HARTS in the space provided. Thank you for your generosity!