Tag Archives: English and Speech


FIT being a school of art and design, business and technology, some people don’t realize that high-caliber novelists often visit.

Mostly recently, FIT hosted Helena Maria Viramontes, author of The Moths and Other StoriesUnder the Feet of Jesus, and Their Dogs Came With Them, and chair of the creative writing MFA program at Cornell University. Her most famous story, The Moths, about a teenager’s relationship with her dying grandmother, has been anthologized hundreds of times.

The talk, sponsored by FIT Words, the college’s creative writing club, was called “Writing Your Truth in Fiction,” and Viramontes spoke about how her upbringing as a Chicana (the identity of many Mexican-Americans) in Los Angeles influenced her writing.

We were struck by some of her early inspirations, fragments of her childhood that she alchemized into literary gold.

New roads: “The freeways started in 1959 and finished in 1970. Much of my upbringing was about seeing the destruction of our community.”

The encyclopedia: “Growing up, we had a World Book encyclopedia, but we weren’t allowed to touch it. I’d pick up a volume and run to the bathroom to read it. Whenever I opened a book, it was with a sincere and profound faith that it would inform my life.”

The Bible: “I’d read the parables and stories and recite them to my younger brothers and sisters.”

James Joyce: “With The Moths, I wanted to do a Joycean Dubliners for East L.A.”

Her family: “My first short story began with my mother and my father. I wanted people to know us. I realized I was writing not about my family but a community.”

Hue Too readers, what traces of your childhood inspire you today?


The concept is astonishingly simple and deliciously complex: a book about our relationship to clothes, as experienced by 642 women, including Lena Dunham, Cindy Sherman, Tavi Gevinson, and two FIT faculty members, Sara Freeman and Dale Megan Healey. In the hands of editors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton, the result is Women in Clothes, a clever, surprising, encyclopedic portrait of beauty, insecurity, and family. And it reads like the most delicious issue of O magazine.

On October 23, the English and Speech Department invited Julavits and Shapton to read from and discuss the book. Julavits read about accompanying a smell scientist to the coatroom of a New York restaurant to judge the wearers of the coats. (“It’s a very nice scent,” the scientist said after sniffing the armpit of one coat. “I think she’s with the wrong guy.”) Shapton read a first-person account from a garment worker in Cambodia who sews bras too expensive for her to afford.

Women in Clothes

No detail of the book’s design was overlooked. Shapton wanted it to be softcover to be more welcoming. They didn’t want pictures of the women so that readers wouldn’t form judgments based on their looks. They wanted a gridlike design, broken up by images every few pages. They went back and forth about which cover to use.

Toward the end, someone asked them whether the book had made them more conscious about what they put on each morning. “I think, ‘What am I feeling inside, and how do I want to express that in some manner?’” Julavits said, then amended her answer slightly. “Today I’m wearing this book. That’s what you should be looking at to understand me, not what I’m wearing right now.”

Hue thinks she wears it well.

Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits discuss "Women on Clothes."

Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits discuss “Women in Clothes.”


“Comics gift the written word with color and line and bless the drawn image with narrative,” graphic memoirist Lucy Knisley rhapsodized, when she spoke at FIT in late March, sponsored by FIT Words, the Culinary Arts Club, and the English and Speech Department.

Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley, plotting something.

Knisley gave an annotated reading of her graphic-memoir-cum-cookbook, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which came out in 2013 but is still being translated into more languages. The story follows her foodie family (her mother is a chef), with family recipes interspersed. The drawings, Knisley noted, make the recipes much easier to follow.

“Comics are a nice balance between learning to cook from a cookbook and learning to cook from someone,” she explained.

The cover of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

The cover of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen.

The Culinary Arts Club whipped up a few recipes from the book—including chocolate chip cookies and a delicious spaghetti carbonara—and served them to guests. At this moment, for some reason, Hue began to like Knisley very much.

Hue asked her if it was tricky, writing about and drawing real people in her work. She responded that she follows a few basic rules. “I never use comics as a weapon. I usually ask permission. And I always draw them as attractive as possible.”

Knisley's illustrated recipe for Huevos Rancheros, from her book, Relish.

Knisley’s illustrated recipe for Huevos Rancheros, from her book, Relish.


Growing up near Youngstown, Ohio, Assistant Professor of English and Speech Matthew Petrunia never tasted a wedding cake. Instead, the staple dessert at weddings for him was the cookie table—or, more accurately, tables, lined up all around the ballroom, crowded with platters of cookies baked by the couple’s family and friends, enough for every guest to gorge on about 30 of them.

Hue thinks that just takes the cookie.

“The first wedding I went to after moving to Colorado, there was no cookie table,” Petrunia remembers. “I thought it was a colossal joke.”

For an info session for incoming students about Liberal Arts minors on August 23, he decided to bring the tradition to FIT and create a cookie social, where students could mingle with professors in a relaxed, butter-heavy setting.

Matthew Petrunia's cookie table

The cookie table: Starting from bottom right, the cookies are pizzelles, marmalade thumbprints, apple thumbprints, and pecan tarts.

But procuring all those baked goods was no cookiewalk. He drove more than seven hours to Santisi’s IGA Marketplace in Girard, Ohio, and picked up 1,500 cookies, plus 15 pounds of Giannios chocolate candies, then drove right back. (Cookies from a respected supermarket, apparently, can stand in for the home-baked variety.)

The goodies came from a melange of ethnicities: clothespin cookies (a flaky crust with a cream filling), kolache cookies (filled with apricot, poppyseed, or nuts; also called foldover cookies), and buckeyes (peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate), but none of the chocolate-chip variety. “I was interested in bringing cookies they hadn’t seen before.”

The cookie table

The cookie table (again). From bottom, Italian wedding cookies (the white balls), walnut bars, raspberry kolaches, nut kolaches, buckeyes, and kiffles.

He plated the sweets with Fenton Glass and Viking Glass, colorful candy dishes that everybody’s grandmother owned when he was growing up. FIT’s cookie table became a rainbow of glass and jelly.

Handkerchief vase

Giannios candies inside a Viking handkerchief vase

Then the students flooded in, and the treats went like hotcookies. The buckeyes disappeared after just 40 minutes.

“There were polite cookie-takers who took three and walked away,” he says. “Then there was this one girl who had about 20 cookies on this little plate. I like that she lost control.”

Crowds at the cookie table

Students loving the liberal arts (plus cookies)

By the time the room emptied two hours later, just 23 marmalade thumbprint cookies remained. Clearly, at FIT, you can’t have your cookie and eat it too.

By Monday, 22 students had signed up for a Liberal Arts minor. Now isn’t that just the icing on the cookie?


Julie Powell is perhaps best known as the younger of the two protagonists of the film Julie & Julia, Nora Ephron’s paean to French cooking, 50 percent based on Powell’s acclaimed work of “bliterature” by the same name.

On March 8, Powell stopped by FIT to read from Julie & Julia and chat with students, faculty, and sundry fans. Hue wasn’t sure why she didn’t read from Cleaving, her 2009 memoir about marriage and meat-cutting; maybe she was nostalgic for the early days of her fame.

Powell at the podium (well, it's technically a lectern).

Hue could see why Ephron & Co. cast Amy Adams in the role, though Powell had always imagined/hoped it would be Kate Winslet.

She read from a chapter about “the morality of slaughter,” aka killing lobsters in the name of delicious eats. Hue tried not to feel bad for the ugly guys, and wondered how Powell managed to write about so many delicious meals without overusing the word “delicious” or resorting to the archaism “toothsome.”

Those who caught the film will recall the moment when Julia Child hears about Powell’s blog and is furious about it. Powell said she faced a lot of that censure from Child’s clan, especially Judith Jones, her esteemed editor.

“[Jones] says I’m an exploitative hussy,” Powell said. “But after my book came out, Mastering the Art of French Cooking was on the bestseller list for the first time in 10 years. You know what? A thank you would be in order.”

Powell’s current project is a novel. “I’ve written two memoirs now, and that’s enough,” she said.