From the Editor

Writing is centrally about memory, knowledge and passion. A memorable piece of writing--in the freshness of its prose, the power of its argument, the structure of its narrative--invites readers to cross the boundaries of their own experiences and challenge their ways of looking at the world. As you open the pages of Angles 2010, I invite you to engage deeply with the work of MIT student writers, and to appreciate the elegance and seriousness of their craft, the richness of their memories, the power of their knowledge, the distinctiveness of their voices and the different ways in which they encounter the world.

Meeting a boy laborer on a street in India…helping deliver the baby of a child-mother in rural Panama…learning from uncles how to bargain in a Pakistani market…savoring the rich aroma of croissants in Quebec… Essays like Srikanth Bolla's “Child Labor in India,” Katie Inman's “Arco Iris," Umaer Basha's “Pakistan, A Narrative” and Paulina Mustafa's “Aromatic Memories” transport readers to different countries and cultures, inviting them into experiences both strange and familiar and inspiring them to ask questions about what they see. How do some children become laborers? What hope is there for a poor teenage mother in Panama? Why do goods typically cost much less in Pakistan than in the U.S.? What are the ways of feeling “at home” in a new environment with a different language and culture? Crossing boundaries and cultures is an enduring theme in student writing across the genres that we teach.

The theme of crossing boundaries also expresses itself in other ways in our students' work. In “Derailment," Gabriel Blanchet meditates on leaving the tried-and-true “college track” not only to experience life in a retail store and an emergency ward, but also to appreciate a profoundly different sense of self. Stephanie Thompson in “Truth Lying in the Tundra” reflects on “crossing over” from a small village in rural Alaska to the urban world of MIT and grappling with the internal conflict between her sense of responsibility to her family and her sense of responsibility to herself. “Fast Food, Living Fast” offers a humorous, yet biting behind-the-scenes look at life in a fast food restaurant from the perspective of a young female worker with one foot always out the door.

The theme of family--immediate and extended--also figures prominently on the pages of Angles 2010. Often nostalgic, sometimes bittersweet and conflicted, our students speak poignantly from the place of early adulthood, moving into an independent sense of themselves in the world while recognizing the love and sacrifices of their families. Reminiscing about a beloved workbench, discarded during a family move, Curtis Clemens reveals the power of familiar objects to evoke memories of a father's guiding hand. Kellie Young in “The Undercurrent” humorously narrates the ways in which she has internalized her mother's eternally cautionary voice, helping her to feel safe and grounded in the world. Affectionately capturing the Jamaican patois of her mother, Merricka Livingstone recalls maternal words of wisdom about the gossipy and fascinating world of the beauty parlor.

Themes of everyday justice--how we express ethical values in our daily actions at home, work, school and community--are also woven through the magazine. The everyday politics of food--our personal connection to what we eat and an understanding of the politics of agribusiness--emerges as a prominent theme in Angles 2010 in three very different pieces by Carlos Greaves, Nidhi Kulkarni and Anna Falvello Tomas. Shuang Chen approaches the topic of food from a different angle--how do we explain our obsession, perhaps “addiction” to certain foods, such as greasy, fried delicacies? Popular media comes into focus for John Yazbek who, in “The Reality Behind Reality TV,” advises us to cast a critical eye on the pleasures of television programs whose “reality” is highly questionable.

Everyday class, gender and cultural conflicts also play out on the pages of Angles 2010, as students straddle different social worlds at school, at home and in their communities. Chris Welch's “The Significance of a Change of Clothes” adopts a humorous yet serious tone in narrating a personal experience with profiling by the Los Angeles police, while Miguel Flores explores some of the challenges of “Being Latino” by powerfully recounting his family's experience with racism in a restaurant. Sahar Hakim-Hashemi eloquently narrates the ways in which her skillful and playful use of Farsi, her native language, enabled her to transcend some of the limitations placed on her as a girl in Iran.

In writing about science, medicine and technology, our students express a passion for translating knowledge for the public and serving the community. In “Crash,” Drew Dennison skillfully takes the reader and computer user into the various causes of and possible solutions to the dreaded “blue screen of death.” Addressing a serious American public health problem, teen smoking, Michelle Rybak deftly summarizes research findings on the most successful methods of smoking cessation treatment, making them accessible to a broad readership. Graham Van Schaik invites his readership into the world of elementary school science students--and the challenges and successes he experienced, in teaching and coordinating an innovative afterschool science enrichment program for underachieving young children in South Carolina.

In addition, our students invite their readers to engage with critical questions and ethical controversies in science and medicine, often seriously challenging taken-for-granted assumptions. Why do we often view soy as a “health food”? How is sleep important to learning? Why do some parents refuse to vaccinate their children? Should terminally ill patients have the right to physician-assisted suicide? These are some of the probing questions that writers such as Anna Falvello Tomas, Sean Faulk, Mahesh Vidula and Ho Yin Au explore in their pieces.

Though our Angles writers differ in style, genre and topic, they share, as a group, a deep commitment to the craft of writing and a willingness to push themselves to create their best work. We hope that our readers will also be moved to stretch as writers, to take risks, to master new material, to experiment with different styles--to play in the field of words and ideas.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions of both Jessica Lin, our multitalented editorial assistant and Maya Jhangiani, administrative assistant in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, who grappled successfully with the many technical challenges of an online magazine. Magdaléna Rieb, Administrative Officer for the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, Shannon Larkin, Graduate Coordinator for the Science Writing Program, and Susan Ruff were also very helpful.

Happy reading!

Andrea S. Walsh, Ph.D., Editor, Angles 2010