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A Unique Voice

A Unique VoiceTufts graduate and English lecturer Grace Talusan makes her mark by writing what she knows.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.02.07] For author Grace Talusan (A'94), the adage to "write what you know" is more than just a principle. Talusan's stories and essays, often rooted in her Filipino background, are brought to life through details only someone with an intimate knowledge of a culture can convey.

"Little things like people pointing with their lips," she told The Boston Globe, "These are details my relatives would never be able to see in print unless I wrote it."

As a girl, reading Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior was something of a revelation, the Tufts lecturer in creative writing told the Globe. "Oh, my God, this exists? A book about a Chinese family that looks like me?"

Read one of Talusan's short stories, "The Book of Life and Death," published in Tufts Magazine Summer 2007 

The early reading experience proved to be life altering. When she first came to Tufts as a student, Talusan planned to become a doctor like her parents, but the impulse to write was too strong.

"Even at the lowest moments when I felt despair and didn't know if I'd ever see one of my stories published, I would have a story in my head and would want to write it. That's what makes me want to get up in the morning," Talusan told the Globe.

Talusan went on to receive an MFA from the University of California, Irvine, and has since published stories in many anthologies. She is the recipient of an Artist Grant in Fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and in addition to her post at Tufts teaches a course called "Jump-start your Writing" at Grub Street, an independent writing center in Boston.

Talusan encourages her students to write often, even when they're not feeling it.

"I tell my students a draft is like a rehearsal. It's not the final performance," Talusan told the Globe. "I used to think I needed to be inspired. But then I found myself waiting. Now I write a little every day."

Her award-winning essay, "Foreign Bodies," which appears in the anthology Silence Kills, due out this month, concerns a family history of cancer. Like Talusan's cultural heritage, this subject also informs her writing and her life.

"I know time is a limited reality," Talusan told the Globe. "I would like to write books that people love in my lifetime."

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