Preview of Spring Literary Series with SMC professor Tupelo Hassman

The Santa Monica College Spring Literary Series kicks off Thursday, March 8 with SMC English instructor Tupelo Hassman’s debut novel “Girlchild.” Hassman will discuss her book at 11:15 a.m. in the Humanities and Social Science lecture hall in room 165 on SMC’s main campus.

“Girlchild” is Hassman’s first novel and was published this February by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The narrator is Rory Dawn Hendrix, an academically gifted young girl who grows up in the Calle, a trailer park outside of Reno, Nev. in the 1980’s.

“I think the book might relate to the SMC student population because I was a first generation college student,” Hassman said. “Part of what Rory Dawn goes through in doing well in school, is that she has to deal with her family not understanding why it’s important.”

When she is not touring to promote her book, Hassman teaches online English 2 classes at SMC. She herself attended SMC for four years. “I didn’t graduate high school, so going to a community college was definitely the way that I had to start,” she said. “And I’m so happy that I did, because I love all the choices we have at community college.”

Hassman stated that many first generation college students share the problems her novel’s main character, Rory Dawn, has. “I did a report on the drop out rate of first generation college students as an undergrad, and at that time it was a third higher than the typical population,” she said.

“So I think that is one thing about the book that is useful to our school population,” she said. “That [being a first generation student] is traumatic. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. It doesn’t mean that your family is doing anything wrong. It can just be painful.”

When asked about the Literary Series, Hassman confessed that she went to only one reading while attending SMC.

“I worked full time when I was here, so it was hard to do these other things. One of my regrets as a graduated person is that I didn’t take advantage of more of the amazing options that SMC and most schools offer,” Hassman said.

The Literary Series is sponsored by SMC Associates, a community group that makes campus events, speakers, and performances outside of the classroom possible for students.

According to SMC’s website, “the SMC Associates was founded in 1981 by a group of community leaders and college educators with a mission to enrich the college campus environment and to broaden students’ understanding and appreciation of the larger world.”

“We want students to learn something outside of the classroom; that’s the value of all this,” said Judy Neveau, Director of Community Relations at SMC Associates. She is also in charge of the Literary Series.

This is the ninth year of the Literary Series. There will be a total of four authors scattered throughout the semester. “We try to get authors that appeal to our students,” Neveau said. “Students can expect to hear a nice cross section of voices and current literature.”

This spring, students will get the chance to attend readings both with distinguished writers such as Tom McNeal, author of “Goodnight, Nebraska,” and award-winning poets, like Lory Bedikian and Cassandra Love. All lectures take place in HSS 165 between 11:15 a.m. and 12:35 p.m.

“If you attend the series all four times, you will get a diverse assortment of authors and a variety of voices,” Neveau said.