|Your name: Karissa Kang
Your home town: Coral Springs, Florida
Your major(s): Classics and English
Are you fluent in any language(s) other than English? Conversational Korean
What are your career plans? I hope to teach someday at either the secondary school or university level.
What is your favorite book or author and why? Two books I love are Homer’s Iliad and Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. With literally millennia between their composition dates, one might expect the two texts to be wildly different, but I actually gravitate towards them for largely the same reasons. They both display magnificently the wonder of language, and, indeed, there’s hardly a sentence in either that isn’t a delight to read. But the Iliad and If on a winter’s night a traveler aren’t merely aesthetically pleasant—they explore the expansive range of human emotion, and delve deeply into moral dilemmas, political strife, and, I think most importantly, the strangeness of life.
What is your favorite word? Kaleidoscopic
Describe a significant breakthrough in your development as a writer.
I was a freshman in high school when a teacher first told me something I had written was bad. Of course, my English teacher was more circuitous in saying so, but my grade, the lowest I had ever received in my life, said it all. I was shocked. Like most people, I cruised through middle school language arts classes, which mostly consisted of multiple-choice questions anyway, and I’d always considered myself an above-average writer. So, at first, upon receiving my graded paper, I bathed myself in self-pity, wondering how other students in my class had done so much better than me, but, with time, I became determined to do better. I aggressively revised my essay, and, when I re-submitted it, received a marginally better grade. Still unsatisfied, for the rest of the semester, I conferenced with my teacher and continued to revise my papers in part, of course, because I wanted a better grade, but also in part because I wanted genuinely to better myself. I had experienced firsthand the pleasure of self-improvement, and it was exhilarating. Today, I’m still far from a model student, and there have been a few embarrassing occasions during which I’ve turned in hasty first-drafts to my teachers. But that first bad grade I received in high school did succeed in slapping the arrogance straight out of me, and it instilled in me instead the humility necessary for me to become a stronger writer.