An article in The Atlantic reported last year that nearly a third of Americans had not read a book in the time span of a year. From paperbacks to the now ever so popular e-book, Atlantic says that the number of people who do not read books at all has tripled since 1978. With a little research into the world of books myself; it wasn’t hard to notice that the lack of diversity in the publishing realm is probably not helping. Books and literature in general, that appeal to people of color and LGBTQ+, has also seen a steady shortage. According to the Center for American Progress, in 2014, people of color made up 40 percent of just 13 states.
EL PASO — For a while now, UTEP’s Speech and Debate team has faced a lack of literary diversity and its inaccessibility for use in competitive speeches and interpretive events. With a minimal amount of dramatic literature that focuses on people of color, specifically Hispanics, the team has had to deal with a deficiency of available texts by and about people of color for student speeches and competitions. Despite the lack of diverse materials, the University of Texas at El Paso team has traveled the nation for forensic competitions from Portland, Oregon, to Gainesville, Florida, presenting speeches on a variety of topics important to college students: from new medical technologies, race, LGBTQ and identity issues, among many others. In its more than 30 year history, the UTEP team has won hundreds of speech awards nationwide. “The first thing that we really start with is figuring out an event and a topic,” said Carlos Tarin, associate director of the Speech and Debate program in the Department of Communication.
EL PASO — With the current expansion of its nationally recognized program, the Bilingual Creative Writing Department at the University of Texas, El Paso has created new opportunities for the students and the local community including an online MFA in bilingual creative writing that transcends typical collegiate writing programs elsewhere in the nation. Recently, the department has brought in two prominent international poets, one from Cuba and the other from Spain, for poetry readings that drew several hundred students and local residents to the UTEP campus. Cuban poet Luis Lorente in September gave a well-attended poetry reading, followed by Spanish poet Francisco Valverde in October, and this week UTEP’s Andrea Cote-Botero, associate professor of the Creative Writing Department, will launch her newest book of poetry La Ruina Que Nombro. “The department of creative writing is making a great effort to bring important poets to our area especially those poets who are of special interest to our community,” said Cote-Botero. Lorente is an award-winning poet and is widely known for Esta Tarde Llegando La Noche (Night Coming this Afternoon) which won the Casa de las Americas prize for poetry in 2004, and Mas Horribles que Yo, ( More Horrible Than I) which won the Critics Award in 2006.