University of Minnesota,Master of Fine Arts – Creative Writing, Nonfiction, expected 2016
Vassar College, Bachelor of Arts in English, 2010
“Haunted by a photograph of my grandfather, the nuclear scientist, standing unmoved in front of a billowing orange mushroom cloud, I began to trace the intersection of family and national secrets, guilt, responsibility, and love, drawing from history, science, philosophy, poetry, memory, and imagination to shed light on questions that deepened by circles and accretion.”
Throughout her life, Emily Strasser, 27, has not only used writing as a creative outlet, but also as a way of bringing meaningful stories to the forefront. Now, in her final year of her M.F.A. at the University of Minnesota, and with the support of the her Hawkinson Foundation scholarship, she is embarking on her most personal writing assignment yet.
In honor of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, Emily traveled to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, to conduct interviews with survivors. Her family history includes a nuclear scientist grandfather who worked toward the development of atomic weapons. This research will help transform her graduate thesis into her first book, “Nuclear Family,” in which she explores the “intersection of family and national secrets, and the burden of secrecy on the home, the nation and the world.”
“Combining research, memoir, journalistic and creative elements, I attempt to access and express deep and contradictory human truths that other fields flatten or ignore. I asked when I began, and am still asking — what does peace look like in a world in which good people are complicit with injustice?”
Emily is no stranger to using writing to elicit action. With support from the University of Minnesota Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship, she traveled to Dharamsala, India, in 2014 and logged close to 30 hours of interviews with refugees escaping Chinese rule in Tibet.
“The refugees had come to India at great personal risk; they came for education, to meet the Dalai Lama, or to flee repercussions for political actions. Some had been imprisoned and tortured for attempts to speak out against their oppression. The men and women who generously shared their stories with me were passionate and courageous, hopeful that airing their truths would aid the Tibetan cause.”
Emily used this experience to spark conversation about the current state of Tibet. She created an exhibition at the Soap Factory art gallery in Minneapolis and her essay entitled “The Chair,” which profiles a monk who was imprisoned and tortured after secretly filming a documentary in Tibet, was published by Guernica: A Journal of Arts & Politics.
Emily is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from Vassar College in 2010 with a B.A. in English and a minor in Anthropology. She will graduate in 2016 with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota.
“Emily is a remarkable writer, a profoundly committed researcher with an uncanny ability to penetrate—gently, but with acuity—distant lands and cultures, and to consider harrowing political histories.” — Patricia Hampl, Regents Professor, Department of English, University of Minnesota