Priya Tait ('21) Whalen Finalist for her Essay on Queerness in Modern Fiction

May 12, 2021

Priya Tait (’21) presented her essay, “Bringing Queerness into Non-Queer Narratives,” as a finalist at the 2021 Whalen Symposium. The essay, she said, is an examination of queer characters in contemporary fiction, and argues that we need to create space in literature for queer people to exist within stories that do not inherently revolve around queerness. 

“The most common places we see queer characters in contemporary fiction is in stories where the character’s entire arc revolves around their queerness and grappling with what that means,” Priya said. “While these kinds of stories are important, they are not the only ones that queer people should be present in. We need stories where characters can have compelling storylines that don’t always revolve around them being queer.” 

Priya added that while she first wrote the essay for a class, Teaching Creative Writing taught by Assistant Professor Raul Palma, she never viewed it as merely an assignment. As a queer person and an avid reader, she said, this trend in how queer characters are treated in contemporary fiction is something she has been aware of and in disagreement with for quite some time. She added that, even as a young reader, she wanted stories that had compelling narrative arcs that did not pigeonhole characters into stories exclusively about queerness. 

“Working on it was deeply important and personal to me, and gave me the chance to voice a lot of thoughts I’d been having about contemporary fiction for a long time,” Priya said. “I felt incredibly honored to be able to present, especially since this is a subject that’s so important to me.” 

Palma, who encouraged Priya to submit her project to the symposium after she completed it for his class, said that he was extremely impressed with her presentation and overall project. 

“She did a fantastic job at Whalen; she represented the Department of Writing well,” Palma said. “The presentation was a beautiful culmination of many of Priya’s interests.” 

Congratulations, Priya, for this outstanding accomplishment!