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Manuel Munoz reads college students their bedtime story

Manuel Munoz reads one of his short stories to Bradley students. Photo by William Craine.

Award-winning novelist Manuel Munoz, author of “What You See in the Dark” and “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue,” read one of his short stories and answered audience questions on Wednesday night.

Munoz traveled to the Peoria cold all the way from Arizona. The large turnout and rounds of applause warmed the Wyckoff Room for him.

Munoz spent years of his life looking up and forward to his future success, becoming the first in his family to ever attend college. He attended Harvard University for his undergraduate degree, then continued on to Cornell University for his MFA. Being a first generation college student shaped his everyday experience and writing.

Even though much of Munoz’s work is categorized as fiction, much of it is based on personal experience growing up as a queer Latino from a working class family in rural California.

The short story Munoz chose to read to the crowd is called “Fieldwork,”one of his fiction pieces which appeared in the anthology “Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation.”

Although the story weaves several different anecdotes and touching narratives throughout, the overall focus of the piece was based on the true experience of caring for his father after his father had suffered from a stroke. The reading came from a personal place; his own parents have not yet even heard this story in his voice.

“I liked that he brought in his culture to it … it was part of his stories, but also it wasn’t the focus, like he isn’t solely identified by his culture, but it is part of who he is,” said Kara Holder, English and sociology double major. “He had Spanish in his stories in the places where it fit rather than forcing it … it seemed natural. I liked the emphasis on culture without it being overwhelming.”

Holder appreciated not only the culture Munoz brought, but the personal touch he added by reading aloud.

“I like hearing his inflections, what he emphasizes, what he feels was most important when he was writing it, how he wanted it to be heard and read,” Holder said. “His inflections on certain words can bring a certain meaning to them that you don’t get from just reading it [yourself].”

“It’s always good to hear writers read their own work because you get a new sense of the work, coming from their voice,” agreed Allison Plourde, senior English major.

Holder and Plourde attended the reading to get a taste of what they hopes is their future career.

“Any time anyone comes who can offer some sort of advice to me, who’s in the field I want to go into, then I’m all for it,” Plourde said.

As Munoz closed out the night, he reminded the audience members, many of whom stated they are aspiring writers, that “every head is its own world,” full of story potential.

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