Rona Wang, Selam Gano win 2018 De Courtivron Writing Prizes

MIT Global Studies and Languages has announced the winners of the Isabelle de Courtivron Prize for 2018.

First Prize went to sophomore Rona Wang, from Portland, Oregon, who majors in mathematics with computer science (Course 18-C), for her story “Acceptance Day.”  The story explores identity, race, and bigotry in the United States through the voice of a young Chinese girl, her Japanese friend, and an older Chinese boy in New York’s Chinatown during World War II. The judges found that “Wang compels us seamlessly and inexorably toward a surprising ending to a story that not only reveals the plight of immigrants in the America of the past but forces us to confront the dangers of today in the age of “America first” and resurgent white nationalism.”

Second Prize was awarded to senior Selam Gano, from Denver, Colorado, who majors in mechanical engineering, for her non-fiction piece, “Outside the Looking Glass,” which explores how human beings categorize and value — or devalue — others based simply on the ethnicity suggested by their appearance. The judges said that Gano’s piece “leaves us with a vivid awareness of this kind of racism and the inspiration to move beyond it.”

The Isabelle de Courtivron Prize is an award for student writing on topics related to immigrant, diaspora, bicultural, bilingual, and/or mixed-race experiences. This writing prize was established by MIT’s Center for Bilingual/Bicultural Studies (CB/BS) in order to honor distinguished Professor Emerita Isabelle de Courtivron, one of the original founders of the CB/BS, and to reward high quality undergraduate writing (creative or expository). The prize was established on the occasion of de Courtivron’s retirement in 2010. The prize competition is open to all MIT undergraduates.

The Isabelle de Courtivron Prize Selection Committee this year included Global Studies and Language lecturers Eric Grunwald (chair), Min-Min Liang, and Mariana San Martin.