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Lane Center's Surabhi Balachander Wins Prestigious Western Literature Association Award

Kylie Gordon
Oct 27 2020

The Western Literature Association has awarded Surabhi Balachander, '17, the J. Golden Taylor Award for her essay on poet Juan Felipe Herrera

Surabhi Balachander stadning on a field with elk in background

Surabhi Balachander, '17, a member of the Lane Center staff and a current doctoral student at the University of Michigan, has won the Western Literature Association's (WLA) prize for best essay submitted to the annual WLA conference by a graduate student. The Taylor Award is named in honor of the WLA's first editor, who was also one of the association's founders and presidents. 

Balachander served as Lane Center program coordinator before enrolling in Michigan's Language and Literature PhD program in the fall of 2018. Her research centers on rurality as an identity, specifically as it intersects with racial, ethnic, regional, and other identities, in American literature of the last one hundred years. A graduate student representative on the WLA Executive Council, Balachander's Taylor Award-winning essay considers former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera as a deeply environmental writer, though he has not widely been recognized as such.

"I've been working on Juan Felipe Herrera's poetry since I was an undergraduate," Balachandar shared. "I think he's really underrated as an environmental writer, and the ways he presents intersections between agriculture and race are brilliant. I also chose to submit this paper to this year's WLA because he won the Distinguished Achievement Award from the organization," she continued.

The paper, titled "Border-Collapsers: Globalization and Anthropocene Assemblage in the Work of Juan Felipe Herrera," also examines the larger themes of capitalism, agriculture, and urbanization. As noted in the abstract, the essay argues that "Herrera remaps the West across national borders and offers a vision for place-based, but not localized, Anthropocene identity formation." 




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