Faculty Highlight- Dr. Jakubiak

The 2016 presidential election was a shocking and tumultuous time to witness in the United States. Donald Trump’s victory of a more conservative America reminded Dr. Jakubiak of her youth in Poland. The fall of communism in the country meant citizens could vote for who they wanted in office. Since she was seventeen at the time of these elections, Dr. Jakubiak was ineligible to vote, and was incredibly alarmed and shocked at how much support the radical candidate gained.  She noticed how these two historic events created a parallel within her life, and became the source of inspiration for her book Alien States.

Dr. Jakubiak describes her literary work as “creative writing project” which contains a variety of work, such as “a collection of essays that border on short stories, poetry, lyric essays, and creative non-fiction.” She was inspired to include personal essays after reading Azar Nafisi’s memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, a book which includes the unique perspective of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran. Alien States includes a myriad of perspectives that are showcased within each work, such as being an immigrant, a professor of non-western literature, a woman, and a mother. One example can be seen in an essay about viewing family separation policies at the border from a maternal perspective.

The creative journey for Alien States started in 2016 for Dr. Jakubiak, with a publisher that had already published her online stories. This publisher had an online magazine which became an outlet for ideas and subsequent drafts of the essays. These online forums became apart of Dr. Jakubiak’s writing process, as before it was difficult for her to form a writing routine. “When I had an idea and was inspired to write and publish, I would use any spare time to write and work on the essays” she states, “The online forum was a place to publish instantly.” Dr. Jakubiak recounts how the immediate publications on the forum along with the deadlines from the magazines motivated her to finish her work. The entire process to write her book took five years, concluding in the Fall of 2021 when she took her sabbatical. By this time, she already had a number of these essays completed. The sabbatical was a great help in finishing her book, as this time allowed her to edit and publish these essays.

On September 22nd of this year, Dr. Jakubiak traveled to Kolobrzeg, Poland for the literary festival Transport Literacki (Literary Transport). Her book is entirely written in Polish and is known as Obce Stany in Poland. Dr. Jakubiak describes the literary festival as “like being in a different world experiencing poetry, prose, and conversation.” One of the main events at the festival was a live reading that she participated in along with six other artists. “It was arranged like a spectacle” she states “very meticulously planned.” While reading her literary works, Dr. Jakubiak explains that well known Polish musician Hubert Zemler simultaneously played live. This musical element, along with the lighting and stage design enhanced the literary works and drew the audience in, engaging them in a variety of ways. Along with this reading, Dr. Jakubiak also hosted a creative writing workshop and a meeting with the south Korean poet Kim Yideum.

Although the novel is written entirely in Polish, Dr. Jakubiak has plans to translate some of the pieces to English. Not all pieces are able to be translated, as they were written for a polish audience. However, one of the pieces that she hopes to translate is the essay about the underground railroad, as it is universal topic with audiences.