Responding to Human Rights Issues through the Arts

Sunday, June 11, 2017 to Saturday, June 17, 2017

Though this class is primarily a writing workshop, it’s overarching theme is that of Human Trafficking. From advanced nations in the West to the so-called under-developed countries in other parts of the world, slavery persists without any sign of a complete eradication. According to The United Nations, the human trafficking trade generates $31 Billion annually and enslaves 27 million people around the globe, half of whom are children under the age of 18. And this flies in the face of the fact that slavery is illegal in every nation on earth. Through in/out-of-class writing exercises, assigned readings, your workshop stories, and class discussions, we will examine the reasons why such a glaring atrocity continues to thrive in the modern world.

In 1946, George Orwell wrote in a short essay titled Why I Write, that “There are four great motives for writing,” which he listed as sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. Using the above ideas as springboard for a class symposium, we will be asking ourselves three questions: (1) Why do we write?, (2) Why write fiction in particular? and (3) What we, as writers, could do to make a difference. During our six-day session students will be encouraged to carry out a personal analysis of what motivates, inspires, or informs their writing. Students will also be expected to submit at least one workshop piece that deals with the issue of human trafficking.

The other equally important focus of the workshop will be on your writing. Most of the class time will be dedicated to discussing and critiquing your work and providing ideas on how to improve a draft and sharpen your overall writing skills. Craft-wise we will examine the structure of the short story and the novel, as well as the basic elements of fiction such as characterization, dialogue, plot, tone, setting, theme, and viewpoint. And finally to be in tune with the summer session’s theme, we will be taking an in-depth look at the role of activism in fiction, and how that affects form and ;style.


Mohammed Naseehu Ali, a native of Ghana, is a writer and musician. He is the author of The Prophet of Zongo Street, a short story collection. Ali’s fiction and essays have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Mississippi Review, Bomb, A Gathering of Tribes, Essence, Open City and other publications. He was the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo and The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Ali lives in Brooklyn, New York, and teaches undergraduate fiction at NYU's Creative Writing Program. His short story "Ravalushan" was recently selected as one of The Best American Short Stories 2016. Ali holds degrees from Bennington College and Interlochen Arts Academy.