It’s all coming full circle for Daphne Palasi Andreades (’15). The up-and-coming author will serve as this semester’s Sidney Harman Writing Fellow, a part of the Harman Writer-in-Residence Program, which Ms. Andreades participated in as a Baruch student only a few years ago.
“When they reached out to me about participating, I remembered all that I had learned from the program and how formative it had been,” says Andreades, who will speak with students, faculty, staff, and alumni as part of a Zoom event on April 22. “So it was an automatic ‘yes.’ It just feels so right to come back and give back.”
It’s been a whirlwind few years for Andreades. She recently signed a two-book deal with Random House, and her debut novel, Brown Girls, is set for release in January 2022. The novel explores the lives of working and middle-class women of color in Queens, NY; an excerpt from the forthcoming book won the 2019 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.
“There are so many years and labor that go into just finishing the manuscript itself,” she says. “Then there’s a whole other process: finding the right agent, going on submission, finding the right editor. It’s all been really exciting.”
Andreades, a Queens native whose parents immigrated to New York from the Philippines in the ’90s, first came to Baruch hoping to study journalism, thinking it would be the perfect way to combine her interests in writing and telling stories about her community. But she soon found herself drawn more towards English courses and contemporary literature. She credits Baruch’s faculty with having inspired her to get more involved in the arts.
“In terms of the program, being on the smaller side, I felt like I got a lot of attention from the faculty as an English student,” she says. “It was easy to just walk up to my very first English professor, Grace Schulman, and tell her, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of majoring in this…Do you know of any internships?”
Thanks to Schulman’s help, Andreades landed an internship at Poets & Writers magazine. She also served as managing editor of Baruch’s literary magazine, Encounters, and her work as a student earned her three Harman Student Writer Awards and the Kanner Prize for Outstanding Honors Thesis.
After graduation, she backpacked through Southeast Asia and became an ESL teacher in Thailand. She eventually decided to return to New York to pursue a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University. All the while, she worked jobs as a pre-K teacher and bartender to make ends meet.
Her time at Columbia started off rocky, and she was unsure if she wanted to remain in the program for a variety of reasons, including what she calls the “culture shock” of being surrounded by students from very different—and, in many cases, privileged— backgrounds.
“Not only that, but Columbia didn’t have a lot of faculty members who were people of color, and a lot of the short stories I was writing at the time were about immigrant families,” she says. “Workshops felt very strange for me and made me think that maybe I shouldn’t write about people from my background.”
But heading into her second year at Columbia, Andreades resolved to “let go of all of those fears” and focus on her writing. Acclaimed author Paul Beatty became her faculty mentor, and, soon after, she began working on the short story that would become Brown Girls—a story that earned her Columbia’s 2018 Henfield Prize.
When Andreades speaks at Baruch in April, she will be only the second graduate to be invited back by the Harman Program, the other Bill Cheng (’05). She looks forward to sharing her story and insight with the Baruch community and hopes she, and her forthcoming novel, can inspire students the same way she was inspired just a few years ago.
“I’m just thrilled about the opportunity,” she says.