Migrations announces winners for creative writing, art

Migrations: A Global Grand Challenge, part of Global Cornell, has announced the winners of its annual creative writing and art competition and four of the six are students from the College of Arts & Sciences.

With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Just Futures Initiative, the Migrations initiative sponsors this  annual competition open to Cornell undergraduate and graduate students. Six awards of $1,000 are made annually. The A&S winners are Ishika Agrawal ’23, Shehryar Qazi ’24, Fátima Martínez ’24 and Juan Harmon, a graduate student in poetry.

For the competition, Agrawal, who is part of the Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity, wrote a set of three poems entitled “Creating Home.” Each poem tells the story of a grandmother, mother and daughter from a family that emigrated from India to the United States. It explores the intergenerational relationships that immigrants retain with their homeland and its histories pre-migration, just after migration and a generation later.

Qazi’s entry is an essay largely about two novels: Mohsin Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and Tayeb Salih’s “Season of Migration to the North.” In his essay, Qazi, a government and economics major, connects the two novels to his own identity as a Pakistani immigrant. Much of his essay explores complicity by many of what he calls “the sharpest and most brilliant minds from home” in exploiting the Global South and its resources, as well as how he views the two novels as cautionary tales.

Martínez, a psychology major, used her entry to detail her experience on March 13, 2020, a day which she called “the day the world stopped,” but also the day she received her likely letter from Cornell. She explores how the roles of children and parents — in families in which only the parents were immigrants — reverses over time. In her view, the parents work hard to provide a better life for their children than the ones they left, but as the children grow up, they believe they need to aid and protect their aging parents.

Harmon’s entry takes the form of two selections. The first selection explores the story of immigrant mentalities, such as the opening lines of his poem “Once a Month My Father Brought KFC Home for the Family,” in which he states that his grandmother would “eat the bones if she could.” His second selection explores the different worldviews between elder immigrant generations and their second- and third-generation descendants.

Jonathan Mong '25 is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.

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Migrants carry everything they own to find a better life in a new home.
Courtesy of the Cornell Chronicle