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First-Year Investigations: Katherine Montgomery

Illustration by Joel Kimmel
Illustration by Joel Kimmel

Katherine Montgomery
Montclair, New Jersey
Creative Writing

A woman walking briskly down the street. A man donning a fedora. These uncomplicated sights inspire Katherine Montgomery in her fiction writing.

Montgomery realized her passion for writing in high school after participating in a summer writing program at Brown University where she was introduced to the short story. Her desire to always be creating something led her to declare a major in creative writing.

“I always liked books but I think that sometimes there’s a lot more to be said with fewer words,” she said. “There are so many things that one can do these days with a writing major because it makes you a really incredible communicator.”

As a writer, she will be sharing insights into many different aspects of humanity. Wanting to more deeply understand people from various backgrounds and ethnicities, Montgomery jumped at the chance to study creative writing with an emphasis on anthropological and African American studies in an FYI seminar under Lanita Jacobs.

Students in Jacobs’ course are taking a critical look at authenticity and what forms people’s opinions about what is real, with a focus on African American culture.

“Ideas of realness and authenticity are something that we hear about all the time, especially in popular culture, but to what extent are we truly being real?” Montgomery asked.

Montgomery, who hopes to mesh her photography and writing passions, is eager to learn from her professor-mentor and has been a frequent visitor to Jacobs’ office to discuss her writing.

Determined to get fully involved during her first year, the Presidential Scholar is tutoring children through USC Dornsife’s Joint Educational Project (JEP) and is a Daily Trojan photojournalist. As she considers writing a novella, short stories or a coffee table book, Montgomery knows she can approach Jacobs with queries.

“It’s so incredible to be able to sit in a room and talk one-on-one with a published author,” she said of Jacobs, who wrote From the Kitchen to the Parlor: Language and Becoming in African American Women’s Hair Care (Oxford University Press, 2006). “I can’t believe I found someone like her my first semester here.”

FYI Class: To Be Real: Interrogating Authenticity

“I want to shake students’ understanding of the real. People are concerned about the genuine, the real deal, questions of sincerity and that’s what I want to steer students’ eyes toward with African American culture as the central context for exploration.”

- Lanita Jacobs, associate professor of anthropology, and American studies and ethnicity

In this FYI seminar, students probe what it means to be “real” and who decides what is genuine or “fake.” Through the analysis of literature and art as well as performances, including visits to comedy clubs and campus events, students gain deeper perspectives of the issues and stakes of authenticity.

Read more articles from Dornsife Life magazine's Fall 2011/Winter 2012 issue