‘It’s a real honor’: Guest author, filmmaker share work with Whittier College students

February 14, 2024

Author Jennifer Clement, left, stands with Whittier College Spanish Professor Doreen O'Connor-Gómez’s transnational cinema class after a discussion of Prayers for the Stolen. Written by Clement, the novel was adapted by Tatiana Huezo.Whittier College’s roots in the world of literature go as far back as its poet namesake, John Greenleaf Whittier.

No matter the medium — from Los Angeles Times journalists to co-founders of record companies — creative minds are drawn to the institution. Answering an invitation from English Professor Tony Barnstone, author Jennifer Clement came to campus this month to discuss her work and read excerpts from Prayers from the Stolen, Gun Love, and Promised Party.

“Whittier has a history of inviting extraordinary people to come to read and talk,” Clement said. “Writers like to come to Whittier because so many of the great writers have come here. It's a real honor.”

Clement was joined by director ​​Tatiana Huezo at the behest of Spanish Professor Doreen O'Connor-Gómez, who saw her latest film El Eco (The Echo) in Madrid in the fall. Huezo adapted Clement’s novel ​​Prayers for the Stolen into the 2021 drama about drugs and human trafficking. The Whittier event was an opportunity for the creators to reunite and discuss their collaboration. 

From Feb. 6-8, the pair stayed on campus at the Dezember House to fully immerse themselves in Whittier’s beautiful scenery in between lectures and film screenings. Clement, a past president of the writing association PEN International, said mentoring students is extremely valuable.

“We're an organization that believes in freedom of expression, but we also believe in the power of literature to create social change and personal change,” Clement said. “I love to teach.”

Director Tatiana Huezo speaks to first-year student Gabby Mares in Professor Jennifer Holmes’s directing class. For those that missed the screening of Huezo’s newest film, El Eco, a retrospective of her work will be shown in Los Ageles in May.Huezo likewise regularly accepts invitations to share with students her creative processes about what goes into making a film, such as casting, research, adapting, and more.

“It's like a mission in my life,” Huezo said. “Whenever I can, I share my knowledge with students.”

While they predominately spoke to film and writing classes, the diverse study body and interdisciplinary studies of Whittier meant Clement and Huezo presented to math and engineering majors as well as other eager and engaged students from different backgrounds. O’Connor-Gómez estimates that nearly 300 people attended the events.

“It was quite an exceptional group,” Clement said.

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