English professor’s manuscript confronts Japanese sex slavery

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NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – Westminster College hired four new faculty to start this fall semester, and among them were an English professor.

The new English professor, Trisha Cowen, Ph.D., has a lot of interesting experience in literature, writing, and travel.

She received her doctoral degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at Binghamton University (SUNY), in New York. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Cowen gained experience when she worked as a sports journalist for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Which introduced her to a new culture and added to her interest in further travels.

While taking a course at Emerson College, Cowen was introduced to the topic of comfort women in a class on World History. Which is about 20,000 to 310,000 women who were either forced or tricked into prostitution during the Asia Pacific War. These women were rounded up and imprisoned in comfort stations where they were raped and abused by military personnel from 1932 to 1945.

Her class did not cover the topic, which lead to her beginning her own research on the topic. The diverse and lost stories of the comfort women haunted her and motivated her ten years of research on the topic.

The research was financially provided by the Marion Clayton Link Fellowship in Creative Writing and the Rosa Colecchio Travel Award for Dissertation Research, which Cowen received.

Cowen spent 2013 and 2014 researching in China and Japan. The research enabled her to write her first fiction novel manuscript Five Thousand Days of Autumn, in the narrative of a former Japanese comfort woman named Nakashima Wakana (Kana). Which tells the story of Kana moving to the United States with her American husband.

“As a white American woman writing in the narrative of a Japanese comfort woman was difficult and took a lot of research to accomplish. Visiting comfort stations and museums in Japan and China aided my writing,” said Cowen.

For her work in Asia she received Binghamton University’s Graduate Student Award in Research Excellence. She received this award because the novel is the first to capture the experience of a comfort woman of Japanese descent.

Cowen would love to travel with her Westminster students and show them around Asia.

Travel is such a great addition to education, and one of my favorite ways to teach students about a new culture would be to take them to Asia, and introduce them to Asian food and restaurants,” said Cowen.

Her creative work has appeared in The Portland Review, Bitter Oleander Press, 2 Bridges Review, and many others. She is the 2014 winner of the Gertrude Press Chapbook contest for fiction.


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