Carnegie Mellon University
January 19, 2021

England Writes to Pay Tribute to Ghosts from his Past

By Bill Brink

Quotes and anecdotes are the tools with which Jason England conveys his thoughts.

During a virtual event with students, the Carnegie Mellon University English professor injected them into his talk, pivoting around them, using them to set up his points. Upon quotes from Carlos Fuentes and Marilynne Robinson, England built the description of his background and how it influenced his life. 

“I write, I teach, and I suppose I’m here today because I’ve seen the face of death, and because memory is a sense of loss and loss has pulled me after it,” England said during a Professional Journeys discussion hosted by the Institute for Politics and Strategy’s Center for International Relations and Politics.

This was not hyperbole.

England grew up in New York City, splitting time between a welfare hotel in Times Square and the projects in Harlem. Gunshots and drug use were commonplace in the hotel, a glorified crack house. He still hears the screams of people falling down the freight elevator shaft. After his mother pulled a knife from the chest of a neighbor whose wife had stabbed him, he took the knife and kept it for 30 years.

“I don’t know how to talk about my professional journey,” he said, “because it has not been traditional.”

Read more about England’s journey