Why Major in English?

Thelma Young
Middle and High School Teacher

Faculty - Thelma YoungMy first exposure to literature was from the back of an all-white classroom in southern Mississippi. At a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but as I progressed through high school, my access to literature consisted only of works written by white men. On occasion we read literature written by white women, but we never were exposed to black authors. In spite of this, I still enjoyed literature because it gave me a glimpse into the lives of people who lived outside the racial tension of the Deep South. And reading was something I could do for free. My family was poor, but I could walk to the public library and borrow the books I wanted to read.

I was an adult before I discovered black female authors, and I was very excited to read stories authored by black women who had a voice like mine. A professor at Philadelphia Community College introduced me to Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora led me to Toni Morrison who led me to Alice Walker. Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens inspired me to find my own voice and to write a book about the women in my family. By this time I was a student at UNF, and with funding from a Transformational Learning Opportunity (TLO) grant I was able to research and publish The Stories My Foremothers Told Me, which chronicles the lives of five women in my family who witnessed the Civil Rights Movement. A few years later, I received another TLO grant from UNF which provided funding for my second book All You Could See Was the Water: Hurricane Katrina through the Eyes of Children. While writing this book, I had the opportunity to combine life lessons with all the lessons I learned as an English major at UNF.


I currently teach storytelling, world literature, and creative writing to middle and high school students at Greenwood School in Jacksonville. My favorite literary works are Madame Bovary, In Search of Lost Time, Ulysses, and Beloved.