Alicia Harmon is a senior majoring in interdepartmental sociology, African American and African Diaspora Studies. She is also minoring in Spanish, psychology, and creative writing. The creative works she has been awarded for come from a short story titled “Naked” and the first chapter of her upcoming novel My Body Remembers You.
Harmon’s novel-in-progress explores how families navigate their traumas, dreams, and the conflicts of developing sexuality in hostile spaces. The main character defines what it means to be her true self as a Black woman when so many others have already tried to decide for her. “In the novel, I’m processing a range of personal experiences and social issues including sexual trauma and exploration, classism and respectability politics, difficult family relationships, and how families define love,” said Harmon. Both of Harmon’s writings draw heavily from what she has learned throughout her honors thesis, Respectability, Violence, Sex, and the Self: Black Women’s Redefinition During the Black Power Movement, where Harmon explored Black women’s evolving self-conceptualizations. “I aimed to better understand Black women’s intimate and political lives through their history and individual testimonies in fiction, film, biography, and autobiography,” she said.
Harmon’s mentor, Maria E. Hamilton Abegunde, Ph.D., is the founding director of IU’s Graduate Mentoring Center and a faculty member in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies. Harmon was first introduced to Dr. Abegunde through one of her IU courses, Memory, Trauma, and Dealing in the African Diaspora. Dr. Abegunde became her thesis advisor the following year. “She encouraged me to study Black women and the many intersections of our lives in a way I hadn't before,” said Harmon, “through working with her, I've come to understand myself, my goals, and my creative and academic potential in ways I didn't quite understand before. I was going through a lot when I first met her, and I truly think I would be a different person walking a different creative and academic path without her help in healing and growing.”
Harmon understands the extreme competitiveness of the writing world, but is still determined to continue on her creative journey. Encouragement from Dr. Abegunde, other IU professors, and her father have kept her going. “To be nominated, much less awarded, for the type of work I love doing is so exciting and validating,” Harmon said, “while I strive to be self-motivated and disciplined, it means so much to have other people rooting for me.” Harmon plans to finish her novel this May and continue to fully dedicate herself to writing. She has arranged for a gap year after graduation to edit her novel and potentially pursue teaching and writing abroad opportunities. Her future academic plans are to apply for a Master of Fine Arts degree, a graduate-level program for students interested in studying visual and performing arts, design, or creative writing.