Hasanthika Sirisena

Department: English & Creative Writing

Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing

  • Education

I was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to America when I was still too young to understand what was happening. My first memory of America—not so surprising—is looking up at the McDonald's ‘Golden Arches' and standing in a bookstore staring at the cover of the Wizard of Oz.

Before becoming a writer, I trained as a visual artist and have among my degrees a BFA in studio art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I teach nonfiction and have a particular interest in the personal essay, the lyric essay and the video essay. I am particularly drawn to—given that I'm technically Generation X—in a post-punk aesthetic and love Raymond Pettibon, Black Flag and the Sonic Youth. In the mid '90s, I moved to New York City and fundraised for a number of arts institutions including the New Museum of Contemporary Art, where I worked on my short story collection while pretending to write grants.

I enjoy reading a wide range of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. My most recent find is Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High School, which I am still trying to wrap my head around. My favorite bookstore in the world is the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg with the Strand Bookstore in New York City running a close second.

The Other One: stories, The Juniper Literary Prize Series, University Massachusetts Press, March 2016  

2006  Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing, Fiction, City College of New York
1995 Master of Arts - Education Communication and Technology, New York University
1993 Bachelor of Arts - Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 
1992 Bachelor of Fine Arts - Fine Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago  

Selected Fiction
"Surrender," Every Day People: The Color of Life - A Short Story Anthology (Atria, August 28th 2018) reprint 
"Surrender" Stories in Motion series, MTA and New York Public Library, March 2018 
"Kings," The Short Story Advent Calendar 2017, Hingston & Olson Publishing (Canada), reprint 
"The Chicken House," Bridge Eight, Jeff Parker guest editor, Winter 2016 
"Treble Seven, Double Naught," descant, vol. 54, 2015 
"War Wounds," The Kenyon Review, Spring 2011, Volume XXXIII, Number 2 
"Third Country National," Glimmer Train, Winter 2011, Issue 77 
"The Woods," Asian American Literary Review, Spring 2010, Issue 1 
"Surrender," Guernica, February 2010 edition, Claire Messud, guest-editor 
"Murder the Queen," Guernica, November 2009 edition, Amitava Kumar and V. V. Ganeshananthan, guest-editor  
"Ismail," Narrative Magazine, Stories of the Week 2008-2009  
"The Intercontinental," Epoch, Volume 57, Number 2, 2008 series  
"The Chief Inspector's Daughter," StoryQuarterly Annual 2007  
"The Best and the Brightest," Witness, Exile in America, vol. XX, 2006  
"The Demon," Bellevue Literary Review, vol. 6, no. 2, 2006  
"Pine," Best New American Voices 2005, Harcourt Books, 2004  
"Kings,Denver Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 42004

Selected Nonfiction and Criticism
"In the Presence of God I Make This Vow," Kenyon Review Online, forthcoming May 2019 
"Labor Omnia Vincit," WSQ, February 2018  
"Of Pallu and Pottu," Wherever I'm With You, editors Margo Kahn Case and Kelly McMasters,  Seal Press (forthcoming November 14, 2017)
"Broken Arrow," Copper Nickel, no 25, Fall 2017 "Lady," The Arkansas International, Issue 2, Spring 2017  
"Jaffna," Letter to a Stranger Series, Off Assignment, October 14, 2016  "Review: Masked," American Book Review, Volume 37, No. 4, May/June 2016  
"Review: Masks of Truth," American Book Review, Volume 37, No. 2, January/February 2016 
"Confessions of a Dark Tourist," Michigan Quarterly Review, Volume 54, Number 3, 2015            
Review: Creating One's Self," American Book Review, January/February 2014, Volume 35,  no. 2
"Shyam Selvadurai returns with novel of raw human longing," The Globe and Mail, April 7, 2013
"Diwali 2012: The Festival of Lights after Hurricane Sandy," Open City, Issue #16  
"Pretty Girl Murdered," WSQ, vol. 34, no. 1 & 2, 2006  

Professional Experience - Teaching  
Spring 2016-present Visiting Assistant Professor, Susquehanna University            
Classes taught:            

  • Introduction to Fiction             
  • Advanced Fiction             
  • Introduction to Nonfiction             
  • Intermediate Memoir and Essay             
  • Forms of Writing: Short Story             
  • Forms of Writing: Essay             
  • Immigrant Literature of the Americas             
  • Small Press Publishing Workshop             
  • Advisor Honors Projects             
  • Advisor Susquehanna Review 
  • Advisor Sanctuary           
  • Advisor Essay

Winter 2007-Fall 2017 Instructor, Gotham Writers' Workshop, New York            
Classes taught:

  • Fiction I (online and live) 
  • Fiction II Fiction III
  • Creative Writing 101             
  • Private mentoring  

Fall 2004-Fall 2016  Adjunct Lecturer, City College of New York, New York            
Classes taught:             

  • Advanced Fiction Workshop (undergraduate)             
  • Intermediate Creative Writing - Reading as a Writer            
  • Introduction to Creative Writing             
  • English 110 Writing and Composition             
  • World Humanities 101  

Teaching Interests

  • Nonfiction                  
  • Short Story                                         
  • Video Essay
  • Fiction                        
  • Narrative and New Media                 
  • Immigrant Literature
  • Essay                          
  • Queer Literature                                 
  • Small Press Publishing           

Editorial Experience 
August 2013-present   Associate Fiction Editor, West Branch, Bucknell University

Awards and Recognition
"Broken Arrow," nominated for a Pushcart Prize 
John N. Wall Fellowship, Sewanee Writers' Conference, July 2017 
Margaret Bridgman Fellow, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, August 2016 
Susquehanna University Faculty Grant, 2015 - 2016 
Gary Wilson Short Story Award for "Treble Seven, Double Naught" awarded by descant 
Winner, Juniper Prize for Fiction, University of Massachusetts Press 
"Confessions of a Dark Tourist" nominated for a Pushcart Prize 
Finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize, Sarabande Press
"War Wounds" named distinguished story in Best American Short Stories 2012
"Third Country National" named distinguished story in Best American Short Stories 2011
Finalist, Flannery O'Connor Prize, University of Georgia Press       
Fellow, Yaddo, June - July 2011
"Third Country National" nominated for The Pushcart Prize, 2010
National Endowment of the Arts Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, April-May 2010    
Bernard O'Keefe Scholar, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, August 2009
Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, September 2008
"The Chief Inspector's Daughter" nominated for The Pushcart Prize, October 2007    
Georges and Anne Borchardt Scholar, Sewanee Writers' Conference, July 2007

Selected Interviews and Reviews
 "The War Continues," The American Book Review, Volume 38, Number 1, December 2016
"Why Sri Lankan-American writer Hasanthika Sirisena Is An Outsider and Likes It That Way,"   Scroll.in, Friday, October 14, 2016
"Smudging the Boundaries of Otherness," Fiction Writer's Review, May 14, 2016 
"Review of Hasanthika Sirisena's The Other One," Small Press Review, May 2016 
"Hasanthika Sirisena's Country Surrealism," The Margins, April 13, 2016 
"Celeste Ng's Seven Short Story Writers," Vela Magazine, October 2015
"Evolution of Voice: Q&A with Hasanthika Sirisena and Alexandra Kleeman," Girls Write Now

Selected Juries  
VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, 2017 
Fiction Fellowship, Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown 2017 and 2018 
Fiction Fellowship, Bakeless Carmago Fellowship, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 2013 
Scholars Committee, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 2011  

Selected Panels  
Life after Your MFA, City College New York, New York City, April 2017 
Civil Violence, New Sri Lankan Lit, Asian American Writers Workshop, New York City, October 2016. 
Home: A Four Letter Word, Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Washington DC 2017 
This is My Word For That: Teachers Offer Their Most Helpful Invented Craft Terms,
Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Washington DC 2017 
The Elements of Story, Slice Literary Conference, New York City, September 2016 
Then We Came to the End, Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Los Angeles, CA, March 2016
Guest Speaker, Girls Write Now, October 2014

Selected Readings  
St. Mary's College, South Bend, Indiana, March 2018 
Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, Massachusetts, March 2018 
Towson University, Baltimore, Maryland, March 2017 
Housing Works, New York, New York, November 2016 
WordUp Bookstore, New York, New York, July 2016 
LostLit Series, New York, New York May 2016 
Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, April 2016 
Unnameable Books, Brooklyn, New York, August 2015 
Samadhana Series, Sri Lankans Without Borders, Toronto, Canada 2012 
Powerhouse Bookstore, New York, New York 2009 
Lillian Vernon Creative Writer's House, New York University, New York, October 2008  

Hasanthika Sirisena's essays and stories have appeared in Copper Nickel, The Globe and Mail, WSQ Narrative, The Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, Epoch, StoryQuarterly, Narrative and other magazines. Her work has been anthologized in Best New American Voices, Everyday People: The Color of Life, This is the Place: Women Writing about Home and named a notable story by Best American Short Stories in 2011 and 2012. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and is a Rona Jaffe Writers' Award recipient. She is also the winner of the 2015 Juniper Prize in Fiction. Her collection The Other One was released by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2016. She is currently an associate fiction editor at West Branch literary magazine.

Courses taught:

  • ENGL-100 Writing and Thinking
  • ENGL-205 Living Writers
  • ENGL-205 Queer Lit
  • ENGL-245 Immigrant Lit of the Americas
  • ENGL-265 Forms of Writing: Short Story
  • ENGL-265 Forms: Personal Essay
  • ENGL-540 Internship
  • OFFP-SAFRICA Travel Writing in South Africa
  • OFFS-SAFRICA Travel Writing in South Africa
  • PRDV-104 Perspectives
  • WRIT-251 Introduction to Fiction
  • WRIT-253 Introduction to Creative Nonfiction
  • WRIT-270 Small Press Publishing and Editing
  • WRIT-351 Intermediate Short Fiction
  • WRIT-353 Intermed Memoir Essay
  • WRIT-353 Intmed Comic & Graph Essay
  • WRIT-353 The Public Essay
  • WRIT-453 Advanced Memoir/Essay/Graphic
  • WRIT-500 Independent Study
  • WRIT-520 Practicum
  • WRIT-540 Internship