Mark Gudgel

  • Mark Gudgel, Adjunct English InstructorMarkGudgel_web

    In his tenth year of teaching literature and composition, Mark believes that apart from being a good husband and father, there is no higher calling than to work in education; for him, the definition of "education" is an expansive one.

    Mark traveled to Rwanda in 2008 and has since founded a non-profit organization to conduct teacher training in Rwanda as well as other nations affected by genocide and crimes against humanity. In addition, he has just returned from sabbatical in London, where he was researching the use of labels in Holocaust education.

    A testament to the potency of his travels, Mark's compelling personal narrative, "Like a Stone," was published in Volume 14. The photo accompanying this interview was taken the day he visited Murambi, the setting of his narrative. Mark quips, "I'm the 'mzungu' … in the white polo. This picture was taken in 2011, in the southern province of Rwanda. Just so happened that these young gentlemen were up for a foot race.... They all beat me, of course."

    His experience at Murambi was anything but lighthearted in impact, however. In "Like a Stone," Mark gives witness to his emotional evolution at the memorial of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. As the story unfolds, it grips the reader with an urgent, disturbing, quiet ferocity.

    Mark spoke with Illuminations about his experience and about his belief that being true to one's own voice and perception, no matter what the experience, is the essence of good writing.

    Illuminations: "Like a Stone," describes your emotional response to visiting Murambi, a memorial to and location of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda. Why did you feel a need or desire to commemorate this experience in writing?

    Mark: Honestly, it wasn't about commemoration so much as decompression. I needed an outlet or I was going to explode, so I chose to write it down. I still don't speak about Murambi much, even now. I've visited all kinds of historic sites, concentration camps, mass graves, and memorials over the course of my life, but nothing ever impacted me the way visiting Murambi did. To this day I'm not entirely sure of why that is. Maybe the juxtaposition of the kids playing on the hillside right outside the rooms where the dead and I were face to face, I don't know, I had just never had such an experience prior to that day.

    I didn't write that piece with the intent of publishing it, but when I was going back over some essays a while ago, it kept nagging at me, and I decided to offer it up in the hopes that it might be of value to some reader out there. The people I know who have been there and who have also read my piece, there are maybe two or three of those, just say things like "Yep," or "Yeah, it was like that for me, too." Those who haven't been there...well, I'm not sure what they get out of it. They don't often say much.