Literary reading honors D.L. Mayfield

Blake Dahlin

Portland author includes her work with refugees in her writing

As D.L. Mayfield took to the podium on April 25, an expectant silence fell over the Art Center.

Since 2006, the Image Journal and the Seattle Pacific University English Department have put on the Fan Mayhall Gates reading.

This year’s speaker was Mayfield, author of “Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary Rediscovering Faith.”

“We started the event in 2006, to honor our beloved colleague Fan Mayhall Gates,” professor Jennifer Maier said.

“We started an endowment in 2006 to bring a literary reader to campus every year. Sometimes it’s a fiction writer, sometimes it’s a poet.”

Mayfield, who writes about a variety of topics, including theology, refugees and more, was the honoree for this years event.

The Fan Mayhall Gates reading is open to students, faculty and the community at large.

“There is quite a buzz about it every year. We have not only students but alumni [in attendance]. The reading is free and open to the public,” said Maier, who gave the introduction to Mayfield at the reading.

Mayfield read a few selections from “Assimilate or Go Home,” along with portions of her upcoming book “The Myth of the American Dream.”

Those in attendance were treated to Mayfield’s reflections on working with a community of refugees in Portland, and the implications that her experiences there have had on her faith.

Mayfield spoke of her initial dream of becoming a missionary in light of her upbringing as an evangelical Christian.

“Missionaries were one of the few places where I could see women thriving,” Mayfield recalled. “I could see them being the hero of the story.”

She continued, “Looking back it’s questionable that they were the heroes of the stories that they were telling, but it’s where I saw women represented, and it’s where I saw strong women represented.”

Her reading went on to paint a more complex picture of her worldview, and how her work with refugees has shaped her beliefs.

Mayfield’s talk focused on the places where faith and social issues intersect.
At the conclusion of the reading, Mayfield fielded questions from the audience.

One audience member asked for Mayfield’s perspective, as a Christian who has worked with refugees, on the influx of immigrants seeking to enter into the United States.
Mayfield responded by stating that she “think[s] it’s a human rights crisis.”

“We always think that we will have compassion during tumultuous times. But we live in tumultuous times, and people from my faith background who have power are not acting with compassion,” Mayfield mused, as she gave the closing remarks of her reading and talk.

This theme of faith colliding with current issues was strung throughout the reading.

SPU student Helena Nguyen reacted to the event, stating, “Even in my class, I am talking about refugees, and how we are treating them. Now, I have heard her perspective, which has reinforced my knowledge on the topic and makes me a more aware person, instead of focusing on myself.”

“It’s just really eye opening, you have to be with them,” Nguyen said, speaking of refugees, “to see and to feel what they actually experience. I have never had that chance.”