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Student wins Fulbright Scholarship to further jazz-era research

April 25, 2011

Tracey Swan

Ada “Bricktop” Smith made a cameo appearance in a Woody Allen movie, helped American jazz leap across the Atlantic to find a second home in 1920s Paris and was a legendary doyenne of French café society.

But little has been written about Smith, an African American woman who defied the social, cultural and economic conventions of her day. Until now. Chapman University student Tracey Swan MFA/MA ’11 has received a Fulbright Scholarship to further her research of Smith in the coming academic year at the University of Paris and the Quai Branly Museum, under the supervision of Professor Ludovic Tournès, author of New Orleans on the Seine: The History of Jazz in France.

Swan’s interest in Smith was sparked in 2009 while interning at the American Library in Paris, where she encountered Smith’s memoir.

“Of course she was mentioned in most of the literature about the period but there was not much solely about her, which made me interested to find out more about her as an individual and her influence. She arrived in Paris just with everything she could carry, she did not did speak any French, and from that became someone who was very famous and at the height of the café society,” Swan says.

Swan credits Mark Axelrod, professor of English and director of the John Fowles Center for Creative Writing, for encouraging her to apply for the Fulbright.

“It represents such an opportunity that I never would have imagined that I would have had. Dr. Axelrod was super encouraging. I didn’t know if I would get it. He said you won’t get it if you don’t apply,” says Swan.

Swan received her BA in English and an MA in women’s and gender studies from The University of Texas at Austin. She is the co-founding editor of 34thParallel, a quarterly print magazine that features fiction, poetry, photography and interviews with new and emerging writers and artists. After completing a dual MA/MFA at Chapman, she plans to pursue a doctorate in comparative literature.

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