Novelist, English professor Dionne Irving Bremyer on empathy, creative writing and climate change’s impact on culture

Author: Jon Hendricks

Through her fiction, Dionne Irving Bremyer is exploring ways in which climate change can erase culture right along with landscape, as well as the resulting implications. 

“What happens if some place like the Caribbean becomes like Atlantis?” asked Bremyer, who is an associate professor in English and the Creative Writing Program at the University of Notre Dame. 

Because Notre Dame is interested in developing the whole person, she said, it’s an ideal place to write fiction and think about the world.

Bremyer, an affiliated faculty member of the Initiative on Race and Resilience, is the author of the short story collection The Islands, which is one of 10 books longlisted for the 2023 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. In it, she traces the lives of Jamaican women who have relocated all over the world to escape the ghosts of colonialism on the Caribbean island nation. 

She is also the author of the novel Quint (7.13 Books), a fictional retelling of the true story of the Dionne quintuplets, and her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Story, Boulevard, LitHub, Missouri Review and New Delta Review, among other journals and magazines. Two essays, “Treading Water” and “Do You Like to Hurt,” were notable essays in Best American Essays 2017 and 2019. 

Reading stories about people who are like us, and not like us, helps develop empathy and provides appreciation of what it means to be human, Bremyer said. 

“We still read Hamlet, right? And we get something out of it, not necessarily because we are Danish princes, but because we can have the experience of understanding what it means to have difficult family situations.”

Originally published by Jon Hendricks at on Feb. 10.