Dr. Eben Wood: From Brooklyn to Korea And Back Again

Photo by Shannon Pagdon

Wood’s accomplishments take him far outside the classroom.

With his deep, resonant voice and articulate way of speaking, Dr. Eben Wood is a captivating storyteller. Fittingly, stories are something Dr. Wood has a lot of. A published author, Dr. Wood is infectiously passionate about language, writing and literature. An avid reader, he enjoys just about any genre and a variety of subjects and is knowledgeable about a great deal including history, psychology and philosophy. His office is comfortable, the shelves filled with a variety of novels (from classic to contemporary) and papers cluttered on the desk, giving the office an immensely pleasant feeling.

But before all of his accomplishments, Dr. Wood grew up in a small and secluded town, which shaped much of his early perceptions of the world.

“We grew up in rural Maine so, very isolated and we [he and his siblings] had our imaginations, we tried to explore the world,” Wood said.

He and his sister-an artist and teacher herself- were both highly creative, Dr. Wood mentioned he still enjoys making collages, saying putting unlike things together often assists with his writing. His childhood was not altogether easy; his father had issues with drugs and alcohol and was never able to work, causing Wood’s mother to bring in the family’s whole income. Dr. Wood says his background is a difficult thing he has struggled with through life, being an educated white male in this country, people often assume a lot about his background, though most of the time he says they are incorrect assumptions, as he did not come from as privileged a background as people often think.

Regardless, during his life, Dr. Wood has traveled to many interesting places.

“I don’t like to be a tourist. I don’t generally travel just for the sake of traveling,” Wood said. “And that’s why tying my writing and the stories together with travel has allowed me to start doing that [traveling] in different ways. I went to the Deep South, to New Orleans and the the Mississippi Delta, I’d been there before, but about three years ago to do a story there which was then published and that opened up some more opportunities.”

Including some of his undergraduate studies in London, Dr. Wood has been to places including Israel, Puerto Rico, South Korea and North Korea, which he spoke about at Kingsborough Community College Monday, March 19. Dr. Wood first became interested in Korea after his father’s death in 2006.

“I had no relationship with him, I had barely seen him over the last fifteen years of his life,” said Wood.” But when my sister and I had to clean out his things I found all the letters he had written back, he grew up here in Queens, the letters he wrote to his parents when he was deployed there in the ’50s during the war and I started working on a piece of writing.”

He developed a passion to learn more about the stories behind the letters and visited first South, then North Korea in the years to follow. In 2013, Dr. Wood had been teaching at Kingsborough for seven years and was eligible for his sabbatical year. It also happened to be the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Dr. Wood happened upon three young Canadian men who spoke fluent Korean and were all interested in visiting North Korea to see how the war would be commemorated. He was given the opportunity to travel there, which was an incredible and defining experience for him. He also got the opportunity to speak to a 94-year-old Chinese veteran of the Korean war over the course of a day, which in itself was a one-of-a-kind experience.

Dr. Wood is currently developing his creative passions in a number of ways, including learning the guitar, continuing with his collages and of course, writing. He is currently developing a creative writing program here at Kingsborough along with another professor. Dr. Wood is also involved in the Kingsborough community and a passionate professor when it comes to every student.

“On the one hand, there’s the dialogue with the students particularly in certain courses, which is very exciting and interesting there’s people from all over the world, with different backgrounds and different interests. On the other hand, there’s the institution which has provided some real space for me to work but also challenged me to try and change the institution. You know, I can’t rely on it, we have to shape it, it’s a place that needs support and help.”

Author: Shannon Pagdon

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