DISTINGUISHED WRITERS SERIESInformation about all of our past Distinguished Writers Events, organized by month, can be found in our online archive. All readings will take place in the drawing room of the Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities and are free and open to the public.
Distinguished Writers Series: Deni Béchard
Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 4:30PMNewhouse Center for the Humanities, Green Hall/Free and Open to the Public
Deni Béchard was born in British Columbia to Québécois and American parents and grew up in both Canada and the United States. He has also traveled in over fifty countries. His recently-published memoir, Cures for Hunger, describes growing up with his father who was a bank robber, and was both an IndieNext pick and Amazon Canada’s editor’s pick as one of the best memoir/biography of 2012. His first novel, Vandal Love, was published in French and Arabic, and won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, both for the best first book in Canada and for the best overall first book in the British Commonwealth. It was also nominated for Le Prix du Grand Public Salon du Livre Montréal / La Presse, 2008, as well as the French version of Canada Reads (Le Combat des Livres, 2009), and in 2012 was on Oprah’s Book Club’s summer reading list. He has been a fellow at MacDowell, Jentel, Ledig House, the Anderson Center, Vermont Studio Center, and the Edward Albee Foundation. He has done freelance reporting from Northern Iraq as well as from Afghanistan, and has written for a number of magazines and newspapers, among them the LA Times, Outside, Salon, VQR, the National Post, Maisonneuve, Le Devoir, the Harvard Review, and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Empty Hands, Open Arms, a book about conservation in the Congo rainforest, will be published in October 2013.
Distinguished Writers Series: Claire Messud
Monday, March 03, 2014, 4:30PMNewhouse Center for the Humanities, Green Hall/Free and Open to the Public
Claire has taught at various colleges and universities, including Amherst College and Kenyon College, and in the MFA program at Warren Wilson College. Her first novel, When the World Was Steady, and her book of novellas, The Hunters, were finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; her second novel, The Last Life, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Editor’s Choice at The Village Voice; all three books were New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Her novel, The Emperor’s Children, was on several best books of the year lists, including the Los Angeles Times, Economist, Chicago Tribune, and People magazine, and was named one of the “10 Best Books of the Year” for 2006 by the New York Times Book Review. Her most recent book, The Woman Upstairs was published in April 2013. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, and the Straus Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Distinguished Writers Series: Elizabeth Kolbert
Monday, March 17, 2014, 4:30PMNewhouse Center for the Humanities, Green Hall/Free and Open to the Public
Growing out of Elizabeth Kolbert's groundbreaking three-part series in The New Yorker (which won the 2005 National Magazine Award in the category Public Interest), Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change brings the environment into the consciousness of the American people and asks what, if anything, can be done, and how we can save our planet. The book was one of the100 Notable Books of the Year (2006) by The New York Times Book Review. She is currently at work on The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (February 2014), a book about mass extinctions that will weave intellectual and natural history with reporting in the field.Elizabeth Kolbert has been a staff writer for The NewYorker since 1999. Kolbert received the prestigious Heinz Award, which recognizes individuals who are addressing global change caused by the impact of human activities and natural processes on the environment. She has also been awarded a 2010 National Magazine Award in the Reviews and Criticism category for her work in The New Yorker, and the Sierra Club’s 2011 David R. Brower Award. Elizabeth Kolbert’s stories have also appeared in The NewYorkTimes Magazine,Vogue,and Mother Jones, and have been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing and The Best American Political Writing. She edited The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009. A collec- tion of her work, The Prophet of Love and Other Tales of Power and Deceit, was published in 2004. Prior to joining the staff of The NewYorker, Kolbert was a political reporter for The NewYorkTimes.
Distinguished Writers Series: Chris Abani and Christina Garcia
Tuesday, April 01, 2014, 4:30PMNewhouse Center for the Humanities, Green Hall/Free and Open to the Public
Chris Abani's prose includes Song For Night, The Virgin of Flames, Becoming Abigail, GraceLand, and Masters of the Board. His poetry collections are Sanctificum, There Are No Names for Red, Feed Me The Sun - Collected Long Poems, Hands Washing Water, Dog Woman, Daphne's Lot, and Kalakuta Republic. He holds a BA in English (Nigeria), an MA in Gender and Culture (Birkbeck College, University of London), an MA in English and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing (University of Southern California). He is a Professor at the University of California, Riverside and the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize & a Guggenheim Award.
Cristina García is the author of six novels: King of Cuba, The Lady Matador’s Hotel, A Handbook to Luck, Monkey Hunting, The Agüero Sisters, winner of the Janet Heidiger Kafka Prize; and Dreaming in Cuban, finalist for the National Book Award. García has edited two anthologies, Bordering Fires: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a Literature(2006) and Cubanísimo: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Cuban Literature (2003). She is also the author of three works for young readers, Dreams of Significant Girls (2011), a young adult novel set in a Swiss boarding school in the 1970s; The Dog Who Loved the Moon, illustrated by Sebastia Serra, (Atheneum, 2008); and I Wanna Be Your Shoebox (Simon and Schuster, 2008). A collection of poetry, The Lesser Tragedy of Death (Akashic Books), was published in 2010. García holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Barnard College, and a Master's degree in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Her work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into 14 languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and an NEA grant, among others. García has been a Visiting Professor at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas-Austin and The University of Miami. She teaches part time at Texas Tech University and will serve as University Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University-San Marcos from 2012-14.
Distinguished Writers Series: Etgar Keret and Benjamin Percy
Tuesday, November 11, 2014, 4:30PMNewhouse Center for the Humanities, Green Hall/Free and Open to the Public
Hailed as the voice of young Israel and one of its most radical and extraordinary writers, Etgar Keret is internationally acclaimed for his short stories. Born in Tel Aviv in 1967 to an extremely diverse family, his brother heads an Israeli group that lobbies for the legalization of marijuana, and his sister is an orthodox Jew and the mother of ten children. Keret regards his family as a microcosm of Israel. His book, The Nimrod Flip-Out, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006), is a collection of 32 short stories that captures the craziness of life in Israel today. Rarely extending beyond three or four pages, these stories fuse the banal with the surreal. Shot through with a dark, tragicomic sensibility and casual, comic-strip violence, he offers a window on a surreal world that is at once funny and sad.
"A brilliant writer...completely unlike any writer I know. The voice of the next generation." —Salman Rushdie
Benjamin Percy is the author of a novel, The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), winner of the Society of Midland Authors Award for Fiction; and two books of stories, Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf, 2007) and The Language of Elk (Carnegie Mellon, 2006). His second novel, a psychological thriller entitled Red Moon, will be published in 2013 (Hachette). His fiction and nonfiction have been read on National Public Radio, performed at Symphony Space, and published by Esquire, where he is a regular contributor, Men's Journal, Outside, the Paris Review, Tin House, Chicago Tribune, Orion, GQ, Men's Health, The Wall Street Journal, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other magazines and journals. His honors include a National Endowment for the Arts, a Whiting Award, the Plimpton Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories. His story "Refresh, Refresh" was adapted into a screenplay by filmmaker James Ponsoldt and a graphic novel (First Second Books, 2009) by Eisner-nominated artist Danica Novgorodoff. He teaches in the MFA program in creative writing and environment at Iowa State University.
"Percy skillfully mines the psychic wildernesses of his characters." — Publishers Weekly