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: Colson Whitehead
Tuesday, October 07, 2014, 4:30PMNewhouse Center for the Humanties, Green Hall/Free and Open to the Public
Colson Whitehead was born in 1969, and was raised in Manhattan. After graduating from Harvard College, he started working at the Village Voice, where he wrote reviews of television, books, and music. His first novel, The Intuitionist, concerned intrigue in the Department of Elevator Inspectors, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway and a winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club's New Voices Award. John Henry Days followed in 2001, an investigation of the steel-driving man of American folklore. It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. The novel received the Young Lions Fiction Award and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. The Colossus of New York is a book of essays about the city. It was published in 2003 and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Apex Hides the Hurt (2006) is a novel about a "nomenclature consultant" who gets an assignment to name a town, and was a recipient of the PEN/Oakland Award. Sag Harbor, published in 2009, is a novel about teenagers hanging out in Sag Harbor, Long Island during the summer of 1985. It was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Zone One (2011), about post-apocalyptic New York City, was a New York Times Bestseller. The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death, a non-fiction account of the 2011 World Series of Poker, was published in 2014. Colson Whitehead's reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's and Granta. He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, A Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
Distinguished Writers Series: Nathalie Handal and Robin Robertson
Monday, October 27, 2014, 4:30PM
Newhouse Center for the Humanities, Green Hall/Free and Open to the Public
Nathalie Handal was raised in Latin America, France and the Arab world. Her most recent books include the critically acclaimed Poet in Andalucía, which Alice Walker lauds as “poems of depth and weight and the sorrowing song of longing and resolve,” and Love and Strange Horses, winner of the 2011 Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award, which The New York Times says is “a book that trembles with belonging (and longing).” Handal is the editor of the groundbreaking classic The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology, winner of the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award, and co-editor of the W.W. Norton landmark anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond, both Academy of American Poets bestsellers. Her most recent plays have been produced at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Bush Theatre and Westminster Abbey, London. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Vanity Fair, Guernica Magazine, The Guardian, The Nation, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Ploughshares. Handal is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, winner of the 2011 Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature, and Honored Finalist for the Gift of Freedom Award, among other honors. She is a professor at Columbia University and part of the Low-Residency MFA Faculty at Sierra Nevada College.
Robin Robertson is from the Northeast coast of Scotland. He has published five collections of poetry–most recently Hill of Doors–and received a number of accolades, including the Petrarch Prize, the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Cholmondeley Award, and all three Forward Prizes. He has also edited a collection of essays, Mortification: Writers’ Stories of Their Public Shame; translated two plays of Euripides, Medea and theBacchae; and, in 2006, published The Deleted World, a selection of free English versions of poems by the Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer. His selected poems, Sailing the Forest, will be out from FGS in Fall 2014.
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. His most recent book, Suddenly a Knock on the Door (2010), became an instant #1 bestseller in Israel and came out in the US in 2012.
"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
Distinguished Writers Series: Zadie Smith
Monday, December 01, 2014, 4:30PMPendleton Atrium, Wellesley College/Free and Open to the Public
Novelist Zadie Smith was born in North London in 1975 to an English father and a Jamaican mother. She read English at Cambridge, graduating in 1997. Her acclaimed first novel, White Teeth (2000) won a number of awards and prizes, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book), and two BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards (Best Book/Novel and Best Female Media Newcomer). White Teeth has been translated into over twenty languages. Her tenure as Writer in Residence at the Institute of Contemporary Arts resulted in the publication of an anthology of erotic stories entitled Piece of Flesh (2001). In 2013, Zadie Smith’s short story, The Embassy of Cambodia was published in the United Kingdom as a stand-alone story in book form, selling in excess of 40,000 copies in the first year of publication. Zadie Smith’s second novel, The Autograph Man (2002), a story of loss, obsession and the nature of celebrity, won the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction. In 2003 and 2013 she was named by Granta magazine as one of 20 ‘Best of Young British Novelists’. On Beauty, was published in 2005, and won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. She has also written a nonfiction book about writing entitled Fail Better (2006). Her book, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, came out in 2009. Her novel, NW (2012) was named as one of the New York Times' '10 Best Books of 2012.’
Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of Creative Writing at New York University.