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Department of English Language and Literature


Authors

 

Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead

While The Open Book loves to find under-the-radar books or visit the past, sometimes a recent "it book" is too good not to include. The Underground Railroad won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and the Heartland Prize for 2016. It was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, became a #1 New York Times Bestseller, was picked by Oprah, and was a Best Book of the Year for the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsday,  Esquire, and many others. The National Book Award judges' citation describes it well: "The Underground Railroad confirms Colson Whitehead’s reputation as one of our most daring and inventive writers. A suspenseful tale of escape and pursuit, it combines elements of fantasy and the counter-factual with an unflinching, painfully truthful depiction of American slavery.... He has given us an electrifying narrative of the past, profoundly resonant with the present." A graduate of Harvard, Whitehead is the author of five earlier novels, a book of essays about New York City, and a nonfiction work on the World Series of Poker. (Monday, March 26: Talk on The Underground Railroad; Wednesday, March 28: Colson Whitehead visits)

Cristina Garcia

Cristína Garcia

El Comandante, an aging Castro-like dictator shambles about his mansion in Havana, visits a dying friend, tortures hunger strikers, and grapples with the stale end of his life that is as devoid of grandeur as his nearly sixty-year-old revolution. Across the waters in Florida, Goyo Herrera, a Miami exile in his eighties, plots revenge against his longtime enemy—the very same El Comandante—whom he blames for stealing his beloved, ruining his homeland, and taking his father’s life. Shifting between the two men with great resonance and humor, and peppered with other Cuban voices to create a patchwork of history’s unofficial stories, García’s novel plumbs the passions and realities of these two Cubas—on the island, and off. Cristina García’s work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into fourteen languages. Author of six other novels as well as works in other genres, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and an NEA grant. Though it's difficult to name García’s finest work, King of Cuba is her greatest contribution to our understanding of twentieth-century Cuban history and what it means for this century. (Monday, April 2: Talk on King of Cuba;Wednesday, April 4: Cristina García visits)

Anthony Marra

Anthony Marra

This remarkable debut novel, set in rural Chechnya, moved hardened book critics to tears, led others to announce the arrival of a new Tolstoy or a contemporary Chekhov. Ron Charles of the Washington Post describes A Constellation of Vital Phenomena this way: “A flash in the heavens that makes you look up and believe in miracles....Here, in fresh, graceful prose, is a profound story that dares to be as tender as it is ghastly, a story about desperate lives in a remote land that will quickly seem impossibly close and important." The novel won the National Book Critics Circle’s inaugural John Leonard Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in fiction, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, and appeared on over twenty year-end lists. It was a National Book Award long list selection as well as a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and France’s Prix Medicis. Marra holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where he teaches as the Jones Lecturer in Fiction. Also author of the story collection The Tsar of Love and Techno, Tony Marra is known for being thoughtful, wise, and authentic when interacting with readers. (Monday, April 9: Talk on A Constellation of Vital Phenomena; Wednesday, April 11: Anthony Marra visits)

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera is author of more than a dozen collections of poetry as well as short stories and children’s literature. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN West Poetry Award. His honors include the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows. The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera was educated at UCLA and Stanford and earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He was named California's poet laureate in 2012 and the U.S. poet laureate in 2015. Notes on the Assemblage combines erasure, translation, and elegy in a challenging but immensely rewarding collection that reveals the fraught places where lives fuse and cleave and people are marked by both violence and tenderness. The Washington Post calls the volume a splendid introduction to this poet's expansive work. In its starred review, Library Journal writes, "As he assumes his post as the 21st U.S. Poet Laureate—Herrera is releasing a visually acute, punch-in-the-gut collection that shows off both his craft and his heart. Wound even more tightly than his previous collections … As always, Herrera’s signature language is immediate, visceral, in the moment, sometimes razzy-jazzy, and compacted to create intensive feeling. Urgently written and important to read, even if Herrera weren’t in the Library of Congress limelight.” (Monday, April 16: Talk on Notes on the Assemblage; Wednesday, April 18: Juan Felipe Herrera visits)