Words that Wake Us: A Guest Post by YA Author Ashley Hope Pérez

image of author Out of Darkness is set in Texas, and it takes the 1937 New London school explosion as the backdrop for a secret romance between an African American boy and a Mexican American girl. It’s a book about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

When I began Out of Darkness, my goal was to write a historical novel that would capture experiences largely excluded from the sanitized historical accounts in Texas history books. I wanted to approach the past in a way that would also prompt my readers to think more deeply about the present and the shape of the world around us.

Growing up in East Texas, I heard powerful stories of loss and of survival related to the natural gas explosion that killed nearly 300 students and teachers. But I was driven even more by the stories I didn’t find collected in the archival materials on the disaster. Because the New London school was intended to serve white children, historical accounts of the explosion focused on the tragedy as the white community experienced it; no one recorded how people of color in the area had responded or how they viewed the disaster.

image of book cover Gaps in the historical record catalyzed my imaginings of the two teenaged characters at the center of Out of Darkness: African American Washington Fuller and Mexican American Naomi Vargas. They meet in East Texas, where Wash is a long time native and the son of the New London Colored School’s superintendent. Naomi is a beautiful and painfully shy high school senior who has just moved to New London with her younger twin half-siblings, Beto and Cari (short for Roberto and Caridad). They’ve come to East Texas from San Antonio to live with the twins’ white stepfather so that the children can attend the New London School. The lighter-skinned twins quickly settle into their new life, but Naomi encounters hostility and racism. Wash helps her navigate the day-to-day demands of her new life, befriends the twins, and awakens Naomi to her own desire for love and freedom. Wash and Naomi’s love grows through secret meetings and stolen moments in the woods, but they know that they can’t hide forever. What they don’t know, though, is that the worst school disaster in U.S. history awaits, threatening to shatter the school, the community, and their hopes for a future where they can be together.

Because Out of Darkness is set in the South during the 1930s, color lines shape the story. In San Antonio, for example, Naomi and the twins are forced to attend “Mexican” schools with overcrowded classrooms and underqualified teachers. In East Texas, Wash attends a “colored” school with a shorter school day and year, and Naomi is sent to the back entrance of New London’s only grocery store. Although forced segregation of schools and communities may be a thing of the past, the effects—and reality—of segregation linger on. Wash experiences the heightened vulnerability that still characterizes the lives of many today, as evidenced in the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride, to cite just two examples. Racism and violence have deep roots in our history, and these roots are among the painful legacies that Out of Darkness examines.

James Baldwin once noted that, in the U.S., “words are mostly used to cover the sleeper, not wake him up.”

Reading fiction is no substitute for engagement with the world around us. I hope, nevertheless, that Out of Darkness confronts readers with words that that wake them to the human cost of racialized violence and wake them to the need for change in our communities.

About the author: In addition to Out of Darkness, Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of the YA novels The Knife and the Butterfly, and What Can’t Wait. She grew up in Texas and taught high school in Houston before pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature. She is now a visiting assistant professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University and spends most of her time reading, writing and teaching on topics from global youth narratives to Latin American and Latina/o fiction. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Arnulfo, and their son, Liam Miguel. Read her Q&A here.

 

A Peek Inside ‘Circuit Riders for Mental Health’

book coverIn honor of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health’s 75th anniversary, we’re shining the spotlight on a forthcoming book by Texas A&M social and cultural historian William S. Bush. In Circuit Riders for Mental Health: The Hogg Foundation and the Transformation of Mental Health in Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2016), Bush tells the story of the Hogg Foundation’s central role in transforming the way we think, talk, and make policy about mental health in Texas and the nation. It also provides portrayals of the visionary men and women who pushed relentlessly to improve mental health for the people of Texas.

A community partner of the DDCE, the Hogg Foundation has been advancing recovery and wellness in Texas and across the nation since it was established in 1940 by “The First Lady of Texas” Ima Hogg. Read more about the foundation’s early beginnings in this excerpt from the book. Visit www.hogghistory.org to read more chapters.

On the evening of Wednesday, February 12, 1941, Homer Rainey, the president of The University of Texas, took the stage of the university’s Hogg Auditorium. He was there for the formal inauguration ceremony of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Hygiene.

In the audience were university faculty members, elected and appointed state officials, members of the news media, prominent Texas philanthropists, and nationally recognized experts in the emerging field of mental health.

As a privately endowed philanthropy housed within a public university, the Hogg Foundation was structurally unique. It also stood out as the only organization of its kind in the nation to be devoted solely to mental health.

Rainey told the audience that they were present for “some real history in the making” that night. The new foundation, he explained, “is going to play the most important role in the redirection of education for the next 20 years – mental health for the normal man.”

Rainey was hardly alone in holding this seemingly grandiose view. Public anticipation of the foundation’s inauguration had been building for nearly two years, ever since the announcement in July 1939 that the Hogg family had made a $2.5 million bequest to establish a “mental health program” at the state’s flagship university.

During the year prior to the inaugural ceremony, Rainey fielded a steady stream of inquiries from across Texas and other parts of the country. The writers were graduate students, university professors, doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, community groups in Texas, researchers in Chicago, professionals in Los Angeles and Boston, and private citizens from across Texas.

Clearly, the coming of the Hogg Foundation had tapped into a wellspring of excitement, as expressed in one handwritten letter: “I almost can’t believe this wonderful news. I am only twenty-three years old, a recent college graduate – but I know the need and value of such a program. I just thrill to think that Texas will enjoy the privileges of this work. I want to have a part in it. I want to work – and I have long yearned, really, to be allowed to enter this type of work. I know that I haven’t the necessary specialized training and experience for the technical, scientific side of the work, but isn’t there something I could do?”

The ceremony thus held different meanings for its varied participants. For its hosts at The University of Texas, it announced a new financial endowment from a prominent Texas family. Other observers looked to the new foundation as a source of support for social reform, not only for its stated purpose to promote “mental hygiene for the people of Texas” but for its association with the Hogg family, which had built a reputation for deploying its wealth for the public good.

For Robert Lee Sutherland, the inaugural director of the Hogg Foundation, it was the beginning of what would prove his life’s great mission: to use the foundation as a vehicle for improving mental health not only for the people of Texas, but for the nation.

For Ima Hogg, it was a memorial for her beloved brother Will, who had died while on a trip with her to Europe, and whose estate provided the money for the foundation.

It was also, for “Miss Ima,” a statement of the kind of future she hoped the foundation would help bring into existence.

It was a future in which people with mental health challenges would be treated with respect and dignity, and mental health would be seen as indivisible from all other aspects of a flourishing and healthy life. Over the decades Texas has come some distance toward realizing that vision, in no small part thanks to the work the Hogg Foundation and its allies have done.

There remains a great deal to be done, however, and the foundation is as engaged in the hard work of realizing Miss Ima’s vision as it has ever been. Under the leadership of psychiatrist Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., the foundation’s fifth executive director, it is deeply involved in reforming and improving mental health practices and policies in Texas at every level of the system.

 

Q&A: Author Kristen Hogan Explores Nation-Wide Feminist Bookstore Movement

image of bookFrom the 1970s through the 1990s more than 100 feminist bookstores built a transnational network that helped shape some of feminism’s most complex conversations. Dr. Kristen Hogan, education coordinator at the DDCE’s Gender and Sexuality Center, traces the feminist bookstore movement’s rise and eventual fall in her new book The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability (Duke University Press, March 2016).

We caught up with Hogan to learn more about the role these bookstores play in shaping feminist thought, and how they have changed people’s lives and the world.

What did you enjoy most about working at two feminist bookstores? 

I’m grateful to Susan Post for hiring me at BookWoman in 1998 and introducing me to feminist bookstores as activist spaces. I worked there for two years before returning to graduate school. When I graduated, I accepted a 14-month position at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, where I was a part of a transformative team of ten staff members and a board building relationships and reading practices for queer antiracist trans-positive feminisms.

When I was interviewing feminist bookwomen for this project, I asked them how working at the bookstores changed them. I echo the answers many shared: lifelong relationships and learning feminist ethics. I call this process of transformation feminist love.

Through the feminist love of the bookstores, I made friends that make my life and this world better. I met my lover of 17 years, and I learned how to read, talk about, and try to live by lesbian antiracism and feminist accountability. I carry those lessons, that feminist love, with me into my everyday life.

What spurred your interest in writing this book?

I met my partner, Milly, at BookWoman while I was working there in 1999. That year, almost 40 feminist bookstores closed. I could tell something was coming to an end, but I didn’t know then about the movement work of feminist bookwomen.

During the early 2000’s, Milly and I bicycled around the hot city, talking about whether feminist bookstores were just women’s businesses or sites of community and activist histories. As I researched the feminist bookstore movement, I found more and more clues to piece together the complex and transnational relationships that feminist bookwomen built together and how they changed how we read women’s literature and each other. Working in and researching the bookstores changed my relationships and what feels possible in my life, so I kept researching and writing!

From a local perspective, what value do feminist bookstores bring to the Austin community?

In Austin, we have feminist bookstores in BookWoman, Resistencia, and Monkeywrench bookstores. Amid the shelves in these movement-based spaces, people have found lovers, friends, writing circles, validation in stories and in each other, and bookpeople who fuel our lives with books and radical framings for how to understand those books differently than we would if we found them on other shelves.

I have joined in raucous celebration of queer racial justice poetics at an open mic at Resistencia; I have squeezed into a circle of people on the floor of Monkeywrench to talk about the violence of gentrification in Austin; and recently at BookWoman I gathered with a sea of people all transformed by Abe Louise Young’s writing and writing workshops as we listened to her read from her new book of poetry.

With a collective breath, in these moments, we are making coalition with each other. We are learning to connect with each other in radical queer feminist love. Part of the lesbian antiracist feminist work of bookwomen has been to see the work of feminists within and across multiple social justice movements.

What role did feminist bookwomen play in shaping feminist thought?

Feminist bookwomen changed how we read feminist literature and each other; I created the term “the feminist shelf” to describe this work. In order to get and keep on the shelves books that mattered, feminist bookwomen supported new authors’ writings (and were authors themselves), advocated with publishers to get feminist writing in print, waged letter-writing campaigns to keep that writing in print, and distributed out-of-print work.

How bookwomen practiced this literary activism mattered deeply. Bookwomen in collective meetings, national and transnational conferences, and on the pages of the Feminist Bookstore News grappled with power sharing and antiracist feminism in their relationships. As they learned new vocabulary to talk ethically with each other, they shared this vocabulary with readers by creating new book sections, book lists and events, and by applying their activist tools in their communities.

In the 1970s the feminist bookstore in Portland, Oregon shut down for a week so that the bookwomen could teach other women about racism and hold the lesbian bar accountable for racist practices. In the 1990s, bookwomen collaborated with Indigenous feminist author Chrystos and Press Gang publishers to create a broadside of Chrystos’ poem Shame On about the violence of white women appropriating Indigenous voices. Bookwomen hung these in their bookstores to educate readers. From 1976-2000, bookwomen shared these and other strategies with each other through the Feminist Bookstore News. This work of the feminist shelf affected conversations in feminism about antiracism, representation and accountability.

Did you come across any surprising findings in your research?

I was surprised to find how many bookwomen were involved in trying to develop antiracist feminist activism and relationships. The bookstores were, in many cities, multiracial spaces and sites of conversation and strategy for lesbian antiracism. I describe lesbian antiracism as a practice of antiracism developed in multiracial conversations that draw on lesbians’ experiences of sexism and heterosexism as interconnected and rooted in racism. All three of these systems must be taken apart in order for any one of them to be dismantled.

When I started this project in the early 2000’s – as now – most feminist bookstores open in North America were run by white lesbians. I interviewed quite a few white women working in or who had worked in feminist bookstores in a few central U.S. cities. It took me longer, as a white researcher, to connect and build trust with women of color who had worked in and transformed the bookstores.

Once I started connecting with more and more feminist bookwomen of color, the stories they shared changed the way I understood the history I thought I knew. I began to see indications of the major work of women of color throughout the feminist bookstore movement.

At A Woman’s Place bookstore in Portland in the 1970s, women reflected on racism in their collective and prioritized supporting the leadership of women of color. Manager Niobe Erebor then pointed out the absence of images of women of color from most posters circulated through the bookstores and began working to create valuable images to share. At the Toronto Women’s Bookstore in the late 1980s. The volunteer collective also prioritized the leadership of women of color; their multiracial board hired activist Sharon Fernandez who published the extensive Women of Colour Bibliography in 1989 and transformed the shape and future of the bookstore.

This history of the bookstores as places where women tried out strategies for racial justice was a surprise hidden by the mid-1990s, when many white feminist bookwomen turned toward book industry activism and away from movement-based conversations. The vital history before that turn offers strategies I need for the relationships that matter to me every day.

How can people help support the few feminist bookstores that are left in this country?

I think that in order to really support feminist bookstores – and many feminist spaces in our cities – we need to know what important movement-based work bookwomen have done. Movement organizations don’t last forever. The success of feminist bookstores is not defined by how long they stay open, but, rather, by the significant legacy they leave us for our future movements. Feminist activists can continue the radical work of feminist bookwomen by learning about and practicing their commitment to lesbian antiracism and feminist accountability.

Save the Date: Writer and Playwright Cherríe Moraga to Speak on Campus on March 24

image of author Feminist playwright, poet and essayist Cherríe Moraga will stop by campus for a roundtable discussion titled “Embodying Activist Research: Gender, Violence and the Politics of Fieldwork” hosted by Student Diversity Initiatives. A part of the Abriendo Brecha Conference—an annual conference at UT Austin dedicated to activist scholarship—the event will take place on Thursday, March 24, 2 p.m. in the Gordon-White Building.

image of bookMoraga co-edited This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, republished in a new edition by SUNY Press in 2015. A political and literary essayist, she has published several collections of writings, including, most recently, A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness; Writings 2000-2010.

For nearly 20 years she has served as an artist in residence at Stanford University in the Department of Theater and Performance Studies and, since 2008, in the Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Program. She is currently completing a memoir.

Moraga will also appear at two off-campus events in March. She will deliver a keynote address on March 24, 6 p.m. at the Art Building and Museum, 2301 San Jacinto Blvd. And she will also give a reading at a community event on March 25, 6 p.m. at Six Square District Office, 1152 San Bernard Street.

Hogg Foundation Staff Member to Read and Sign ‘Exit Right’ at BookPeople

Daniel Oppenheimer web squareDaniel Oppenheimer, director of strategic communications at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, will read and sign his new book Exit Right on Friday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m. at BookPeople.  A new voice in political history, Oppenheimer tells the stories of six major political figures whose journeys away from the left reshaped the contours of American politics in the 20th century.

“[Exit Right] is flawed in the particular way that only great books can be. It fails to fully answer the impossibly ambitious questions it lays out, but its insights are so absorbing that it doesn’t matter [and] the prose is so perfect. … This book proves so satisfying precisely because it leaves you wanting much more. … Oppenheimer began with a book about the origins of political beliefs and ended with one about the literary force of political misgivings. They’re both worth reading.”
—The Washington Post

“Call it natural evolution or ideological midlife crisis, but the figures profiled here … all turned away from the political left, either incrementally or in revelatory bursts. … Brilliant yet fallible, these apostates deserve our attention, Oppenheimer believes. Right or wrong, they ‘reckoned with themselves at the most terrifyingly fundamental level.’”
—The New York Times Book Review

“[A] confident debut. … [Oppenheimer] excels in portraying the personal torments and costs to his subjects in their transitional struggles…. The interplay between large historical movements and personal anguish is well-balanced and skillfully handled throughout. Whether his subjects are viewed as champions or apostates, Oppenheimer’s insightful narrative should inspire some soul-searching among political believers of every stripe.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

More about the Author: Daniel Oppenheimer is a writer and filmmaker whose articles and videos have been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Tablet Magazine and Salon.com. He has an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

A Q&A with Dr. Victor Sáenz, Co-Editor of ‘Ensuring the Success of Latino Males in Higher Education’

image of author While more Latinos are heading to college than ever before, Latino males lag behind other groups—even behind Latinas—in obtaining a four-year degree. To shed some light on this issue, a group of scholars from across the country published their research in a new book titled Ensuring the Success of Latino Males in Higher Education (Stylus Publishing, Jan. 2016).

We sat down with Dr. Victor Sáenz, co-editor of the book and associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration, to learn more about the many complex factors that keep Latino males from succeeding in post-secondary education – and why bridging this persistent achievement gap is a national imperative.

What is causing Latino males to underestimate the value of a college degree?

First let me offer some data. While the number of Latinos attending college and attaining degrees has increased steadily in recent years, the proportional representation of Latino males enrolled in higher education continues to lag behind their female peers. In 2012, Latino males had the lowest high school graduation rates across all male ethnic groups, and more than 60 percent of all associate’s or bachelor’s degrees earned by Hispanics were earned by female students. These trends suggest that, compared to their peers, Latino males continue to face challenges in achieving critical higher education milestones.
That said, I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that Latino males are “underestimating” the value of a degree. Many simply find other means to make a living that may not include a higher education credential, perhaps because they feel a more immediate urgency to be a breadwinner or provider for their family.

Why is it an economic imperative to close this achievement gap?

One way to answer this is by considering the relationship between demographic trends and economic health. Because the Latina/o community is so young and is growing so rapidly in states like Texas and California, there’s a demographic reality that is winding its way through our schooling systems. That said, if half of the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in the country is stubbornly lagging behind everyone else on key educational metrics, this persistent gap could have dire consequences on the long-term viability of our economy and our communities. Latino males in the workforce are concentrated in low-skilled, low-wage jobs, and they have more instability in their employment status. This translates into stunted economic opportunities for Latino males. When coupled with demographic trends this portends a dire economic outlook.

The book examines the factors that inhibit academic success for Latino males. Could you highlight a common barrier that keeps them from completing a post-secondary education?

One common barrier for Latino males that may keep them from completing a college degree is the financial pressures they may be facing to help contribute to their families. Because many are from working-class backgrounds, the immediate urge to join the labor force may outweigh the long-term gains that can flow from a higher education credential.

Research in the book covers an array of factors that promote Latino success in higher education. Could you give an example of one of those factors?

There are several factors we can spotlight. Increasing the achievement of Latino male students requires policy and programmatic interventions that attend to the needs of students both long before they arrive on campus and also immediately after they arrive. We should consider how support is extended through social networks (e.g., college access programs, financial aid). We should also carefully design “on-ramp” experiences for Latino male college students that immediately gets them engaged and connected on our college campuses. Finally, we should re-design our existing orientation and intervention programs with “men in mind”, mindful of the myriad challenges we may face to get Latino males engaged on our campuses.

You direct Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success), a student mentoring program in UT Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. How can programs such as this help increase Latino males’ college graduation rates?

Our Project MALES Student Mentoring Program is focused on the goal of enhancing Latino male academic success through near-peer mentoring, and to inspire others to take action and respond to the growing national imperative for Latino males in education.
The Project MALES Student Mentoring Program connects Latino male undergraduate students from UT Austin (and allies) with males of color in local area middle schools and high schools. We require all of our undergraduate student mentors to enroll in a service-learning course called Instructing Males through Peer Advising College Tracks (IMPACT). Once out in the field, our undergraduate mentors work on improving the college-going culture for young men of color while also providing a safe space for these students to discuss questions related to going to college. They discuss a variety of topics ranging from college preparation to financial literacy to the “soft” skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond.

Our Project MALES Student Mentoring Program can serve as a model for other institutions because we are leveraging the intellectual capital for the benefit of our local community while also providing a dynamic experiential learning experience for our undergraduate mentors.

Why is it important to raise national awareness about the educational crisis facing young Latino males?

This is an important time to raise awareness about the educational challenges facing Latino males because many national, state and local conversations are expanding the definition of males of color to include Latino males and other historically marginalized groups of male students. The shifting demographic reality represented by the growth of the Latina/o community also gives our focus on Latino males a singular urgency.

President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative has brought the educational challenges faced by male students of color to the forefront of education policy discussions. Launched in February 2014, the MBK initiative seeks to improve the educational and life outcomes for boys and young men of color. MBK has brought together public and private organizations, school districts, city leaders, community activists, scholars, students and families, and philanthropic organizations that have pledged a long-term commitment. All of these stakeholder groups represent key target audiences for our book.

Anything else you would like to add?

This book is an ambitious attempt to spark greater awareness and dialogue about Latino males, a fast-growing and increasingly important segment of our national population. It synthesizes the perspectives of new and emerging voices, including graduate students, academics, administrative professionals and higher education leaders. The contributing authors paint a complex portrait of the many factors that contribute to the educational experiences of Latino males in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education. This book represents a commitment to better understand the Latino male educational experience, and its contributors’ hope to parallel the broader and vibrant research agenda on male students of color in higher education. Finally, given the growing state and national imperative to “move the needle” on Latino male student success, this book is a call to action for researchers, educational practitioners, community activists and higher education leaders.

Q&A with Paige Schilt, Author of Queer Rock Love: A Family Memoir

book coverWhen you hear the term “All-American family” what images immediately come to mind? Are you picturing a scene from an 80s sitcom?” Or perhaps a tidy little house surrounded by a white-picket fence? Like apple pie amidst the backdrop of the stars and stripes, these images of the American ideal are embedded in our society, but yet so many families do not fit the mold.

To give readers a new perspective of the meaning of family, author and UT Austin alumna Paige Schilt (MA ’96, PhD ’00) chronicles her own story in her new book “Queer Rock Love: A Family Memoir” (Transgress Press, 2015). Through the power of raw, heartfelt storytelling, she shares the trials and triumphs of raising a gender-nonconforming family in the red state of Texas.

We sat down with Schilt to learn more about some big takeaways from her book—and why it’s important to face adversity head-on and embrace the many obstacles life throws our way.

What inspired you to write your memoir — in other words, why did you have to share your story?

I started writing stories about my tattooed, feminist, gender-nonconforming family—how we navigated day-to-day life in Texas, how we talked to our kid about gender—on an LGBTQ blog called The Bilerico Project. To my surprise, the stories were popular with a broad spectrum of readers, not just queer folks. In fact, some of my most loyal readers were the straight parents of my son’s friends from preschool.

I was working for an LGBTQ social justice organization and becoming increasingly concerned about the politics of family respectability in the movement for equality. I was worried that stories about perfect gay poster families might be effective in the short term, but in the long term, they might be a source of shame for nontraditional families who didn’t see themselves reflected in the model of the shiny-happy, heteronormative nuclear family that just happens to have two moms or two dads. So I tried to write really honestly about all the messiness of my family life, and it turned out that readers really responded to that.

The book covers some deeply personal moments in your life. What was it like revisiting some of the darkest and brightest chapters?

I wrote all the brightest and funniest chapters first, and I waited until I had book contract in hand to write the darkest moments. The middle part of the book is about my wife’s struggle with hepatitis C. Living with chronic illness really distorts your sense of time, and it’s hard to translate that into a compelling narrative. So I procrastinated that part until the end of my writing process, which was probably good because it gave me time to grow as a writer.

The synopsis states that “Queer Rock Love shatters the notion that families are always heteronormative.” Could you elaborate a little more about this?

For me, queer family is about honoring relationships that aren’t defined by blood or marriage or a shared domestic space. The title of the book comes from a song called “Dyke Hag,” which was penned by my friend (and fellow UT alum) Rachael Shannon. The song is a celebration of queer creative community and the non-nuclear-family ties that bind. When I was writing the book, the title was like a string around my finger, reminding me to always keep the big picture of queer community in mind, even as I was writing about marriage and parenting.

What is the most frequent question you’re asked when people read your story?

A lot of people ask if I’m going to make it into an audiobook.

What message do you hope readers will take away from the book?

Be open about your failures and messes. Ask for help when you need it. It will help you connect with other humans.

Do you have another book in the works?

I’m writing an as “as told to” memoir with someone else. It’s all the fun of constructing a compelling narrative, without the angst of dredging up my own secrets.

Michener Center Hosts Reading by Poet and Novelist Laura Kasischke Feb. 11

image of authorThe UT Michener Center for Writers will host a reading by poet and novelist Laura Kasischke on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302 on UT campus.

Kasischke is the author of nine acclaimed books of poetry, most recently The Infinitesimals. She won the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Space, In Chains. She has also written nine novels, three adapted to feature film: The Life Before Her Eyes, starring Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood; Suspicious River; and White Bird in a Blizzard, which premiered at Sundance in 2014. Her collected stories were published in If A Stranger Approaches You. She is the endowed chair of English at the University of Michigan, where she teaches in their distinguished MFA program.

“It is not enough to say that Kasischke’s language is ‘poetic,’ a word that has come to mean ‘pretty.’ Rather, her writing does what good poetry does—it shows us an alternate world and lulls us into living in it.”– The New York Times

Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage, and the event is free and open to the public.

Save the Date! English Alumna to Read and Sign ‘Out of Darkness’ at BookPeople Jan. 8

image of bookYA Novelist Ashley Hope Pérez will stop by BookPeople to read and sign her new book Out of Darkness (Carolrhoda Books, 2015) on Friday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m.

In Out of Darkness. Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people. Read her Q&A for more about the book.

“[This] layered tale of color lines, love and struggle in an East Texas oil town is a pit-in-the-stomach family drama… A tragedy, real and racial, swallows us whole, and lingers.” – The New York Times Book Review

“The work resonates with fear, hope, love, and the importance of memory…. Pérez …gives voice to many long-omitted facets of U.S. history.” – starred, School Library Journal

image of authorIn addition to Out of Darkness, Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of the YA novels The Knife and the Butterfly, and What Can’t Wait. She grew up in Texas and taught high school in Houston before pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature. She is now a visiting assistant professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University and spends most of her time reading, writing and teaching on topics from global youth narratives to Latin American and Latina/o fiction. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Arnulfo, and their son, Liam Miguel.

Before the BookPeople event, she be at the SCBWI Austin lunch with a fellow YA author Cynthia Leitich-Smith on Friday, Jan. 8, 12 p.m. (SCBWI membership required to register). She will also be at a writing workshop at The Writing Barn from 4-6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 10. In Houston, she’ll be signing at Brazos Books on Saturday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m.

Visit these Facebook events to join in on the online conversation.
Austin-BookPeople:  https://www.facebook.com/events/852434314876257/

Houston-Brazos Books: https://www.facebook.com/events/1649418651976776/

 

Save the Date: Michener Center’s Visiting Professors Read their Works Dec. 3

Visiting professors, Jim Crace and Anthony Giardina, will be reading and discussing their literary works at a campus event hosted by the Michener Center for Writers on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Aces Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302.

 image of booksCrace’s ten books to date have received such honors as the Whitbread Novel Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award (Being Dead). His books Quarantine and Harvest have been shortlisted twice for the Man Booker Prize. His archive resides at the university’s Ransom Center

booksAnthony Giardina is the author of five novels, a story collection, and numerous plays, most recently City of Conversation, which has its world premier at Lincoln Center last year.

Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage, and the event is free and open to the public.