Best-selling author and humorist Sarah Vowell to speak at College of Saint Benedict

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March 30, 2012

Sarah Vowell, photo credit Bennett Miller

The CSB/SJU Fine Arts Series presents Sarah Vowell at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, in Escher Auditorium, College of Saint Benedict. This event is co-presented with the CSB Literary Arts Institute.

Vowell is the New York Times' bestselling author of six nonfiction books on American history and culture.  By examining the connections between the American past and present, she offers personal, often humorous accounts of everything from presidents and their assassins to colonial religious fanatics, as well as thoughts on American Indians, utopian dreamers, pop music and the odd cranky cartographer.

Vowell's most recent book, Unfamiliar Fishes (2011) is the intriguing history of our 50th state, Hawaii, annexed in 1898.  Replete with a cast of beguiling and often tragic characters, including an overthrown Hawaiian queen, whalers, missionaries, sugar barons, Teddy Roosevelt and assorted con men, Unfamiliar Fishes is another  history lesson in Americana as only Vowell can tell it - with brainy wit and droll humor.

The Wordy Shipmates (2009) examines the New England Puritans and their journey to and impact on America. She studies John Winthrop's 1630 sermon "A Model of Christian Charity" - and the bloody story that resulted from American exceptionalism. She also traces the relationship of John Winthrop, Massachusetts' first governor, and Roger Williams, the Calvinist minister who founded Rhode Island - an unlikely friendship that was emblematic of the polar extremes of the American foundation. Throughout, she reveals how American history can show up in the most unexpected places in our modern culture, often in poignant ways.
Her book Assassination Vacation (2005) is a haunting and surprisingly hilarious road trip to tourist sites devoted to the murders of presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Vowell examines what these acts of political violence reveal about our national character and our contemporary society.

Vowell was a contributing editor for Public Radio International's This American Life from 1996-2008, where she produced numerous commentaries and documentaries and toured the country in many of the program's live shows.  She has been a columnist for, Time and San Francisco Weekly and continues to write occasional essays for the opinion page of the New York Times.

Vowell has made numerous appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.   She is the voice of teen superhero Violet Parr in Brad Bird's Academy Award-winning The Incredibles, a Pixar Animation Studios film.  

Tickets to Sarah Vowell are $30, Senior $27 and Student/Youth $10. For tickets, call the Benedicta Arts Center Box Office at 320-363-5777 or order online at

This performance is sponsored Thomsens Greenhouse & Garden Center. The CSB/SJU Fine Arts Series is made possible in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund with money from a vote of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008.