Past Events

Kiese Laymon Reading and Conversation recorded on November 9, 2021

Watch the prerecorded event at "Author Kiese Laymon: A Reading and a Conversation (LAI)" 

Kiese Laymon is a powerhouse of a writer, whose fierce honesty necessitates that readers open their hearts and their eyes. Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi, who is is the author of the genre-bending novel, Long Division, the essay collection, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, and the bestselling memoir, Heavy. In Heavy, Laymon “fearlessly explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse.”

Author Reginald Dwayne Betts writes of Laymon’s work:

"Kiese crafts the most honest and intimate account of growing up black and southern since Richard Wright's Black Boy. Circumventing the myths about blackness, he writes something as complex and fragile as who we is. An insider's look into the making of a writer, Heavy is part memoir and part look into the books that turned a kid into a story teller. Heavy invites us into a black South that remembers that we loved each other through it all. In “Nikki-Rosa,” Nikki Giovanni wrote that ‘black love is black wealth.’ This book is the weight of black love, and might we all be wealthy by daring to open up to it."

Heavy: An American Memoir, won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media, and was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times. The audiobook, read by the author, was named the Audible 2018 Audiobook of the Year. Laymon is the recipient of 2020-2021 Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard. Laymon is at work on several new projects, including the long poem, Good God, the horror comedy, And So On, the children’s book, City Summer, Country Summer and the film Heavy: An American Memoir. He is the founder of “The Catherine Coleman Literary Arts and Justice Initiative,” a program aimed at getting Mississippi kids and their parents more comfortable reading, writing, revising, and sharing.

https://www.kieselaymon.com

Mai Der Vang Reading and Conversation recorded on October 12, 2021

Watch the prerecorded event here.

 Mai Der Vang is the winner of the LAI’s 2021 Sister Mariella Gable prize. Her book Yellow Rain is the 20th book in the series, a collaboration between the Literary Arts Institute at the College of St. Benedict and Graywolf Press, an independent press located in Minneapolis.

Graywolf Press describes the book as:

“A staggering work of documentary, poetry, and collage, Mai Der Vang reopens a wrongdoing that deserves a new reckoning. As the United States abandoned them at the end of its war in Vietnam, many Hmong refugees recounted stories of a mysterious substance that fell from planes during their escape from Laos starting in the mid-1970s. This substance, known as “yellow rain,” caused severe illnesses and thousands of deaths. And then, to the world’s astonishment, American scientists argued that yellow rain was the feces of honeybees defecating en masse—still held as the widely accepted explanation. The truth of what happened to the Hmong, to those who experienced and suffered yellow rain, has been ignored and discredited.

Integrating archival research and declassified documents, Yellow Rain calls out the erasure of a history, the silencing of a people who at the time lacked the capacity and resources to defend and represent themselves. In poems that sing and lament, that contend and question, Vang restores a vital narrative in danger of being lost, and brilliantly explores what it means to have access to the truth and how marginalized groups are often forbidden that access.”

Mai Der Vang is an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. Her poetry has appeared in the New Republic, Poetry, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, and her essays have been published in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post. Her debut collection, Afterland, received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She lives in California.

Chaun Webster Reading and Conversation recorded on April 27, 2021

Watch the prerecorded event here.

Minneapolis-based poet and graphic designer Chaun Webster draws from an interest in the work of sign in graffiti, the layering of collage, and the visuality of text.  These methods are used in Webster’s work to investigate race – specifically the instability of blackness and black subjectivities, geography, memory, and the body.  Correspondingly, much of these investigations engage the question of absence, how to archive what is missing from the landscape particularly as a number of communities watch in real time, neighborhoods once populated with familiar presences, dissolve in the vernacular of redevelopment and its attendant colonial logic. Webster's first book of poetry, GeNtry!fication, or the Scene of the Crime (Noemi Press 2018) won the 2018 Minnesota Book Award prize for poetry.ㅤㅤㅤ

Maria Dahvana Headley Craft Talk recorded on March 2, 2021

Watch the prerecorded event here.

Maria Dahvana Headley is the New York Times-bestselling and World Fantasy Award-winning author of eight books, including Beowulf: A New Translation (FSG, 2020), which has recently been named by Kirkus, NPR, and The New Statesman as a Book of the Year, and The Mere Wife (MCD x FSG, 2018), named by the Washington Post as one of its Notable Works of Fiction. In addition to her books for adults, she's written two YA novels (Magonia and Aerie, HarperCollins, 2015 and 2016), and an internationally bestselling memoir about dating, The Year of Yes. Headley’s genre-bending short fiction has been shortlisted for the Nebula, Shirley Jackson, and Tiptree Awards, as well as for the 2020 Joyce Carol Oates Prize, and has been anthologized in many year’s bests including Best American Fantasy & Science Fiction, Best American Experimental Writing, and Best American Erotica. A collection will be published in 2021 by FSG. Her essays on gender, chronic illness, politics, propaganda, and mythology have been published and covered in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Harvard’s Nieman Storyboard, and elsewhere. Her work has been supported by The MacDowell Colony, Arte Studio Ginestrelle, and the Sundance Institute’s Theatre Lab, among other organizations. She's taught writing in the master's program at Sarah Lawrence, and has delivered or will soon deliver masterclasses and lectures at Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Northwestern, UCSD, and the University of Pennsylvania, among others. She grew up in the high desert of Idaho on a survivalist sled dog ranch, where she spent summers plucking the winter coat from her father’s wolf. 

Marie Matsuki Mockett FALL 2020 (view event below)