Thursday, March 21, 2019
National Book Award Authors to Talk Tonight
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Nafissa Thompson-Spires is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
 
Thursday, February 21, 2019
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Two 2018 National Book Award finalists will talk about their craft tonight at Ketchum’s Community Library.

Rebecca Makkai, author of the novel “The Great Believers,” and Nafissa Thompson-Spires, who authored “Heads of the Colored People”,” will speak at 6 p.m. tonight—Thursday, Feb. 21.

Their conversation will be moderated by Sarah Sentilles, a Ketchum author, teacher and critical theorist. The presentation is sponsored by the National Book Foundation.

“We didn’t go looking for them—they approached us,” said Carter Hedberg, director of philanthropy at the library.

The two authors will discuss writing the stories you want to see in the world, creating the conversations we should be having and centering the lives of characters often neglected in literary fiction.

Makkai is on the faculty of Northwestern University in Chicago. Her novel, “The Great Believers,” is a novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy. It follows a woman who finds herself grappling with the devastating ways the AIDS crisis affected her life and her relationship with her daughter during the heartbreak of the 1980s and the chaos of the modern world.

It has been praised as one of the first novels to chronicle the AIDS epidemic from its outbreak to the present. And it’s been praised for the way it has depicted the AIDS epidemic’s terrors and its repercussions.

It was named one of the New York Times’ top 10 books for 2018 and a finalist for the National Book Award and the ALA Carnegie Medal. It won the Chicago Review of Books Award and was a pick for the New York Public Library’s 2018 Best Books.

Makkai has also written “The Borrower,” which follows a young runaway and book addict on a road trip; “The Hundred-Year house,” the story of a haunted house and a haunted family told in reverse, and the short story collection “Music for Wartime.”

She wrote her first story at 3, printing it on the side of a cardboard box. It was highly experimental, written from the viewpoint of her stuffed Smurf doll.

Thompson-Spires’ “Heads of the Colored people” is a collection of darkly satirical stories examining the concept of black identity in the so-called post-racial era.

It includes a story of a new mother driven to madness with grief for young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence and a teen who struggles between her upper middle-class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture.

it won StoryQuarterly’s 2016 fiction prize and was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Award, the PEN Open book Award and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. It was a finalist for the Kirkus prize.

 

 

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