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Visiting Writers Series

All events are free and open to the public. Tickets are recommended in advance for Laila Lalami, Armistead Maupin, and Louise Penny. Louise Penny's only book signing is from 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm at the Hickory Public Library on March 7, 2019.

Tickets may be obtained by calling 828.328.7206 or going to the box office in PE Monroe Auditorium on LR's campus. The Box Office opens for the 2018-2019 season on August 31, 2018.

2018-2019 VWS Schedule

A variety of online sources were used to compile these biographical profiles. For more information contact Dr. Rand Brandes.

Laila Lalami - September 27, 2018

September 27, 2018
Laila Lalami
2018-2019 Campus Read Author
PE Monroe Auditorium
7 pm

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat, Morocco's capital, and received her undergraduate degree in English from the city's Universiteé Mohammed V. After studying in London, England, where she earned a master's degree from University College, Lalami went on to receive her PhD in linguistics at the University of Southern California. Lalami eventually settled in Portland Oregan where she began to contribute articles to periodicals such as the Nation, Washington Post, Boston Globe , and Los Angeles Times .

Laila Lalami has written three books, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Secret Son, and The Moor’s Account. Her first novel, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, is Lenoir-Rhyne's 2018-2019 Campus Read, which details the journey of four Moroccan immigrants crossing the Straits of Gibraltar in a lifeboat seeking a better life in Spain. Anouar Majid of Tingis Magazine noted that Lalami's story felt "as if literature has spoken directly to me for the first time in my life,” in a review of the novel. Fellow writer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o adds that through her stories, Lalami "gives name to the unnamed; agency to the sidelined" and "gives voice to the silences of history.” Lalami’s novel The Moor’s Account (2014) received extensive international notice as seen in the long list of awards and recognitions: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist, American Book Award winner, Arab American Book Award winner, Hurston-Wright Legacy Award winner, Mann Booker Prize Longlist,and Wall Street Journal Top 10 Books of the Year. Salman Rusdie writes: “Laila Lalami has fashioned an absorbing story of one of the first encounters between Spanish conquistadores and Native Americans, a frightening, brutal, and much-falsified history that here, in her brilliantly imagined fiction, is rewritten to give us something that feels very like the truth.” His praise in reiterated by Harvard professor Henry Louis, Gates Jr. “Laila Lalami’s radiant, arrestingly vivid prose instantly draws us into the world of the first black slave in the New World whose name we know—Estebanico. A bravura performance of imagination and empathy, The Moor’s Account reverberates long after the final page.”

Lalami has previously been a recipient of Fulbright, Guggenheim, and British Council Fellowships, and currently teaches creative writing at UC Riverside. In the past year, Lalami has written in The Nation about the distorted language used in discussions about immigration, asylum-seeking children being separated from their parents, the generational effect of ICE raids on Hispanic communities, and the social shaming of racists in public spaces. More recently, she wrote about tribalism in American politics for the New York Times Magazine. Her new novel, The Other Americans, will be published by Pantheon in March 2019. The Other Americans is a timely and powerful new novel about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant that is at once a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story, all of it informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture.

Event Partner: Catawba Valley Interfaith Council

Li-Young Lee - October 4, 2018

October 4, 2018
Li-Young Lee
Belk Centrum
7 pm

Li-Young Lee was born in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1957 to Chinese political exiles. Both of Lee’s parents came from powerful Chinese families: Lee’s great grandfather was the first president of the Republic of China, and Lee’s father had been the personal physician to Mao Zedong. In Indonesia, Dr. Lee helped found Gamaliel University. Anti-Chinese sentiment began to foment in Indonesia, however, and Lee’s father was arrested and held as a political prisoner for a year. After his release, the Lee family fled through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, arriving in the United States in 1964. Lee and his parents moved from Seattle to Pennsylvania, where Dr. Lee attended seminary and eventually became a Presbyterian minister in the small community of Vandergrift. Though his father read to him frequently as a child, Lee did not begin to seriously write poems until a student at the University of Pittsburgh, where he studied with Gerald Stern. Li-Young Lee also attended the University of Arizona, and the State University of New York at Brockport.

Influenced by the classical Chinese poets Li Bo and Tu Fu, Lee’s poetry is noted for its use of silence and, according to Alex Lemon in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, its “near mysticism” which is nonetheless “fully engaged in life and memory while building and shaping the self from words.” Though sometimes described as a supremely lyric poet, Lee’s poems often use narrative and personal experience or memories to launch their investigations of the universal. Lee talked about his belief in the oneness of all things in an interview with Tina Chang for the Academy of American Poets: “If you rigorously dissect it, you realize that everything is a shape of the totality of causes. What’s another name for the totality of causes? The Cosmos. So everything is a shape of Cosmos or God. It feels like something bigger than me—that I can’t possibly fathom but am embedded in.” He continues: “Poetic language. The more we practice it, the more we discover how thinking in poetry is actually the closest thing we have to enlightenment. Poetic consciousness is the deepest, fullest form of consciousness there is. The longer we practice it, like a yoga, the more we uncover about ourselves, our identity as children of the cosmos, or of God. Whatever you want to call it.” Lee’s most recent collection of poems is The Undressing, which was released in 2018.

His poetry and collections have won many awards, including the Laughlin Award, and the William Carlos Williams Award. He has taught at several universities, including Northwestern and the University of Iowa. He has won a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, received a Fellowship from the American Academy of Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation, and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from State University of New York at Brockport.

Event Partner: Yoga with an Edge

Ken Liu - October 25, 2018

October 25, 2018
Ken Liu
PE Monroe Auditorium
7 pm

Ken Liu, the English name of Liu Yukun, is the author of three novels and one collection of short stories, as well as a translator of several Chinese works. His fiction has appeared in several magazines, including Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed. His debut book, The Grace of Kings (2015), won the Locus Best First Novel Award and was a Nebula finalist. Liu describes the book’s style as silkpunk and not fantasy. In review of the novel, Amal El-Mohtar from NPR remarks "Liu's world is beautiful, nuanced, fierce, original and diverse." His translation of The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the first translated novel to ever receive the honor. Liu was also the editor of Invisible Planets (2016), which is the first collection of contemporary Chinese science fiction translated into English. His most recent published work is an official Star Wars novel called The Legends of Luke Skywalker, a collection of myths and tall-tales about the legendary Jedi Luke Skywalker.

Liu emigrated to the United States as a child, and he graduated from Harvard Law School. His first short story to be published was “Carthagian Rose,” which was collected in Empire Dreams and Miracles: The Phobos Science Fiction Anthology—Orson Scott Card et al. editors. Publishing regularly, his 2010 short story “The Paper Menagerie” won the prestigious Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. One of Liu’s central themes is (cultural) imperialism, which he approaches obliquely through genre fiction. Though his retelling of iconic Western stories, such as The Wizard of Oz, Liu examines the West’s anxieties over Chinese cultural autonomy. For some of his work focused on the Chinese experience in America Liu draws up the writings of Maxine Hong Kingston.

Most recently, the film production companies, Silverstein and AMC has optioned Liu’s work. They have a wide body of writing for Silverstein and AMC to work with. Since he broke into the speculative fiction literary scene in 2002, he has written more than a hundred science fiction and fantasy short stories. The future implications of technology is a frequent topic of his, and stories such as “Simulacrum” and “Staying Behind,” specifically look at simulating uploading human minds into computers.

Liu will also speak on Wednesday, October 24.

Event Partner: Catawba Science Center

Matthias Göritz and Aaron Coleman - November 8, 2018

November 8, 2018
Matthias Göritz and Aaron Coleman
PE Monroe Auditorium

7 pm

Matthias Göritz was born in Hamburg in 1969. He studied philosophy and literary studies and spent extended periods in Moscow, Paris and Chicago. He teaches creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis. His work is widely translated. Göritz is the author of three collections of poetry, two novellas, and two novels. He has been the recipient of many awards, including the Robert Gernhardt Prize and the William Glass Award. Göritz has been the writer-in-residence at Bard College, the “Deutsches Haus” of New York University, and was also a guest author at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. His first volume of poetry, “Loops”, was published in 2001, followed by his first novel, The Short Dream of Jakob Voss, in 2005, for which he was awarded the Hamburg Literature Prize and the Mara Cassens Prize. Göritz gave the Keynote speech opening the 2015 DAKAM Conference on “Memory and Literature.” He recently published the novel, Parker: Roman, in early 2018. Critic Anja Hirsch describes the novel as “clairvoyant and entertaining.”

Aaron Coleman is a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow at Washington University St. Louis, where he is on the Comparative Literature PhD Program’s International Writers’ Track. He is the author of two collections of poetry and has been published in journals such as Boston Review, FENCE, and New York Times Magazine. He has been a Cave Canem Fellow and Fulbright Scholar, and has won awards such as the 2015 Button Poetry Prize for his chapbook, St. Trigger, and the Cincinnati Review Schiff Award. From Metro-Detroit, Coleman has lived and worked with youth in locations including Chicago, St. Louis, Spain, South Africa, and Kalamazoo, as well as working as a Public Projects Assistant at Pulitzer Arts Foundation. He released his newest full-length collection, Threat Come Close, in March 2018 which is described as “an American anthem for the 21st century, a full-throated lyric composed of pain, faith, lust and vulnerability. Coleman’s poems comment on and interrogate the meaning of home and identity for a black man in America, past and present.”

Event Partner: LRU Global Entrepreneurship Week

Juan Felipe Herrera - November 15, 2018

November 15, 2018
Juan Felipe Herrera
Grace Chapel
7 pm

Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performer, and activist who served as the United States' first Chicano Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera was educated at UCLA and Stanford University, and he earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His numerous poetry collections include: Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream (1999); 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007; and Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008). In 2014, he released the nonfiction work Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, an homage to those who have helped shape our nation which showcases twenty Hispanic and Latino-American individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the arts, politics, science, humanitarianism, and athletics. The New York Times noted, “the fire that appears again and again in Herrera’s poetry exists to illuminate, to make beautiful, to purify,” in response to his 2015 collection, Notes on the Assemblage. In addition to publishing more than a dozen collections of poetry, Herrera has written short stories, young adult novels, and children’s literature. His most recent works for young people include Imagine (forthcoming 2018) and Jabberwalking (2018).

Influenced by Allen Ginsberg, Herrera’s poetry brims with simultaneity and exuberance, and often takes shape in mural-like, rather than narrative, frames. Critic Stephen Burt praised Herrera in the New York Times as one of the first poets to successfully create “a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too.”

Herrera is also a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. His creative work often crosses genres, including poetry opera and dance theater. His children’s book, The Upside Down Boy (2000), was adapted into a musical. His books for children and young adults have won several awards, including Calling the Doves (2001), which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award, and Crashboomlove (1999), a novel-in-verse for young adults which won the Americas Award. His book Half the World in Light was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle prize in 2009.
Herrera has taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, UC Riverside, and served as chair of the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department at CSU-Fresno. Herrera has also served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016. He has received numerous awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Beyond Margins Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010.

Event Partner: Centro Latino

Joshua Bennett - January 21, 2019

January 21, 2019
Joshua Bennett -
MLK Day Speaker
PE Monroe Auditorium at 10 am
Belk Centrum at 7 pm

Dr. Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016). He holds a PhD in English from Princeton University, and an MA in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick, where he was a Marshall Scholar. In 2010, Dr. Bennett delivered the Commencement Address at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with the distinctions of Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude. He has traveled internationally as a performance artist and has recited his original work at the Sundance Film Festival, The NAACP Image Awards, and President Obama's Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word at the White House. Winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series, Dr. Bennett has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Cave Canem, and the Ford Foundation. In his NEA personal statement Bennett writes: “My foremost commitment as a writer and theorist is to linger with the unthinkable, to study that which has historically been considered unworthy of lyric, or any form of sustained philosophical attention. Thus, I have decided in much of my work to cast my lot with corpses and former property, to write of the flesh over and against the body, to think not only about what is lost when one is marked as a nonentity or nonperson, but about what such a designation makes possible in the way of literary imagination. How do the descendants of living commodities render their relationship to the nonliving? How do human beings once considered property imagine a more capacious, liberating vision of personhood? The history of black poetics is, in one sense, the history of a people refusing dominant categories; a collective assertion of complexity over & against a social order that calls their beauty nothingness, their living a kind of death. Writing as I am from the midst of such a tradition, one built and sustained by those who—according to Thomas Jefferson, Immanuel Kant, and others—possessed nothing resembling an interior life, I think of the practice of making poems as both an inheritance and an intervention into the historical record.” His writing has been published or is forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Boston Review, The New York Times, Poetry, and elsewhere. At this time he is a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. The current US Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith writes of Bennett’s work: “At a moment in American culture punctuated to a heartbreaking degree by acts of hatred, violence and disregard, I can think of nothing we need to ponder and to sing of more than our shared grief and our capacity not just for empathy but genuine love. Poetry is critical to such an endeavor—and Joshua Bennett’s astounding, dolorous, rejoicing voice is indispensable.” In addition, critic Tara Robison writes of Bennett’s performance style and poetry: “Watching Joshua Bennett perform his poetry is something like watching a Baptist preacher deliver a Sunday sermon. Once on stage, his face grows serious, his hands move emphatically and he plays with volume and silence in his delivery, using both to drive the audience to a rousing ‘Amen.’ The New York native captures that same fire in his poetry collection, The Sobbing School. Winner of the National Poetry Series, selected by Anisfield-Wolf author Eugene Gloria, Bennett’s debut strikes a powerful blow on the first page and doesn’t let up. By calling forth figures such as Richard Wright, DMX, and Ella Fitzgerald, it’s a modern collection with a timeless quality.”

Event Partners: Hickory Young Professionals, Catawba Valley Interfaith Council, and Young People of Integrity

Armistead Maupin - February 7, 2019

February 7, 2019
Armistead Maupin
PE Monroe Auditorium
7 pm

Talking in a 2017 Guardian interview about his most recent publication, Logical Family: A Memoir, Armistead Maupin explains that he wrote it “to show that I had made a journey from a position of darkness and narrow thinking to quite the opposite. I wanted credit for overcoming the influences of my childhood.” Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Raleigh, NC. He attended UNC Chapel Hill and while there as the senior class vice-president in 1966 he organized the installation a memorial to Thomas Wolfe—a stylized bronze angel with a quotation from Look Homeward Angel—“O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghosts come back again.” Following college he served as naval officer and worked as reporter in South Carolina and California.

Launched in 1976 as a groundbreaking serial in the San Francisco Chronicle, Armistead Maupin’s iconic Tales of the City series has since blazed its own trail through popular culture – from a sequence of globally best-selling novels, to a Peabody Award-winning television miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney, to an ambitious new musical that had its world premiere at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater in 2011. The series now encompasses eight hugely popular novels: Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, Significant Others, Sure of You, Michael Tolliver Lives, and Mary Ann in Autumn. The final Talesnovel, The Days of Anna Madrigal, was released in January 2014. It premiered at #3 on the Independent Bestseller list and #7 on the New York Times Bestseller list. His new book is a memoir titled Logical Family which grew out of his critically acclaimed one-man show of the same name. Neil Gaiman said this about Logical Family; “Maupin is one of America's finest storytellers, and the story of his life is a story as fascinating, as delightful and as compulsive as any of the tales he has made up for us.”

Maupin’s 1992 novel, Maybe the Moon, which followed the serio-comic adventures of a dwarf actress working in Hollywood, was named one of the ten best books of the year by Entertainment Weekly. The Night Listener (2000), a psychological suspense novel inspired by an eerie episode in Maupin’s own life, became a 2006 feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.

In 1997 Maupin received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle of New York. In 2002 he was honored with the Trevor Project’s Life Award “for his efforts in saving young lives.” Maupin was the first recipient of Litquake’s Barbary Coast Award for his literary contribution to San Francisco. In 2012 he was awarded Lambda's Pioneer Award which is bestowed on individuals who have broken new ground in the field of LGBT literature and publishing. In 2014 he received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He also received the Visionary Award from the 2014 Outfest Legacy Awards for his collected novels and their "...diverse, interconnected community of San Francisco bohemians -- which shaped our collective fantasy of what LGBT life is and could be...." Maupin is the subject of a new documentary titled Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin. He lives with his husband, Christopher Turner, a photographer.

Event Partners: AIDS Leadership Foothills-area Alliance, Catawba Valley Pride, Inc., and OUTright Youth

Anne-Marie Fyfe and Cahal Dallat - February 28, 2019

February 28, 2019
Anne-Marie Fyfe & Cahal Dallat – Writers in Residence
Belk Centrum
7 pm

Anne-Marie Fyfe is a London-based Irish poet born in Cushendall, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. She is the author of five collections of poetry and former chair of the National Poetry Society. Fyfe is the founder of the Troubadour International Poetry Prize and established Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour, a program that organizes poetry readings, seminars, and workshops. She has been Aldeburgh’s Poetry Trust Writer-in-Residence and the winner of the Academi Cardiff International Poetry Competition. She has taught at numerous workshops, including the creative writing section of the John Hewitt International Summer School. Fyfe only came to writing poetry in her late thirties, after being inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poems as she taught the American poet’s work. Indeed, citing Dickinson as one of her favourite poets, Fyfe says her particular poetic style made her feel she could attempt to do the same. Although many of her favoured poets are American, she adds that Louis MacNeice and Seamus Heaney are two Irish poets she particularly admires.

Her first two collections are Late Crossing (Rockingham , 1999) and Tickets from a Blank Window (Rockingham 2002). In response to Fyfe's collection, The Ghost Twin, Helen Dunmore describes Fyfe's poetry as "taut, eloquent and deeply felt. Her poems are haunted by what the past does to the present, and by the physical relics of that past which is only relayed in snatches." Her most recent poetry collection is, House of Small Absences, which was published in 2015. Claire Savage in Culture Northern Ireland : “House of Small Absences is a collection where the poems seem threaded together by the shared element of contemplation of spaces past and present – and what this ultimately reveals to us.”

Cahal Dallat is a poet, musician and critic, (b. Ballycastle, Co. Antrim). He studied statistics and operational research at Queen’s University Belfast, and has since worked in television, publishing and information technology. He lives in London, reviews literature and the arts for the TLS and Guardian among others, and has been a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s weekly arts programme, Saturday Review, since 1998. His first poetry collection, Morning Star, was published in 1998 and he won the Strokestown International Poetry Competition in 2006 for his poem “Love on a Rock.” His latest collection is The Year of Not Dancing (Blackstaff Press, 2009). Peter Geoghegan of Culture Northern Ireland writes of the collection: “Published over a decade after his well-received debut collection Morning Star, The Year of Not Dancing is a poignant but unsentimental exploration of family relationships and loss, inspired, in part, by the early death of his own mother.” Dallat’s work has been published in numerous journals and magazines, including Oxford Poetry, Poetry London, Cimarron Review, and Ocean State Review. Among other awards, Dallat won the 2017 Keats-Shelley Memorial Prize for his poem “Giant.” The poem was written about Cahal's friend Chris Greener, who died in 2015, and was, for more than 40 years, Britain's tallest man. The award is made following an annual competition for essays and poems on Romantic themes. The Keats-Shelley Prize was inaugurated in 1998 to encourage writers to respond creatively to the work of the Romantics. Dallat was the 2017 musician/poet in residence at Charles Causley’s house in Cornwall and a John-Hewitt Society committee member. He received a research fellowship at the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas in Austin in Spring 2018, supported by the C.P. Snow Memorial Fund. Dallat is married to Anne-Marie Fyfe. The two poets will teach a creative writing workshop in poetry during the Spring semester at Lenoir-Rhyne.

Event Partner: Hickory Museum of Art

Louise Penny - March 7, 2019

March 7, 2019
Louise Penny
PE Monroe Auditorium
7 pm

Louise Penny's only book signing is at 5 pm at the Hickory Public Library on March 7, 2019.

Louise Penny writes on her website: “I live outside a small village south of Montreal, quite close to the American border. My husband Michael and I have long had dogs, all golden retrievers. Bonnie, Maggie, Seamus, Trudy and now Bishop. Some came as puppies, some were adopted as adults. All beloved. Michael and I were together for 22 years and married for 20. He was the inspiration for Armand Gamache. Kindly, thoughtful, generous, a man of courage and integrity, who both loved and accepted love. He developed dementia, and died peacefully at home in September 2016, surrounded by the love he'd put into the world for his 83 years.” She continues: “I came to writing later in life. I was well into my 40's before STILL LIFE, the first Gamache novel, was published. I am deeply aware of how lucky I am to be writing, and published, and enjoying success. And believe me, I am enjoying it. It would be such a shame not to appreciate such a gift. Before being published I was a journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. But Michael's support allowed me to quit work to write. He was not only the inspiration for the books, but he made them possible.”

Penny’s works have been translated into more than 25 languages. In review of her Armand Gamache Series, Maureen Corrigan from The Washington Post wrote, "…No other writer…writes like Penny….Her characters are distilled to their essences. The stylistic result is that a Gamache mystery reads a bit like an incantatory epic poem...It takes nerve and skill - as well as heart - to write mysteries like this." She has won numerous awards for her work, including six Agatha Awards, The British Dagger Award, The American Anthony Award, and the Barry Award. Before she began writing full time, she worked as a journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Penny helped to launch a new award for aspiring Canadian mystery writers, the Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Novel in 2009. In 2013, she was made a Member of the Order of Canada "for her contributions to Canadian culture as an author shining a spotlight on the Eastern Townships of Quebec." She serves as the Patron for the Yamaska Literacy Council and currently lives and writes in a small village south of Montreal. The 14th book in her Gamache series, Kingdom of the Blind is set to be published in November 2018. British crime novelist Elly Griffiths writes in her pre-publication review: “No one does atmospheric quite like Louise Penny. Kingdom of the Blind tackles some tough contemporary issues whilst retaining the timeless small-town charm of Three Pines. A wonderful addition to a fantastic series.”

Event Partner: Hickory Public Library, Cafe Rule

Kao Kalia Yang - March 21, 2019

March 21, 2019
Kao Kalia Yang
Belk Centrum
7 pm

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American author of two novels and one forthcoming children’s book. Yang graduated from Carleton College in 2003 with a Bachelor's degree in American Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, and Cross-cultural Studies. She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University and her graduate studies were supported by a Dean's Fellowship from the School of the Arts and The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. Her first book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (2008), was a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Asian Literary Award in Nonfiction, and won the 2009 Minnesota Book Awards in Creative Nonfiction/Memoir and Reader's Choice. The Latehomecomer takes its name from a short story by Canadian writer Mavis Gallant and references Jews who returned home from internment hoping to find homes that no longer exist. The Latehomecomer was also selected as an NEA “Big Read” book; the NEA website states: “Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American author, filmmaker, public speaker, and natural storyteller. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (Coffee House Press, 2008) is the first memoir written by a Hmong-American to be published with national distribution. Driven to tell her family's story—and the story of the Hmong people—Yang wrote it as a "love letter" to her grandmother whose spirit held her family together through their imprisonment in Laos, their harrowing escape across the Mekong River and into a refugee camp in Thailand, their immigration to Minnesota when Yang was only six years old, and their transition to a hard life in America.” A Kirkus review praises the book: "Yang has performed an important service in bringing readers the stories of a people whose history has been shamefully neglected," and The Latehomecomer was a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, which writes: "Yang tells her family's story with grace; she narrates their struggles, beautifully weaving in Hmong folklore and culture. By the end of this moving, unforgettable book, when Yang describes the death of her beloved grandmother, readers will delight at how intimately they have become part of this formerly ... [unfamiliar] culture."

Her second book, The Song Poet, was a finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, a PEN USA Award in Nonfiction, and the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize, and won the 2016 Minnesota Book Award in Creative Nonfiction Memoir. The Minnesota Star Tribune writes: “The Song Poet, Kao Kalia Yang’s remarkable new book, is about art, resilience and the opportunities and indignities that come with life in a new country. The book’s title is a nod to the elder Yang’s talent for Hmong song poetry. In 1992, five years after he and his family arrived in the states, Bee Yang released a six-song recording. ‘They were songs of love, of yearning, of losing home and country,’ Kao Kalia Yang writes. Over time, a fair number of Minnesota’s sizable Hmong population bought the album, and the money he earned paid for school supplies for his children.”

Yang has taught at numerous institutions, including Columbia University, Metropolitan State University, and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Recently, Yang was the Benedict Distinguished Visiting Faculty in American Studies and English at Carleton College.Her third book, a children’s picture book, A Map Into the World, will be out in fall of 2019.

Event Partner: Hickory International Council

Naomi Shihab Nye - April 3-6, 2019 (The Little Read)

April 3-6, 2019
Naomi Shihab Nye - The Little Read Author
Thursday, April 4 @ 7 pm in Belk Centrum
Saturday, April 6 @ 12 pm in PE Monroe Auditorium

Naomi Shihab Nye writes for adults, children, and the children inside us all. This is Nye’s second visit to Lenoir-Rhyne. As the Poetry Foundation notes, Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother an American of German and Swiss descent, and Nye spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. She earned her BA from Trinity University in San Antonio.

Nye’s experience of both cultural difference and different cultures has influenced much of her work. Known for poetry that lends a fresh perspective to ordinary events, people, and objects, Nye has said that, for her, “the primary source of poetry has always been local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks.”
Nye continues to live and work in San Antonio, Texas. “My poems and stories often begin with the voices of our neighbors, mostly Mexican American, always inventive and surprising,” Nye wrote for Four Winds Press. “I never get tired of mixtures.” In her first full-length collection, Different Ways to Pray (1980), Nye explores the differences between, and shared experiences of, cultures from California to Texas, from South America to Mexico. In “Grandfather’s Heaven,” a child declares: “Grandma liked me even though my daddy was a Moslem.” As critics have observed, “with her acceptance of different ‘ways to pray’ is also Nye’s growing awareness that living in the world can sometimes be difficult.”

Nye’s next books include On the Edge of the Sky (1981) and Hugging the Jukebox (1982). The poems in Yellow Glove (1986) and The Red Suitcase (1994) present a perspective tempered by tragedy and sorrow in which Nye continues to explore the effect of on-going violence on everyday life in the Middle East. Fuel (1998) is perhaps Nye’s most acclaimed volume.

After the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, Nye became an active voice for Arab-Americans, speaking out against both terrorism and prejudice. The lack of understanding between Americans and Arabs led her to collect poems she had written which dealt with the Middle East and her experiences as an Arab-American into one volume. 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002) received praise for the timeliness of its message. Nye’s next book, You and Yours (2005), continued to explore the Middle East and the possibilities of poetic response. Divided into two sections, the first deals with Nye’s personal experiences as a mother and traveler and intersperses Nye’s typical free-verse with prose poems. The book received the Isabel Gardner Poetry Award. Nye’s recent collections of poetry include Transfer (2011).

In addition to her poetry collections, Nye has produced fiction for children, poetry and song recordings, and poetry translations.

In the 95 poems of Nye’s most recent book, in Voices In The Air: Poems for Listeners, she reminds our “obsessively tuned in” culture of the magic, power and necessity of “quiet inspiration” and that the more “connected” we’ve become, the more disconnected we actually are: “With so much vying for our attention,” she asks, “how do we listen better?”

Inspired and guided by the voices that surround her (voices from the past, the present and even the peonies), Nye’s free verse tells of the wisdom, solace and beauty she has found and urges readers to join her, to listen with her, to create space to make sense of their experiences in an often difficult world. While Nye’s message is clear, it is never heavy-handed. The poems are loosely connected but just as powerful individually. Whether dealing with the mundane (a coffee cup) or the devastating (a girl shot by a stray bullet), Nye displays a palpable, unwavering empathy and hope for a better world. Although it’s intended for teenagers, “Voices in the Air” speaks to adults, too — any, that is, who are willing to slow down and listen.

As a children’s writer, Nye is acclaimed for her sensitivity and cultural awareness. Her book Sitti’s Secrets (1994) concerns an Arab-American child’s relationship with her sitti—Arabic for grandmother—who lives in a Palestinian village. Hazel Rochman, in Booklist, praised Nye for capturing the emotions of the “child who longs for a distant grandparent” as well as for writing a narrative that deals personally with Arabs and Arab Americans. In 1997 Nye published Habibi, her first young-adult novel. Readers meet Liyana Abboud, an Arab-American teen who moves with her family to her Palestinian father’s native country during the 1970s, only to discover that the violence in Jerusalem has not yet abated. Nye has since published poetry for young adults, including Come With Me: Poems for a Journey (2000) and A Maze Me: Poems for Girls (2005). Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of this year’s Little Read, The Turtle of Oman. The novel follows the story of Aref Al-Amri, a boy who doesn’t want to move with his family to Ann Arbor, MI from his hometown of Muscat, Oman. He refuses to pack and instead goes on a series of adventures with his grandfather that help Aref build up memories of home. The Turtle of Oman is widely recognized, and it won the 2015 Middle East Book Award for Youth Literature and was named a 2015 Notable Children's Book by the American Library Association. As part of The Little Read, Nye will talk to over 2000 fourth grade students from Alexander and Catawba County Schools as well as students from Newton-Conover Schools and the City of Hickory Schools. Every one of the students will receive a copy of Turtle of Oman thanks to the generous support of the school systems and the family of Ron and Sandra Deal who began The Little Read in 2006 to honor the life of their daughter Sara Catherine Deal Temple, a local elementary education reading specialist who loved children.

Other honors for Nye’s work include awards from the International Poetry Forum and the Texas Institute of Letters, and four Pushcart Prizes. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow, and received The Academy of American Poets' Lavan Award, selected by W. S. Merwin. She has been featured on two PBS poetry specials including The Language of Life with Bill Moyers and also appeared on NOW with Bill Moyers. She has been poetry editor at The Texas Observer for 20 years. She is also laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Award for Children's Literature; and in 2017 the American Library Association presented her with the 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award.

Event Partner: Catawba Valley Interfaith Council

Contact VWS

Dr. Rand Brandes

Titles: Martin Luther Stevens Professor of English, Director of the Visiting Writers Series, Director of the Lineberger Center
Phone Numbers:
School: 828.328.7077

Lisa Hart

Titles: Program Consultant, Lineberger Center, Program Consultant, The Little Read, Program Consultant, Visiting Writers Series
Phone Numbers:
School: 828.328.7502

Little Read Resources

Previous Authors


Colson Whitehead
Amor Towles
Iggy McGovern
Erik Larson
Angela Davis-Gardner
Patrice Gopo
Allison Hutchcraft
Jennifer Horne
Marie Heaney
Catherine Heaney
Zadie Smith
Nick Laird
Robert Beatty
Terry Gifford


Alina "Tita" M. Ramirez
Anna Lena Phillips Bell
Julie Funderburk
William Stribling
Marlon James
Sarah Vowell
Leslie Rindoks
Denise Kiernan
Reginald Dwayne Betts
Dan Santat - Little Read Curriculum


Jaki Shelton Green
Jeff Hobbs
Chuck Klosterman
Garrison Keillor
Anne Lamott
Paul Muldoon
Will & Mary Pope Osborne


George Saunders
Joshua Bennett
Rebecca Skloot
Colum McCann
Jesmyn Ward
Katherine Howe
Nadia Bolz-Weber
Joyce Hostetter


Jon Meacham
Martin Marty
James Dodson
Junot Diaz
A.S. Byatt
Lou Berney
Belle Boggs
Isabel Wilkerson
Joseph Bathanti
Sherman Alexie
Mary Pope Osborne


Nicholas Sparks
Nicholas Carr
Bernice L. McFadden
John Burnham Schwartz
Sandra Beasley
Philip Schultz
Cynthia Lord


Wes Moore
Natasha Trethewey
Edward P. Jones
Isaac Anderson
Judy Goldman
Sandra Cisneros
Lynne Cherry
Alexander McCall Smith


John Feinstein
Cathy Smith Bowers
Joan McBreen
Rhett Iseman Trull
A. J. Jacobs
Luis Alberto Urrea
John Granger
W. S. Merwin
Amina McIntyre
Kevin Young
David Baldacci
Deborah Wiles


Richard Rodriguez
Marisha Pessl
Tess Gallagher
Paula Meehan
Jeannette Walls
Paula Vogel
Mitchell Gold
Abigail DeWitt
Julia Alvarez

Ted Pope
Lee Ann Brown
Lisa Jarnot
Thomas Meyer
Jeff Davis
Michael Rumaker
Thomas Rain Crowe


Galway Kinnell
Anna Quindlen
Jonathan Kozol
Terry McMillan
Julie Fay
Geraldine Brooks
Bruce Lansky


Thomas Rain Crowe
Duchess of Abercorn
Walter Isaacson
Frank McCourt
Tracy Kidder
Mark Powell
Jane Smiley
Jon Scieszka


James Bradley
John Updike
Anthony S. Abbott, Davidson College -- Visiting Writer in Residence
Nikkey Finney, U. Kentucky
Gary Snyder, U. California, Davis
James McBride
Christopher Paul Curtis


le thi diem thuy, Smith College
Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, NPR
Joyce Carol Oates, Princeton U.
Kelly Link, Northhampton MA
Naomi Shihab Nye, San Antonio, TX
Tim O'Brien, Southwest Texas State U.


Ron Whitehead, U. of Louisville
Anne Fadiman, Yale U.
Jonathan Lethem, New York
Thomas Lynch, Milford, Michigan
Sharon Olds, NYU
Bob Inman, Charlotte, NC
Alice Walker, Northern California
Adrian Rice, Lenoir-Rhyne College
Dale Bailey, Lenoir-Rhyne College


Billy Collins, Lehman College, NYC
Joan McBreen, Sligo, Ireland
Kathy Reichs, UNC-Charlotte and Quebec, Canda
Richard Ford, New Orleans, LA and Montana
Michael Knight, U. Tennessee-Knoxville
Karen Joy Fowler
Martin Espanda, U. Off Massachusetts-Amherst


Coleman Barks, U. of Georgia
Seamus Heaney, Harvard U.
Bill Bryson, New Hampshire
Marilyn Nelson, U. of Connecticut
Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Howard U.
Mary Hood, Georgia
Saleem Peeradina, India, Wake Forest U.


Richard Chess, UNC-Asheville
Robert Conley, Tahlequah, OK
Nicolae Dabija, Moldova
Bret Lott, C. of Charleston
Josephine Humphreys, Charleston, SC
John Stone, M.D., Emory U., Alanta GA
Nikki Giovanni, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
R. T. Smith, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA
Kyle Gann, Bard College, Annadal-on-Hudson, NY
Leroy Quintana, El Cajon, California


Carolyn Kizer, San Francisco, CA -- Pulitzer Prize Winner
Ernest Suarez, Catholic U., Washington, D.C.
Pat Conroy, SC
Eavan Boland, Stanford U.
Joe Connelly, NYC
Afaa M. Weaver, Simmons College, Boston
Ron Rash, Clemson, SC
Michael Strickland, New Jersey City U.
Lucinda Roy, Virginia Tech
Benjamin Alire Saenz, U. of Texas, El Paso


Yusef Komunyakaa, Princeton U.
Linda Beatrice Brown, N. Carolina
Donald Hall, New Hampshire
Adrian Rice, Northern Ireland
Nathalie Anderson, Swarthmore College
Jill Jones, N. Carolina
Robert Morgan, Cornell U.
Sue Ellen Bridgers, N. Carolina
Luis Rodriguez, Chicago, IL
Orson Scott Card, N. Carolina
Joseph Bathanti, N. Carolina
Leslie Marmon Silko, Tuscon, AZ
Connie Briscoe, Maryland


Lee Smith, N. Carolina
Lee Eric Shackleford, Alabama
Lewis Nordan, Pennsylvania
E. Ethelbert Miller, Howard U.
Jan Karon, Blowing Rock, NC
Jorge Velasco Mackenzie, Equador
Jade Ngoc Quang Huynh, Appalachian State U.
Shelby Foote, Mississippi
John Shelton Reed, UNC-Chapel Hill
Kathryn Stripling Byer


Jill McCorkle, Boston, MA
Billy Collins, NYC
Paul Muldoon, Princeton U.
Dori Sanders, S. Carolina
Robert Inman, Charlotte, NC
Saleem Peeradina, Siena Heights C.
Ernest J. Gaines, Louisianna
J. California Cooper, San Francisco, CA
Todd McEwen, New York


Michael Longley, Belfast, N. Ireland
Clyde Edgerton, N. Carolina
Wilma Dykeman, N. Carolina
Eleanora E. Tate, N. Carolina
Terry Gifford, England
Ron Whitehead, U. of Louisville
Peter Fallon, Ireland
James Welch, Missoula, MT
Nigel Jenkins, Wales
Menna Elfyn, Wales
Iwan Llwyd, Wales


Steven Yount, N. Carolina
Kathryn Stripling Byer, Western Carolina U.
Julie Kate Howard, CCC&TI
Betty Adcock, Meredith C.
Kate Gibbons, N. Carolina
Mark & Gail Mathabane, South Africa
Todd McEwen, New York
Marie Heaney, Ireland
Ruthanne Lum McCunn, California


Ellen Gilchrist, Arkansas
Scott Owens, Charlotte, NC
Bret Lott, C. of Charleston
Kate Daniels, Wake Forest U.
Dannye Romine Powell, N. Carolina
Ciaran Carson, Belfast, N. Ireland
R. S. Gwynn, Lamar U. Beaumont, Texas
Terry Gifford, Bretton Hall C. Sheffield, England
Billy Collins, City U. of NY-NYC


Reynolds Price, Duke U.
James Applewhite, Duke U.
Deborah Pope, Duke U.
Susan Ludvigson, Winthrop U.
Linda Lightsey Rice, U.T. Knoxville
Donald Davis, N. Carolina


Lee Smith, NC State U.
Gerald Barrax, NC State U.
Chuck Sullivan, N. Carolina
Fiona Cheong, Howard U.
Fred Chappell, UNC-Greensboro
Linda Lightsey Rice, U.T. Knoxville
John Montague, Ireland


Michael Yeats, Ireland
Declan Kiberd, University C., Dublin
Dori Sanders, SC
Sarah Gilbert, Columbia, S. Carolina
Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Ireland
Nola Richardson, Tennessee
Betty Adcock, Meredith C.
Seamus Heaney, Harvard U.


Derek Mahon, New York U.
Helen Vendler, Harvard U.
Eamon Grennan, Vassar C.
David Bottoms, Georgia State U.
Olga Broumas, Boston C.
Charles Simic, U. of New Hampshire
Donald Seacrest, U. of Iowa
Linda Lightsey Rice, U.T. Knoxville
Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Trinity College, Dublin
John Skoyles, Warren Wilson C.
Linda Brown Bragg, Guilford C.
Betty Adcock, Meredith C.
Richard Murphy, Dublin


Robert Hedin, Wake Forest U.
Nathalie Anderson, Swarthmore C.
Michael Waters, Sweet Briar C.
Jennifer Jordan, Howard U.


Paul Muldoon, Princeton U.

Learn More

Every year, for the past thirty years, Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Visiting Writers Series (VWS) has provided outstanding literary arts programming that is free and open to the public. Many communities have arts festivals or even more specifically literary festivals, but very few have literary arts series.

Every year, VWS invites authors to tell the stories behind their own works in a relaxed environment before university and community audiences. We believe the beauty and power of words help us make sense of the world.

We hope that you will join the hundreds of other supporters to continue to bring world-class writers to our community by becoming a 2018-2019 Patron of the Series. A contribution at any level guarantees you two tickets for Armistead Maupin and Louise Penny. Patrons at the $500+ level will also be invited to all VIP receptions throughout the year as well as being invited to special Series events. You may make a donation online or call 828.328.7321 (or 1.800.361.2704). Please consider designating your contribution to the Writers Series Endowment Fund.


The primary purpose of the Writers Series is to provide exceptional cultural opportunities for our students and at the same time to improve the quality of life in Western North Carolina.

The Writers Series’ mission is “to build a community of readers” because we believe that a community that reads is a more creative, open, and tolerant community. The Series is particularly committed to collaborating with local and regional arts and civic organizations as well as non-profits that serve our diverse communities. We need to be reminded, by reading and hearing a variety of accents and stories, that our African-American, Latino, and Asian neighbors among others are members of cultures with rich artistic traditions and important experiences to share.

Mission Statement

The Visiting Writers Series of Lenoir-Rhyne University believes that reading is an essential element in the creation of vibrant communities. We invite authors to read from their own works in a relaxed environment before university and community audiences. We believe the beauty and power of words help us make sense of the world. Children's writers, mystery writers, essayists, poets, novelists all participate in this celebration of the written and spoken word. We believe that a community of readers is a better community.

Support the VWS

Celebrating twenty-five years of outstanding literary programming, the Visiting Writers Series at Lenoir-Rhyne University would not be possible without the generosity of our patrons and sponsors. Your support will help keep VWS events free and open to the public.



Footcandle Film Society
Hickory Public Library
NC Arts Council
National Endowment for the Arts
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Our State
Crowne Plaza Hickory
United Arts Council of Catawba County
WFAE 90.7

VWS Sponsors