July 12, 2019 Amina Gautier
Multi-award winning short story writer, Amina Gautier, shares excerpts from her 2018 PEN/Malamud Award-winning collection, The Loss of All Lost Things, as part of that year's Pleiades Visiting Writers Series at the University of Central Missouri. She also talks about the real-world inspiration and years of research that went into this book, her third short story collection. She also won the Flannery O'Connor Award for her first book, At Risk, about teenaged African-Americans, and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize for her second collection, Now We Will Be Happy, about Afro-Puerto Ricans, as well as displaced islanders and those born on the Mainland U.S.
July 5, 2019 George Saunders
George Saunders, the renowned short story writer, talks about his debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, winner of Britain's Man Booker Prize for best novel written in English in 2017. He discusses his approach to this story, which began two decades before when he read about Abraham Lincoln's grief over the loss of his son, Willie, and how he made visits to the crypt to hold his body. Saunders decided to explore the tumultuous Civil War period through a chorus of ghosts, and talks about the joy he found in using his editing and curating skills to join history with fiction. He also reads from the novel. A 2014 program with George Saunders is also available in our audio archives.
June 28, 2019 Russell Banks
Acclaimed novelist, retired Princeton professor and mountain climber, Russell Banks discusses his recent memoir, Voyager:Travel Writings. Interviewed by his former student and now fellow novelist, Whitney Terrell, Banks reveals how his childhood traumas played into his relationships in front of an audience at a Literacy Kansas City event. He also talks about his time spent traveling to places like Haiti and Jamaica, and how white America has overlooked and belittled the Native and minority populations of the country, and how that plays into his writing. His books, The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction were adapted into award-winning films. Listen to additional programs with Russell Banks from 1986 and 1999 in our audio archives.
June 21, 2019 Edward Hirsch
In the second part of this conversation, poet and "MacArthur genius" Edward Hirsch discusses how the sudden death of his son inspired his 2014 book Gabriel: A Poem, which was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award and won the National Jewish Book Award. Though he had written elegiac poetry in the past, this book length poem proved especially difficult to create. Describing it as "a father's book," he reveals the challenges of capturing the spirit of his son while also telling his own story of grief. Hirsch also talks about how he referenced other poets in history who wrote about losing children and the ways in which this helped him process his grief. The first part of this conversation in available in our audio archives.
June 14, 2019 Naomi Shihab Nye
Arab-American writer Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis and is now a long-time resident of Texas with her husband, photographer Michael Nye. She discusses how her late father has impacted her writing. Aziz Shihab was a journalist who emigrated from Palestine to Missouri, where he met her mother and made the U.S. his home, though he always went back to visit family, including his mother who lived to be 106. In the second part of this interview, Nye reads from Transfer, her book that's dedicated to her father, and reflects on refugees and their stories, after she was the keynote speaker on the theme of immigration at the 2017 National Storytelling Network Conference in Kansas City. Part one of this interview along with programs with Naomi Shihab Nye from 2003 and 2006 are also available in our audio archives.
June 7, 2019 Joaquín Zihuatanejo
Texas-born Joaquín Zihuatanejo is the only poet so far to win both the American Individual World Poetry Slam and the European World Cup of Poetry Slam. Hear his prize-winning "Poem for John" and readings from his sixth collection, Arsonist, published in 2018 after winning the Anhinga-Robert Dana Poetry Prize. He shares how this book came to be written after a Facebook message opened a portal into the life of his deceased father, and reads poetry about cultural archetypes, revealing his outlook on the world to an audience at the Kansas City Public Library.
May 31, 2019 Justin Martin
Justin Martin is the author of several biographies, but his fifth book, Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America's First Bohemians, is his first group biography. It explores a critical four-year period in the life of Walt Whitman and his artistic associates before the Civil War. Citing a lifelong curiosity to understand the real people he writes about and not the mythical figures they become over time, Martin's book also explores the bohemian lifestyle in 1850s New York City, along with some of the well-known artists who frequented Pfaff's Saloon and their influence on the artistic culture of the time.
May 24, 2019 Tim O'Brien
Vietnam veteran and National Book Award-winning fiction writer Tim O'Brien discusses his experiences and reads from his now classic short story collection, The Things They Carried, as part of the NEA's Big Read. Originally released in 1990, the book follows a fictional platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam. In this excerpt of the 2017 presentation at the Kansas City Public Library, O'Brien reads from the story "Ambush" and details how he transformed events in his soldier life into his powerful fiction, as he explores how war affects soldiers and families. He also gives some tips as he shares his writing process.
May 17, 2019 Monica Youn
A lawyer-turned-poet, Monica Youn has written three books of poetry, and now teaches creative writing in New York. Twice a finalist for the National Book Award, she reveals why she felt the need to leave the legal field for creative writing after her second poetry book. In part one of this conversation, she also discusses how historical views on a woman's place in society and her own struggles with infertility helped shape her third book, Blackacre, winner of the 2017 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Part two of this program with Monica Youn is also available in our audio archives.
May 10, 2019 Tyehimba Jess
Tyehimba Jess, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry reads from his multi-award winning Olio at the Kansas City Public Library, during his 2019 visit to the Unesco Creative City of Music. The book delves into the voices of African American creatives in the 19th and early 20th century, allowing them to engage with each other in ways not possible in history. Jess is also interviewed by the Poet Laureate of Kansas City's 18th and Vine Jazz District, Glenn North. Listen to this conversation about poetic form, music and the legacy of African American poetry and history with Tyehimba Jess, who is also the author of Leadbelly.
May 3, 2019 Margot Livesey
Scottish-born writer Margot Livesey began reading at an early age and later went on to pen a book of short stories and eight novels, and most recently, a book on the craft of writing called The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing. In this 2018 presentation at the Kansas City Public Library, Livesey talks about her evolution as a reader and writer, and shares passages from her tenth book that gives insight into not only her writing life, but those of the authors of famous books from Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary to Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Shows with Margot Livesey from 2001, 2006, and 2011 are also available in our audio archives.
Kansas City Literary Events