Randall Library is thrilled to welcome four fantastic authors to help us celebrate the craft of memoir writing and to ring in the 2016 academic year with our very popular Thirsty Tome event!
About the authors:
May-lee Chai is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction and one book-length translation from Chinese to English of the 1934 Autobiography of Ba Jin. Her memoir Hapa Girl was a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book. Her family memoir, The Girl from Purple Mountain, co-authored with her father, Winberg Chai, was nominated for the National Book Award in nonfiction. Her most recent novel, Tiger Girl, won an Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in prose. Currently, she teaches in the Creative Writing Department at UNCW.
Garrard Conley’s fiction and nonfiction can be found in The Common, The Madison Review, Spork, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for Narrative Magazine’s Winter 2013 story contest. Conley currently teaches English literature and promotes LGBTQ equality in Sofia, Bulgaria. One time MFA student at UNCW, his highly anticipated memoir Boy Erased will be published by Riverhead Books in May 2016.
Dana Sachs is the author of two novels, If You Lived Here and The Secret of the Nightingale Palace (William Morrow), and two books of nonfiction, The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam (Beacon Press) and The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam (Algonquin Books). Dana lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her husband and two sons and teaches at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Peter Selgin’s Drowning Lessons won the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award. He has also written a novel, two books on the writer’s craft, an essay collection, books for children, and The Inventors, a memoir. He teaches at Antioch University and is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia College & State University.
About their memoirs:
May-lee Chai's Hapa Girl: A Memoir was published by Temple University Press in 2008.
From the Temple University Press online description:
In the mid-1960s, Winberg Chai, a young academic and the son of Chinese immigrants, married an Irish-American artist. In Hapa Girl ("hapa" is Hawaiian for "mixed") their daughter tells the story of this loving family as they moved from Southern California to New York to a South Dakota farm by the 1980s. In their new Midwestern home, the family finds itself the object of unwelcome attention, which swiftly escalates to violence. The Chais are suddenly socially isolated and barely able to cope with the tension that arises from daily incidents of racial animosity, including random acts of cruelty.
May-lee Chai's memoir ends in China, where she arrives just in time to witness a riot and demonstrations. Here she realizes that the rural Americans' "fears of change, of economic uncertainty, of racial anxiety, of the unknowable future compared to the known past were the same as China's. And I realized finally that it had not been my fault."
Garrard Conley's Boy Erased was published by Riverhead in 2016
From the Penguin Random House online description:
A beautiful, raw and compassionate memoir about identity, love and understanding. The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.
By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.
Dana Sachs' The House On Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam was published by Algonquin Books in 2000.
From the Alogonquin Books online description:
Dana Sachs went to Hanoi when tourist visas began to be offered to Americans; she was young, hopeful, ready to immerse herself in Vietnamese culture. She moved in with a family and earned her keep by teaching English, and she soon found that it was impossible to blend into an Eastern culture without calling attention to her Americanness–particularly in a country where not long ago she would have been considered the enemy. But gradually, Vietnam turned out to be not only hospitable, but the home she couldn’t leave. Sachs takes us through two years of eye-opening experiences: from her terrifying bicycle accidents on the busy streets of Hanoi to how she is begged to find a buyer for the remains of American “poes and meeas” (POWs and MIAs). The House on Dream Street is also the story of a community and the people who become inextricably, lovingly, a part of Sachs’s life, whether it’s her landlady who wonders why at twenty-nine she’s not married, the children who giggle when she tries to speak the language, or Phai, the motorcycle mechanic she falls for. The House on Dream Street is both the story of a country on the cusp of change and of a woman learning to know her own heart.
Peter Selgin's The Inventors was published by Hawthorne Books in 2016.
From the Hawthorne Books online description:
In the Fall of 1970, at the start of eighth grade, Peter Selgin fell in love with the young teacher who’d arrived from Oxford wearing Frye boots, with long blond hair, and a passion for his students that was as intense as it was rebellious. The son of an emotionally remote inventor, Peter was also a twin competing for the attention and affection of his parents. He had a burning need to feel special. The new teacher supplied that need. They spent hours in the teacher’s house, discussing books, playing chess, drinking tea, and wrestling. They were inseparable, until the teacher “resigned” from his job and left. Over the next ten years Peter and the teacher corresponded copiously and met occasionally, their last meeting ending in disaster. Only after the teacher died did Peter learn that he’d done all he could to evade his past, identifying himself first as an orphaned Rhodes Scholar, and later as a Native American.
As for Peter’s father, the genius with the English accent who invented the first dollar-bill changing machine, he was the child of Italian Jews—something else Peter discovered only after his death. Paul Selgin and the teacher were both self-inventors, creatures of their own mythology, inscrutable men whose denials and deceptions betrayed the trust of the boy who looked up to them. The Inventors is the story of a man’s search for his father and a boy’s passionate relationship with his teacher, of how these two enigmas shaped that boy’s journey into manhood, filling him with a sense of his own unique destiny. It is a story of promises kept and broken as the author uncovers the truth—about both men, and about himself. For like them—like all of us—Peter Selgin, too, is his own inventor.
About Thirsty Tome:
Thirsty Tome is an annual event celebrating the culture of creative writing at UNCW and in our community and is a part of UNCWelcome Week activities. This year's events will include readings from our featured authors, craft discussions about writing memoir, a book signing with books provided by Pomegranate Books, and a reception.
Join us Thursday, August 25, 2016, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Sherman Hayes Gallery on Randall Library's first floor for the reading.
(Parking for the reading: please use campus C&D lots and print this parking pass to place on the driver's side dashboard of your vehicle)
Join us Friday, August 26, 2016, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Fisher University Union for two concurrent craft/author discussions:
- Moving from Incident to Insight in Memoir - With Dana Sachs and Peter Selgin, led by UNCW Creative Writing Faculty member Virginia Holman.
- Diversity in America, From Experience to Page - With May-lee Chai and Garrard Conley, led by UNCW Creative Writing Faculty member Beth Staples.
(Parking for the craft discussions: please use campus lot M & Rigel Rd)
All are welcome.*
*Accommodations for disabilities may be requested by contacting Christopher Rhodes, 910-962-7474 or rhodesc [at] uncw.edu at least 5 days prior to the event. UNCW is an EEO/AA institution.