2015 Featured Authors & Artists
Roxane Gay’s (www.roxanegay.com)writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK. She is also the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, and Hunger, forthcoming from Harper in 2016.
Gish Jen (www.gishjen.com) is the author of numerous award-winning novels, including World and Town, Mona In the Promised Land, The Love Wife, and Typical American, as well as a collection of stories, Who’s Irish? Invited by Harvard University to deliver the Massey lectures in American Civilization-a distinction she shares with Eudora Welty, Toni Morrison, E.L. Doctorow, and Maxine Hong Kingston-Jen published those lectures in March 2013. Entitled Tiger Writing: Art, Culture and the Interdependent Self, they piercingly address the profound difference in self-narration that underlies the East-West gap and have large implications for our study of literature. Harvard Professor Amanda Claybaugh, in introducing the third of the live lectures, announced, "[F]rom now on I’ll place Jen alongside Hegel and Lukacs as a theorist of the genre, and her father’s narrative alongside Bronte’s and Joyce’s as a fascinating alternative of how to narrate a life."
And yet the lectures are more than just literary. Provocative, honest and personal, they use Jen’s own beginnings as a writer as well as her father’s autobiography about growing up in China to illuminate phenomena from American individualism and American art culture to the success of Asian Americans on standardized tests-the outward focus of Asian storytelling, too.
Jen has been bringing insight, humanity and humor to issues of culture and identity for over two decades. Her novels portray individuals, families, and entire communities struggling with questions of race, religion, choice, and change-asking us, among other things, what it means to be American. Her first novel, Typical American, audaciously redefines Americanness, for example. "As soon as you ask yourself the question, 'What does it mean to be Irish-American, Iranian-American, Greek-American,'" says Jen, "you are American." Later novels, such as The Love Wife, explore phenomena like the new American family. Is a biological child more real than an adopted child? Is an adopted family a real family? How much of ourselves do we choose? This is a theme explored in a different key in Mona in the Promised Land, which asks, Can a nice Chinese girl turn Jewish? even as it looks at the invention of ethnicity, American-style. And Jen’s most recent novel, World and Town, transposes her concerns once again. Is post-9/11 America still a place where we can be reborn? In a novel as much about science culture and religious culture as ethnic culture, Jen explores just how much depends on vision-every form of vision involving a form of blindness.
That these sorts of concerns are raised in the course of great storytelling is testimony to Jen’s gifts. As Ron Charles wrote in The Washington Post, “Jen knows how to create thoughtful characters who can talk and think about complex issues without making us take notes.”Cynthia Ozick echoes this praise: "Jen’s characters are so alive,”she says, “that one can hardly call them 'characters.'" The New York Times Book Review, meanwhile, has focused on Jen’s prose: “No paraphrase could capture the intelligence of Gish Jen’s prose, its epigrammatic sweep and swiftness,”wrote A. G. Mojtabai. "The author just keeps coming at you, line after stunning line."
Elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, Jen is the recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute, and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction. In 2003, an American Academy of Arts and Letters jury comprised of John Updike, Cynthia Ozick, Don DeLillo, and Joyce Carol Oates awarded her a five-year Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award.
Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, and dozens of other periodicals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. It was also featured in a PBS American Masters’ special on the American novel.
Bonnie Jo Campbell
Bonnie Jo Campbell (http://www.bonniejocampbell.com/) is the author of the National Bestselling novel Once Upon a River (Norton, 2011). A river odyssey with an unforgettable sixteen-year-old heroine, which the New York Times Book Review declares, "is, rather, an excellent American parable about the consequences of our favorite ideal, freedom." Her first novel, Q Road, delves into the lives of a rural community where development pressures are bringing unwelcome change in the character of the land.
Campbell's critically-acclaimed short fiction collection American Salvage (Wayne State University Press, 2009) was finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. The collection consists of fourteen lush and rowdy stories of folks who are struggling to make sense of the twenty-first century. Donna Seaman wrote, "Campbell’s busted-broke, damaged, and discarded people are rich in longing, valor, forgiveness, and love, and readers themselves will feel salvaged and transformed by this gutsy book’s fierce compassion." Campbell's collection Women and Other Animals, won the AWP prize for short fiction, and details the lives of extraordinary females in rural and small town Michigan. Her story "The Tatoo" is included in the anthology Shadow Snow, a tribute to Ray Bradbury. Her story "The Smallest Man in the World" was awarded a Pushcart Prize and her story “The Inventor, 1972" was awarded the 2009 Eudora Welty Prize from Southern Review. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow.
Bonnie Jo Campbell grew up on a small Michigan farm with her mother and four siblings in a house her grandfather Herlihy built in the shape of an H. She learned to castrate small pigs, milk Jersey cows, and, when she was snowed in with chocolate, butter, and vanilla, to make remarkable chocolate candy. When she left home for the University of Chicago to study philosophy, her mother rented out her room. She has since hitchhiked across the US and Canada, scaled the Swiss Alps on her bicycle, and traveled with the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus selling snow cones. As president of Goulash Tours Inc., she has organized and led adventure tours in Russia and the Baltics, and all the way south to Romania and Bulgaria.
For decades, Campbell has put together a personal newsletter—The Letter Parade—and she currently practices Koburyu kobudo weapons training. She has received her MA in mathematics and her MFA in writing from Western Michigan University. She lives with her husband and other animals outside Kalamazoo, and she teaches writing in the low residency program at Pacific University.
Carol Muske-Dukes (http://www.carolmuskedukes.com/) is the author of 8 books of poems - the most recent of which is Twin Cities from Penguin. Earlier books of poems include Sparrow, from Random House, a National Book Award finalist, and others. She has also published four novels, including Channeling Mark Twain from Random House in 2003. She is also an essayist and anthology editor. Her collections include Married to the Icepick Killer: a Poet in Hollywood (San Francisco Chronicle Best Book) -- and an anthology of poems, co-edited with Bob Holman - Crossing State Lines: an American Renga (from Farrar, Strauss & Giroux) plus two children's poetry "handbooks" - The Magical Poetry Blimp Pilot's Guide, 1 & 2. Many of her books have been New York Times Most Notable Books.
She is professor of English/Creative Writing at the University of Southern California where she founded the PhD Program in Creative Writing/Literature. She recently completed her term as Poet Laureate of the state of California. She writes for the New York Times Book Review & Op Ed, the LA Times (where she was poetry columnist for some years), The Huffington Post, and The New Yorker, Page-Turner on-line. She has been the recipient of many awards & honors, including a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Library of Congress award, a Castagnola Award, and the Ingram/Merrill award, as well as a finalist for the National Book Award and the LA Times Book Prize, among others. She is anthologized widely and has published her poems and essays in various nationally renowned publications from The New Yorker to SLATE to The Atlantic. Her work has also appeared in Best American Poetry, 2012 and the 25th Anniversary edition of Best American Poetry. She has recently completed a play called I Married the Icepick Killer.
Carol has been a professor for many years at USC, but has also taught (as Visiting Writer, etc.) at Columbia's MFA Program, the Iowa Writers Workshop, the University of Virginia grad MFA, UC Irvine's MFA Program and the New School's MFA.
Although Carol is currently bi-coastal - New York & L.A. - she has strong ties to Minnesota and North Dakota. Beyond Twin Cities, she has a collection of poems entitled Wyndmere (1985), in honor of Wyndmere, North Dakota, a place where extended family called home. She also edited Wyndmere Wind-Rows: Memories of Growing Up on the Dakota Plains (2013) by her mother, Elsie Kunchera Muske.
Torill Stokkan (http://torillstokkan.no/) is the director of Litteraturuka i Sarpsborg, a literary festival in Grand Forks’ sister city Sarpsborg, Norway. She is the author of Tante Karen and Anene, kvinnene & livet: Edvard Munchs liv og aner i Østfold. She served as a consultant on the docudrama Munchs Mødre (The Mothers of Munch). Her latest work Women at War—a two part documentary on Norwegian women who fought during World War II--will be shown on NRK, Norway’s national television station. She is also writes a regular column on culture for her local newspaper.
Alexandra Grant (http://alexandragrant.com/) is a Los Angeles-based artist who uses language, literature and exchanges with writers as the basis for her work in painting, drawing and sculpture. Grant’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LAMCA), among other museums and galleries. She has collaborated with artists and writers including philosopher and playwright Hélène Cixous, hyptertext pioneer Michael Joyce, and actor and writer Keanu Reeves.