American Book Award-winning Navajo poet Sherwin Bitsui and multiple award-winning novelist/essayist Maaza Mengiste read from their work as part of the Althea Ward Clark W’21 Reading Series presented by the Program in Creative Writing.
Per Princeton University policy, all audiences attending indoor events are required to be fully vaccinated and to wear a mask. Visitors may attend outdoor events and are not required by current University policy to attest to COVID-19 vaccination or wear a face covering.
Maaza Mengiste is a novelist and essayist whose work examines the individual lives at stake during migration, war, and exile, and considers the intersections of art and violence. A Pushcart Prize nominee who was named a “New Literary Idol” by New York magazine, she was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, was selected by The Guardian as one of the 10 Best Contemporary African Books and was a Runner-Up for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Mengiste’s newest, The Shadow King, called a “lyrical, remarkable new novel” by The New York Times, revolves around a group of ordinary women who join the front lines during Mussolini’s fascist invasion of Ethiopia in what many consider the first conflict of World War II. “One of the most beautiful novels of the year” (NPR), the book was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize, and was a New York Times Notable Book of 2019. A film adaptation is in the works to be directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Harriet). Mengiste’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, The New York Times, BBC Radio, and Lettre International, among others. The winner of the 2020 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Mengiste’s honors include the Creative Capital Award, a Fulbright Scholarship, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Public Library Cullman Center, and Puterbaugh Festival of International Literature & Culture. Mengiste was also a writer on the documentary film Girl Rising, part of a global action campaign for girls’ education and empowerment. Mengiste has taught as a lecturer in creative writing at Princeton, and she is at work on A Brief Portrait of Small Deaths, a novel set in Berlin during the interwar years.
Photo courtesy Blue Flower Arts
Sherwin Bitsui is the author of three collections of poetry, Dissolve, Flood Song, and Shapeshift. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, an American Book Award, and the PEN Book Award. His poems have appeared in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. He is Diné of the Todích’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tlizílaaní (Many Goats Clan), and has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Native Arts & Culture Foundation.