The National Writers Series will continue to offer events safely and virtually. Registration is open now at NationalWritersSeries.org. The 16 virtual events last season drew more than 5,800 people and lots of new fans from around the country.
Dwight Garner // January 14
The season opens Jan. 14 with New York Times book critic Dwight Garner, whose latest book, Garner’s Quotations, is a rollicking, irreverent, amazingly alive selection of unforgettable moments from forty years of deep reading.
He first began jotting down his favorite quotes in high school in what he calls his “commonplace book.”
“It’s where I write down favorite sentences from novels, stories, poems and songs, from plays and movies, from overheard conversations,” he writes in the foreword. Our guest host is Doug Stanton, #1 New York Times bestselling author and an NWS cofounder.
Alan Lightman // January 21
Alan Lightman brings his new novel, Three Flames, to NWS on Jan. 21. Lightman portrays the struggles of a Cambodian farming family against the extreme patriarchal attitudes of their society and a cruel and dictatorial father, set in a rural community that is slowly being exposed to the modern world and its values.
Lightman is a novelist, essayist, physicist, and educator. As both a distinguished physicist and an accomplished novelist, Lightman is one of only a small number of people who straddle the sciences and the humanities. His book, Einstein’s Dreams, was an international bestseller and The Dialogue was a finalist for the American Book Award. Currently, he is Professor of the Practice of the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Until 2003, he was John Burchard Professor of the Humanities at MIT.
Our guest host for this conversation is Kalyanee Mam, a Cambodian native who is best known for directing and producing the award-winning documentary A River Changes Course, which explores the damage rapid development has wrought in her native Cambodia on both a human and environmental level.
Martha Teichner // February 4
On Feb. 4, Traverse City native Martha Teichner, a “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent, will be featured with her heartwarming book When Harry Met Minnie.
It was a chance encounter at the Union Square Farmer’s Market that changed Teichner’s world forever. An acquaintance told Teichner about a woman who was dying of cancer from radiation exposure after 9/11. She was desperate to find a home for her dog, Harry, a bull terrier ― the same breed as Teichner’s dear Minnie. This is a boy dog meets girl dog story, but so much more — it’s also about how we can find love when we open our hearts to unexpected encounters.
The guest host is Cynthia Canty, former host of Stateside on Michigan Radio. She’s a lifelong resident of metro Detroit and has been a television news anchor, producer and reporter. Your ticket also includes a copy of the book.
Diane Rehm // February 24
Acclaimed radio host Diane Rehm will be here Feb. 24 with her book about medical aid in dying, When My Time Comes.
Through personal stories about her mother’s death and her late husband’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease, Rehm examines patient autonomy, personal choice and physician aid in dying. She also talks with clergy, lawmakers, doctors and close friends about their views on legalizing life ending medicines.
The guest host for this conversation is Cynthia Canty, whose reporting and writing have earned her many awards, including an Emmy and honors from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, the Associated Press and the Detroit Press Club.
Imbolo Mbue // March 19
Imbolo Mbue, whose debut novel Behold the Dreamers was a New York Times bestseller, will be here with her latest book, How Beautiful We Were, March 19.
Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made — and ignored. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle will last for decades and come at a steep price. A native of Cameroon and a graduate of Rutgers and Columbia Universities, Mbue lives in New York City.
Guest host Rochelle Riley is Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit and a former award-winning columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She’ll bring her latest book, That They Lived, to the National Writers Series May 13.
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio // April 8
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, one of the first undocumented Americans to graduate from Harvard, will join us on April 8.
Her book, The Undocumented Americans, uses part memoir and part reporting to tell the stories of the undocumented workers in the hidden pockets of the country; at Ground Zero where we meet undocumented workers recruited for the clean-up; the hidden botanicas of Miami, which offer herbs and potions to migrants lacking healthcare, and in Flint where migrants had to present state IDs to get life-saving water.
The book was named one of the 10 best books of the year by Vulture and one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Book Review, Time, NPR, The New York Public Library, Book Riot, and Library Journal. The Undocumented Americans was also long-listed for The Porchlight Business Book Award. “Karla’s book sheds light on people’s personal experiences and allows their stories to be told and their voices to be heard,” says Selena Gomez.
Cornejo Villavicencio has written about immigration, music, beauty, and mental illness for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Glamour, Elle, Vogue, n+1, and The New Inquiry, among others. She lives in New Haven with her partner and their dog. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the American Studies program at Yale.
Chris Bohjalian brings his riveting historical thriller, Hour of the Witch, on April 29.
Set in 17th century New England on the eve of the Salem Witch Trials, Hour of the Witch, which comes out April 20, is the twisting story of a young Puritan wife, Mary Deerfield, who petitions for divorce from her abusive husband — only to end up on trial for witchcraft. The book is inspired by the first divorce in North America for domestic violence.
Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 21 books. His work has been translated into 35 languages and three times been made into movies, including The Flight Attendant, now on HBO.
Rochelle Riley // May 13
Rochelle Riley, a frequent guest host at National Writers Series event, brings her latest book, That They Lived, to NWS on May 13.
The book has biographies and charming photos of children dressed their heroes, including Muhammad Ali, whose bike was stolen when he was 12. The police officer who took the report told Ali to learn to fight before he caught up with the thief.
Written for young readers, That They Lived will charm and enlighten grownups as well. Riley, an author and a former Detroit Free Press columnist was part of a team that won a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. She is now director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit. She has won many journalism and humanitarian awards, including an induction into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Media Journalism Hall of Fame.
Mary Doria Russell // May 26
Mary Doria Russell will speak with us on May 26 about her latest novel, The Women of the Copper Country, which tells the tale of a courageous woman who led a strike against the largest copper mining company in the world.
Anne Clements of Calumet, Michigan decided to stand up for herself and the entire town, touching off a violent, turbulent reaction that still feels startlingly relevant.
Russell is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Sparrow, Children of God, A Thread of Grace, Dreamers of the Day, Doc, and Epitaph. She holds a PhD in biological anthropology and lives in Lyndhurst, Ohio.