Fall Living Writers Series explores histories of war, refuge and social justice

poster of uc santa cruz living writers series
Beyond the Wall:  War, Refuge, and Home is the name of this fall’s installment of the Living Writers Series at UC Santa Cruz.

Curated by the campus’s award-winning author and literature professor Karen Tei Yamashita, the series runs through December 7 at the Humanities Lecture Hall.

“It will be a very exciting series with an amazing line up of artists, filmmakers, poets, and writers,” said Yamashita. “Their work brings insight and understanding about histories of war and refuge, and creatively provides spaces of reconciliation, social justice, and hope--a place beyond walls.”  

“The title, ‘Beyond the Wall:  War, Refuge, and Home,’ pushes against the idea that we can build walls to keep others out or in, or to keep our borders safe,” Yamashita added.

“We are complicit with a long history of war and economic distress making refuge, exile, migration, and loss of home for many a necessary and cruel reality. Perhaps we are not always aware of it, but over time we’ve come to live among friends and family and neighbors who know intimately the trauma of these histories.”  

Highlights of the series include readings by Viet Thanh Nguyen, whose novel, The Sympathizer, which retraced the events of the war in Vietnam and its aftermath, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, an exiled Kenyan novelist and theorist of postcolonial literature who is internationally known for his many books of fiction, memoir, and critical thought.

Toni Jensen, author of the short story collection, From the Hilltop, will also be participating in the series. Jensen is currently working on a new fiction collection about fracking and sex trafficking of Indigenous women. And Renee Tajima-Peña, whose documentary film, No Más Bébes, is about immigrant women sterilized after going into labor, will be returning to UC Santa Cruz to talk about her work.

James Janko, a novelist whose writing began in a veterans writing group founded by Maxine Hong Kingston, will additionally be in conversation with Ellen Greenblatt, a long-time co-facilitator of these workshops.

The goal of the Living Writers Series is to bring visiting authors and poets to UC Santa Cruz in order to provide students with an in-depth look into the world of the working writer.  

All of the readings take place at the Humanities Lecture Hall, 206, on Thursdays from 5:20 to 6 p.m. The series is open to the public and admission is free.

The upcoming lineup:

 October 12: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

October 19: Viet Thanh Nguyen (at 7:10 pm)

October 26: Renee Tajima-Peña

November 2: Sesshu Foster

November 9: Toni Jensen

November 16: Dorianne Laux

November 30: James Janko and Ellen Greenblatt

December 7: UCSC Creative Writing Program, Undergraduate Student Reading

This event is presented by the UC Santa Cruz Literature Department and Creative Writing Program and the Siegfried B. and Elisabeth M. Puknat Literary Series Endowment. For more information about the authors, visit the Creative Writing Program's web site.