Living Writers Series Fall 2021

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The World Beyond Us: A Living Writers Series              

Fall Quarter, 2021

Thursdays, 5:20 PM on Zoom


Event Description

Taking advantage of our (hopefully) last virtual Living Writers this Fall, 2021, this series will be centered on writers working and living outside the United States, writers who look beyond the U.S. in their work, and writers who work in languages other than English. Due to the prohibitive cost of travel and lodging, many of these writers would have been difficult if not impossible to bring in person. Some writers will read with their translators, extending the conversation to the art of translation as well. Two of these translators are Literature Department professors and one a Literature Department graduate student, highlighting the creative translation work being done in our own department. The U.S. publishes very little work in translation, just 3% of the books published in the U.S. are translations, compared to other countries (50% of Italy’s books are translations, for example). Thus, this series will expose students (as well as faculty and community members) to exciting writers, writing and translations they very likely are not familiar with.

This series will also include one night of California speculative writers, Claire Vaye Watkins and Cathy Thomas, who will read and talk about California Futures. This California Futures evening will be sponsored by The Humanities Institute Research Cluster Speculatively Scientific Fictions of the Future. 




Giannina Braschi was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was a fashion model, singer, and tennis champion in her teen years. She studied literature in Madrid, Rome, London, and Rouen before settling in New York City. With a Ph.D. in Hispanic Literatures from State University of New York, Stony Brook, she taught at Rutgers University, City University of New York, and Colgate University. She has published on Cervantes, Garcilaso, Machado, Lorca, and Bécquer. A Literature Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts, Braschi has won awards/grants from Ford Foundation, Danforth Scholarship, New York Foundation for the Arts, Reed Foundation, InterAmericas, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Rutgers, and PEN. PEN has called Braschi “one of the most revolutionary voices” in Latin American Literature today. Her work is a hybrid of poetry, fiction, theater, and political philosophy. Braschi has published numerous works in Spanish, Spanglish, and English, including El imperio de los sueños (Anthropos, 1988), Yo-Yo Boing! (Latin American Literary Review Press, 1998) and United States of Banana (AmazonCrossing, 2011). Her scholarly publications include a book on Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer and essays on Cervantes, Garcilaso, Machado, and García Lorca. Her collected poems were translated into English by Tess O’Dwyer as Empire of Dreams (Yale University Press, 1994). Her life’s work is the subject of Poets, Philosophers, Lovers: on the Writings of Giannina Braschi (Latinx and Latin American Profiles, Pittsburgh, 2020), a collection of essays edited by Frederick Luis Aldama and Tess O’Dwyer with a foreword by Ilan Stavans. The United States Library of Congress calls her work “cutting-edge, influential and even revolutionary.” In recent years, her avant-garde writings have appeared in far-ranging cultural spaces such as television comedy, chamber music, art and design, theater, and ecologic urbanism. 



Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. Her stories have been honored with a National Magazine Award, a Commonwealth Short Story Prize and an O. Henry Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, GRANTA and has received support from The Elizabeth George Foundation and MacDowell. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY won the 2017 Kirkus Prize, the 2017 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and was selected for the New York Times/PBS book club among other honors. Arimah is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Writing. She lives in Las Vegas and is working on a novel about you.



Nouri al-Jarrah with translator Camilo Gómez-Rivas and Omar Pimienta with translator José Antonio Villarán

Nouri al-Jarrah is a Syrian poet and influential poetic voice on the Arab literary scene. He has lived in exile and been publishing his poetry for nearly 40 years. His poetry draws on diverse cultural sources, and is marked by a special focus on mythology, folk tales and legends. A Boat to Lesbos and Other Poems (Banipal Books, 2018), is Nouri Al-Jarrah’s first collection in English translation. This powerful epic poem was written while thousands of Syrian refugees were enduring frightening journeys across the Mediterranean before arriving on the small island, and set out like a Greek tragedy, also has editions in French, Italian, Turkish, Spanish, Persian, and forthcoming in Greek – a truly international response to the torment of the Syrian people during these last few years.

Camilo Gómez-Rivas and Allison Blecker are the translators of Nouri al-Jarrah’s A Boat to Lesbos and Other Poems (Banipal Books, 2018). Gómez-Rivas is an Associate Professor of Mediterranean Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He specializes in the cultures, history, and literatures of the medieval and early modern western Mediterranean. His book, Law and the Islamization of Morocco under the Almoravids: the Fatwās of Ibn Rushd al-Jadd to the Far Maghrib, analyzes a group of legal consultative texts between Cordoba and the Far Maghrib (what is today Morocco) and argues that legal institutions developed in the latter in response to the social needs of growing urban spaces and the administrative needs of the first Berber-Islamic empire. He is currently working on a second book-length project on the social and cultural history of the reception of displaced populations in the medieval and early modern western Mediterranean: a history of the refugees of the "reconquista." In addition to translating modern Arabic literature, he has also written on modern topics including legal reform in Morocco and Egypt. He received his PhD in Medieval Studies from Yale in 2009. After a two-year dissertation writing fellowship at Willamette University in, Salem, Oregon, he spent five years teaching in the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations at the American University in Cairo.

Omar Pimienta was born in Tijuana in 1978 and lives and works between San Diego and Tijuana. Pimienta has a Ph.D in Literature and an MFA from the University of California-San Diego as well as a B.A. in Latin American Studies, San Diego State University. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally at spaces such as the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; 5th Transborder Biennial with El Paso Museum of Art; MOCA Tucson. Arizona; Oceanside Museum of Art.; A Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibit; Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach and the Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles, CA. His books of poetry include, Album of Fences (Cardboard House Press, 2018), Inspección secudaria (Atrasalante Poesía, 2017), El Álbum de las Rejas (Ediciones Liliputienses, 2016), Escribo desde aquí (Pre-Textos, 2010), La Libertad: ciudad de paso. (CECUT/ CONACULTA, 2006; New edition, Aullido libros, Huelva, España, 2008), and Primera Persona: Ella. (Ediciones de la Esquina /Anortecer, 2004; New Edition, Littera libros, Cáceres, España. 2009). 

José Antonio Villarán is the translator of Omar Pimienta’s Album of Fences (Cardboard House Press, 2018). He has bilingual fluency (English and Spanish) as a writer, scholar, translator and instructor. He is the author of two books of poetry: la distancia es siempre la misma (2006) & el cerrajero (2012). He is the creator of the AMLT project (, an exploration of hypertext literature and collective authorship. His third book, titled open pit, is forthcoming from AUB in 2021. Areas of focus include: Creative Writing, Poetry/Poetics, Cross-Genre Literature, Literary Translation, US-Latinx Literature, Critical University Studies and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. He holds an MFA in Writing from UCSD and a PhD in Literature with a Creative/Critical Writing Concentration from UCSC.



Lara Vapnyar moved from Moscow to Brooklyn in the 1990s. Knowing very little English, she quickly picked up the language and soon began writing in it. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and Zoetrope: All-Story. She is the author of two short story collections, There are Jews in My House (Anchor, 2003) and Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love (Anchor, 2008) as well as four novels, Memoirs of a Muse (Vintage, 2006), The Scent of Pine (Simon & Schuster, 2014), Still Here (Hogarth, 2016), and Divide Me by Zero (Tin House Books, 2019). She lives in New York City with her family.



Claire Vaye Watkins is the author of two novels I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness (Riverhead Books, 2021) and Gold Fame Citrus (Riverhead Books, 2015). She is also the author of the short story collection Battleborn (Riverhead Books, 2012), winner of the Story Prize, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. Battleborn was named a Best Book of 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Time Out New York, and Flavorwire, and a Best Short Story Collection by In 2012, the National Book Foundation named Claire one of the 5 Best Writers Under 35. Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, One Story, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Best of the West 2011, Best of the Southwest 2013, and elsewhere. 

Cathy Thomas is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has worked for NBC, CBS, Warner Bros. and in film development for Forest Whitaker. She is a script reader for Annapurna Pictures and Skydance Media. Some of her recent research is published in a chapter of Articulating the Action Figure: Essays on Toys and Their Messages; short stories and essays in Positive Magnets Journal; and a forthcoming memory project Wax on, Wax Off. She is Managing Editor of The C.O.U.P Project, a multi-platform dialogic journal engaged in acute critiques of power, privilege, domination, and the violences they produce. She received her Ph.D. in Literature with a Creative/Critical Writing Concentration at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she was awarded a UC President's Dissertation Year Fellowship and examined carnivalesque in Caribbean literature with her spec fiction novel Poco Mas



Morton Marcus Memorial Reading with Gary Young

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Gary Young has been awarded grants from the NEA and the NEH. He’s received a Pushcart Prize, and his book of poems, The Dream of a Moral Life (Copper Beech Press, 1990), won the James D. Phelan Award. He is the author of several other collections of poetry including Hands (Illuminati, 1979); Days (Silverfish Review Press, 1997); Braver Deeds (Gibbs Smith, 1999), winner the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize; No Other Life (Heyday Books, 2005), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award; Pleasure (Heyday Books 2006)and Even So: New and Selected Poems (White Pine Press, 2012). His most recent books are That’s What I Thought (Persea Books, 2018)winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award from Persea Booksand Precious Mirror, translations from the Japanese (White Pine Press, 2018). In 2009, he received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. He teaches creative writing and directs the Cowell Press at the University of California, Santa Cruz.



Student Reading


Sponsored by The Puknat Literary Endowment, The Porter Hitchcock Poetry Fund, The Laurie Sain Endowment, The Humanities Institute, and Bookshop Santa Cruz (where the authors’ books are available for purchase)

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