New reading series brings fiction writers of color to Fresno

Fiction writers R. O. Kwon, Emily Nemens, Jamel Brinkley, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

By Jefferson Beavers, Communication Specialist, Department of English


Thanks in part to a grant from California Humanities, the Fresno State Master of Fine Arts program will bring to the community a new four-part reading series this spring, Diverse Voices in Contemporary Fiction.

Author and faculty Joseph Cassara, an assistant professor in the Department of English, will host each event. The series will feature readings and discussions with nationally recognized authors of color, each of whom explore the inner lives of characters that grapple with their racial, ethnic, religious, and gender identity in contemporary America.

All readings in the series will be held at 7 p.m. inside the Tower Theatre Lounge, 805 E. Olive Ave., in the Tower District. Admission is free, and free on-site parking is available. Call 559.278.1569 for details.

The series is also supported by Fresno State’s Instructionally Related Activities fund and The Tower Theatre.

R. O. Kwon
R. O. Kwon

Friday, Jan. 31 — R. O. Kwon

Kwon’s nationally bestselling first novel, “The Incendiaries,” is published by Riverhead, and it is being translated into six languages. Named a best book of the year by over forty publications, “The Incendiaries” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Award for Best First Book, Los Angeles Times First Book Prize, and Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Prize. The book was also nominated for the Aspen Prize, Carnegie Medal, and the Northern California Book Award. Kwon’s next novel, as well as an essay collection, are forthcoming.

Kwon’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Paris Review, Buzzfeed, NPR, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Born in South Korea, Kwon has lived most of her life in the United States.

Emily Nemens
Emily Nemens

Friday, Feb. 21 — Emily Nemens

Nemens is a writer, illustrator, and editor. Her debut novel, “The Cactus League,” is published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. In 2018, Nemens became the seventh editor of The Paris Review, the nation’s preeminent literary quarterly. Since her arrival, the magazine has seen record-high circulation, published two anthologies, and produced a second season of its acclaimed podcast.

Nemens grew up in Seattle and received her bachelor’s degree from Brown University, where she studied art history and studio art. She completed an MFA degree in fiction at Louisiana State University. As an illustrator, she’s collaborated with Harvey Pekar, published her work in The New Yorker, and her watercolor portraits of every woman in congress were featured across the web and on national TV. Her short stories have appeared in Blackbird, Esquire, n+1, The Iowa Review, Hobart, and The Gettysburg Review. She lives in New York.

Jamel Brinkley
Jamel Brinkley

Thursday, April 2 — Jamel Brinkley

Brinkley is the author of “A Lucky Man: Stories” (2018), a finalist for the National Book Award, the Story Prize, the John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, The Threepenny Review, Glimmer Train, American Short Fiction, A Public Space, The Believer, and Tin House, among other places, and has been anthologized twice in The Best American Short Stories.

He has received support from Kimbilio Fiction, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, the Tin House Summer Workshop, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Lannan Foundation. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he was also the 2016-2017 Carol Houck Smith Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. He is currently a 2018-2020 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University.

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Saturday, May 2 — Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Hisayo Buchanan is the author of “Harmless Like You” — the winner of The Authors’ Club First Novel Award and a Betty Trask Award. It was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and an NPR 2017 Great Read. “Starling Days,” her second novel, is out in the UK and forthcoming in the USA. It was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. The novel is about love, Ovid, mental illness, and Japanese beer.

Her short work has appeared in several places including Granta, Guernica, The Guardian, The Harvard Review, and NPR’s Selected Shorts. She is the editor of the Go Home! anthology.

~ Creative Writing Program undergraduate assistant Rodolfo Avelar contributed to this report.

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