Meetings are held in the Piper Writers House, Tempe campus, from noon to 1 p.m. The author is always present. Attendees are invited to join the author for lunch at the University Club, no-host. The entire ASU community is welcome, as well as the public.
Note: The January and February readings have been switched.
Sept. 29 - “A Good Map of All Things” (novel) and “Not Go Away Is My Name” (poetry), by Alberto Álvaro Ríos, director of the Piper Writing and University Professor of English.
In Rios’ new picaresque novel, momentous adventure and quiet connection brings 20 people to life in a small town in northern Mexico. The stories take place in the mid-20th century, in the high desert near the border—a stretch of land generally referred to as the Pimería Alta—an ancient passage through the desert that connected the territory of Tucson in the north and Guaymas and Hermosillo in the south.
Resistance and persistence collide in Not Go Away Is My Name, a book about past and present, changing and unchanging, letting go and holding on. The borderline between Mexico and the U.S. looms large, and Ríos sheds light on and challenges our sensory experiences of everyday objects. In searching for and treasuring what ought to be remembered, Ríos creates an ode to family life, love and community, and realizes “All I can do is not go away. / Not go away is my name.”
Oct. 27 – “Blackface,” by Ayanna Thompson, Regents Professor of English.
The history of blackface, the behavior by which white people paint their faces and sometimes their bodies to imitate people of color, has a long and persistent history. Most recently, Sacha Baron Cohen used blackface to mock the history of it in his Oscar-nominated film “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”
But employing blackface, even to criticize its use as in the Borat film, can open wounds in communities that are disproportionately affected by racism. In her new book Ayanna Thompson explores the painful history of blackface.
Nov. 17 – “Now in Color,” by Jacqueline Balderrama, Piper Center Fellow who earned her MFA from ASU in 2016.
"Now In Color" explores the multigenerational immigrant experience of Mexican Americans who have escaped violence, faced pressures to assimilate, and are now seeking to reconnect to a fragmented past. These poems illuminate the fluidity of language and of perception through both small hypocrisies and real atrocities.
One of Balderrama’s strategies is to use the development of motion pictures and Technicolor as a lens through which to examine personal and cultural histories and stereotypes. She also considers bilingual expectations through an innovative series of Spanish definition poems. Balderrama documents pieces of her family’s oral tradition and draws connections to ongoing injustices experienced by current migrant families, offering a living picture of a present inevitably tied to and colored by its past.
Dec. 15 - “Doodling for Writers,” by Rebecca Fish Ewan, associate professor of landscape architecture. (Ewan also received her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing in 2004 at ASU.)
Based on the author’s popular drawing-for-writers workshop, "Doodling for Writers" aims to inspire wordsmiths to play with visuals to enrich their creative process and writing life. Rebecca Fish Ewan combines her wit and wisdom with practical, engaging prompts and activities to illustrate how simple sketching can get you over writing hurdles, bring back memories, develop characters and even provide a roadmap for where your story needs to go.
Full of encouragement and anecdotes, Fish Ewan's cartoon-self, accompanied by a few sidekicks, will guide you through the basics of drawing and then show you how to apply it to your writing process through character sketches, place maps and more. "Doodling for Writers" contains a bonus section about hybrid works of creative writing, and it ends with a collection of resources: suggestions for further reading, pens and pencils to try, and doodlers to follow on Instagram. in ink and watercolor, to tell stories of place and memory.
Jan 26 - "Everyday Life in the Aztec World," co-authored by archaeologist Michael Smith, professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
Incredibly vivid and detailed, the book takes readers on a tour of one of Mesoamerica’s greatest civilizations through the daily lives of six people – the emperor, a priest, a featherworker, a merchant, a farmer and a slave – and four events – the birth of a child, a market day, a day in court and a battle.
The book is like a trip back through time with two expert guides. Interspersed throughout the chapters are fictional vignettes like the haggling at the market, a frantic novice priest who finds himself short of human sacrifices on the eve of an important ceremony, a slave who has been slacking off weaving and learns her owners are considering selling her to the priests, and an ambitious farmer who may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Feb. 23 - "The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment from Landscapes to Societies," by Emeritus Provost Robert E. Page Jr.
The impact of bees on our world is immeasurable. Bees are responsible for the evolution of the vast array of brightly colored flowers and for engineering the niches of multitudes of plants, animals, and microbes. They've painted our landscapes with flowers through their pollination activities, and they have evolved the most complex societies to aid their exploitation of the environment.
The parallels between human and insect societies have been explored by countless sociobiologists. Traditional texts present stratified layers of knowledge where the reader excavates levels of biological organization, each building on the last. In this book, Page delves deep into the evolutionary history and the sociality of bees. He presents fundamental biology-not in layers, but wrapped around interesting themes and concepts, and in ways designed to explore and understand each concept.March 30 - “Perspectives of Five Kuwaiti Women in Leadership Roles: Feminism, Islam, and Politics
,” by ASU Professor and Founding Chair of the Council for Arabic and Islamic Studies Souad T. Ali.
In 2005, Kuwait, a country that is more than 90% Muslim, passed laws granting women both the right to vote and the right to run in elections. In her new book, reveals how these and other advancements have affected them on an individual and societal level. Ali was inspired to write “Perspectives” during her 2009–2010 Faculty Fulbright Fellowship at the American University of Kuwait.
April 27 – “Appleseed,” by Matt Bell, associate professor of creative writing in the Department of English.
Opening in 18th century Ohio, “Appleseed” begins with the story of two brothers who travel into the wooded frontier, planting apple orchards from which they plan to profit in the years to come. As they remake the wilderness in their own image, planning for a future of settlement and civilization, the long-held bonds and secrets between the two will be tested, fractured and broken — and possibly healed.
The story pivots to the second half of the 21st century, when climate change has ravaged the Earth. Having invested early in genetic engineering and food science, one company now owns all the world’s resources. But a growing resistance is working to redistribute both land and power — and in a pivotal moment for the future of humanity, one of the company’s original founders will return to headquarters, intending to destroy what he helped build.
A thousand years in the future, North America is covered by a massive sheet of ice. One lonely sentient being inhabits a tech station on top of the glacier — and in a daring and seemingly impossible quest, sets out to follow a homing beacon across the continent in the hopes of discovering the last remnant of civilization.