M. Randal O'Wain in Conversation with Mesha Maren
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Please join us for an evening with authors M. Randal O'Wain and Mesha Maren. M. Randal O. Wain will be discussing his book Meander Belt, and Mesha Maren will be sharing from her book Sugar Run. M Randal and Mesha will engage with one another, discussing their works, their background, their connection to family and place, and their creative process. There will be time for questions and book signings after the talk.
ABOUT THE BOOKS:
From memory and observation, Meander Belt is a subtle and spare portrait of roots, of both home and family, and how they come together to form one’s identity.
“For all their poignant intimacy, the essays in Meander Belt are somehow also achingly universal, a self-portrait made up of wisdom and vulnerability that tells the story of a family, a place, and a culture.” —John D’Agata, author of About a Mountain
In Meander Belt, M. Randal O’Wain offers a reflection on how a working-class boy from Memphis, Tennessee, came to fall in love with language, reading, writing, and the larger world outside of the American South. This memoir examines what it means for the son of a carpenter to value mental rather than physical labor and what this does to his relationship with his family, whose livelihood and sensibility are decidedly blue collar. Straining the father-son bond further, O’Wain leaves home to find a life outside Memphis, roaming from place to place, finding odd jobs, and touring with his band. From memory and observation, O’Wain assembles a subtle and spare portrait of his roots, family, and ultimately discovers that his working-class upbringing is not so antithetical to the man he has become.
Set within the charged insularity of rural West Virginia, Mesha Maren’s Sugar Run is a searing and gritty debut about making a break for another life, the use and treachery of makeshift families, and how, no matter the distance we think we’ve traveled from the mistakes we’ve made, too often we find ourselves standing in precisely the place we began.
“A heady admixture of explosive plot and taut, burnished prose . . . Mesha Maren writes like a force of nature.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida
In 1989, Jodi McCarty is seventeen years old when she’s sentenced to life in prison. When she’s released eighteen years later, she finds herself at a Greyhound bus stop, reeling from the shock of unexpected freedom but determined to chart a better course for herself. Not yet able to return to her lost home in the Appalachian Mountains, she heads south in search of someone she left behind, as a way of finally making amends. There, she meets and falls in love with Miranda, a troubled young mother living in a motel room with her children. Together they head toward what they hope will be a fresh start. But what do you do with your past—and with a town and a family that refuses to forget, or to change?
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
M. Randal O'Wain is the author of Meander Belt: Family, Loss, and Coming of Age in the Working Class South and the short story collection Hallelujah Station and his work has been published in Oxford American, Hotel Amerika, Crazyhorse, and Guernica Magazine
Mesha Maren is the author of the novel Sugar Run. Her short stories and essays can be read in Tin House, The Oxford American, The Guardian, Crazyhorse, Triquarterly, The Southern Review, Ecotone, Sou’wester, Hobart, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She was the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Duke University and also serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia.