Word Works | Elaine Castillo: On Reading, Revolution, and the Classics
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In a global literary and intellectual culture awash in misinformation and at the same time, so seemingly obsessed with the rhetoric of free speech, cancellation, and the supposed dangers of things like "critical race theory," how can we approach the classics—the books often thought of as the cornerstones of Western literature, if not Western civilization full-stop—in ways that are novel, galvanizing, and perhaps even reparative? How do we read, how have we been taught to read, and what does any of that have to do with notions like resistance, or indeed revolution? We’ll talk Homer, Austen, Cinderella, images of the American West as envisioned by people outside of it, the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, translation, dictatorship, and what it can mean to be a reader in the world. Elaine Castillo will be joined in conversation by Jen Soriano.
Word Works craft talks by novelists, essayists, poets, and memoirists focus on writing as process rather than finished product, examining how language works to inspire and provoke new ideas through live close readings of the writer’s own or others’ work. These talks are designed to apply to writers of all genres as well as illuminate well-known works for avid readers. The talks are followed by an interview with a noted editor, writer, or critic.
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Jen Soriano is a nonbinary Filipinx-American writer, independent scholar, and social movement strategist based in Seattle, WA. Their writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and has appeared in Pleiades, Waxwing, and Hennepin Review, among other outlets. Melissa Febos has called Jen’s work “powerful and luminous” and Aisha Sabatini-Sloan has described her writing as “vivid” and “cinematic.” Jen is the recipient of the Penelope Niven Prize, the Fugue Prose Prize, and Jack Jones and Hugo House Fellowships. Their first full-length book, Nervous, is forthcoming from Amistad/HarperCollins in summer 2023.
Elaine Castillo is the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel, America is Not the Heart (Viking, 2018), named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Boston Globe, Kirkus Reviews, the New York Public Library, and many others. In August 2022, Viking will publish her first work of nonfiction, How to Read Now, on the politics and ethics of our reading culture. Her writing has appeared in Freeman’s, The Rumpus, Lit Hub, Taste Magazine, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. Her short film, A Mukkbang, was commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Open Space. She is a VONA Foundation Fellow, and was a three-time recipient of the Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prize for prose while at UC Berkeley. She has also been nominated for the Pat Kavanagh Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a Gatewood Prize.