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Hugo Literary Series: Karen Russell, Kiese Laymon, Tara Conklin, and Little Spirits

May 29, 2020 at 7:30 PM

The 2019–2020 Hugo Literary Series season is the second in our new home. We’ve spent our first year here working to widen the scope of the region’s literary community, actively bringing in writers who are using their work to question, challenge, and rewrite the narratives our culture passes down to us.

Like many of you, we’ve been thinking a lot about the world we live in, about what separates us and what brings us together.

This season, we want to explore those separations: What is it that divides us from each other, from what we hope for, dream of, deserve, or crave? And what are we going to do about it?


In the final installment of this season’s Hugo Literary Series, three writers and a musician take on the theme “Strange Appetites.”

Featuring Pulitzer Prize finalist Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Orange World; black Southern writer Kiese Laymon, who wrote the award-winning memoir Heavy; and bestselling local novelist Tara Conklin, with new music from singer-songwriter performance duo Little Spirits.


About the Performers

Karen Russell won the 2012 and the 2018 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and one of The New York Times’ Ten Best Books of 2011. She has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim award and is a former fellow of the NYPL Cullman Center and the American Academy in Berlin. She graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University and received her MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts.


Kiese Laymon is a black southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. He is the author of the novel Long Division; a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America; and Heavy: An American Memoir, winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal and the LA Times Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose. Heavy was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by the New York TimesPublishers Weekly, NPR, Library Journal, the Washington PostSouthern Living, San Francisco Chronicle, and more. Laymon is currently the Ottilie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi.


Tara Conklin is a writer and former lawyer whose first novel, The House Girl, (William Morrow) was a New York Times bestseller, #1 IndieNext pick, Target book club pick and has been translated into 8 languages. Her second novel, The Last Romantics (William Morrow) was published in February 2019 to wide acclaim. An instant New York Times bestseller, The Last Romantics was a Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick, IndieNext Pick, and was selected by Jenna Bush Hager as the inaugural read for The Today Show Book Club.