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Alumni News
Writers@Grinnell: Deborah Whaley

Award-winning artist, curator, and author Deborah Whaley will read from her work and discuss writing on Thursday, April 26, as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 4:15 p.m. at the Periodic Table, in the Hotel Grinnell, 925 Park Street, Grinnell. 

Deborah Elizabeth Whaley is currently senior scholar for digital arts and humanities research for the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio (DSPS) and professor of American and African American Studies at the University of Iowa. Her research and teaching fields include the institutional history, theories, and methods of American and transnational American studies, 19th century to the present cultural history, comparative ethnic studies, black cultural studies, popular culture, the visual arts, digital humanities, and critical theory.

Her most recent book is Black Women in Sequence: Reinking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime (University of Washington Press, 2015), which won an award from AAUP for its graphic design and book cover. BWiS explores graphic novel production and comic book fandom, looking in particular at African, African American, and multiethnic women as deployed in television, film, animation, gaming, and print representations of comic book and graphic novel characters.

Winners of the spring writing contests will be announced at this event!

Grinnellians Meet Moles at ACS National Meeting

Every spring, chemistry and biological chemistry students who have done research projects and faculty from Grinnell College attend the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Twenty-four Grinnell students presented their research during poster sessions. There were also opportunities to attend exhibitor fairs, hear a wide variety of technical talks, and network with people (including some alumni) who have chosen careers in chemistry.

The 2018 meeting in New Orleans focused on food, energy, and water.

Renowned Author Stephen Kuusisto to Give Memorial Lecture

The second annual memorial lecture honoring Armando “Mando” Alters Montaño ’12 will feature renowned author Stephen Kuusisto, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright scholar, whose new book, Have Dog, Will Travel, has just been released by Simon and Schuster.

The lecture on Tuesday, April 10, will honor the memory and spirit of Montaño, a gifted journalist who died at the age of 22 in June 2012 in Mexico City, where he was working as an intern for the Associated Press. His parents, Diane Alters ’71 and Mario Montaño, plan to attend the lecture, which they endowed, again this year.

Kuusisto, who is noted for his creative nonfiction and poetry, will read from his work at 8 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell.

“Stephen Kuusisto is a fiercely intelligent, wildly funny, and incredibly big-hearted writer,” says Dean Bakopoulos, co-director of the Writers@Grinnell series and a former professor of Montaño’s. “His work is a wonderful example of the perceptive, imaginative, and fearless writing that Mando cared about so deeply.”

In addition to Have Dog, Will Travel, Kuusisto has authored two other memoirs, Planet of the Blind (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year) and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening. He is also an acclaimed poet, and his poetry collections include Only Bread, Only Light, and Letters to Borges.

A frequent speaker in the United States and abroad, Kuusisto teaches at Syracuse University, where he holds a professorship in the Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. He formerly taught at the University of Iowa, Ohio State University, and Hobart and William Smith colleges.

In addition to the lecture, there will be a roundtable discussion about creative nonfiction with Kuusisto and Tessa Cheek ’12, a classmate of Montaño. It will begin at 4:15 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101. Both the discussion and lecture, sponsored by Writers@Grinnell, are free and open to the public.

Cheek is a writer, reporter, and candlestick maker living in Ridgway, Colorado. She holds a master’s of fine arts from Hollins University, where she served as a teaching fellow, graduate assistant, and assistant poetry editor of the Hollins Critic.

She edits copy for the Groundhog Poetry Press and directs social media for political literary magazine Scoundrel Time. She has reported from Colorado’s Capitol and served as news editor for a small-town paper. In 2017, her novel-in-progress won the Melanie Hook Rice Award in the Novel and her short story, “The Devil’s Terrible Nearness,” was nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and a Pushcart Prize.

Armando Montaño ’12

The Armando Alters Montaño ’12 Writers@Grinnell Endowment Fund has been established by the parents of Armando “Mando” Montaño ’12, who died in June 2012 while working as an intern with the Associated Press in Mexico City.

Diane Alters ’71 and Mario Montaño have created the fund through a bequest to Grinnell College. The fund will support the Writers@Grinnell program in memory of their son’s dedication to nonfiction and fiction writing, journalism, and the creative process.

Armando Montano image   Armando Alters Montano image


Writers@Grinnell - Hugo Hamilton

Best-selling Irish author Hugo Hamilton, will read from his work on Thursday, April 12, as a part of the Writers@Grinnell series. The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 8 p.m. in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Hamilton is author of the best-seller, The Speckled People, a German-Irish memoir of his experience growing up in Dublin with a fervent Irish nationalist father and a German mother whose family opposed the Nazis and who came to Ireland in the aftermath of World War II. The book has been praised by Colm Tóibín as a “masterpiece” and an “instant classic” by Colum McCann. Hamilton’s account of a family locked in a “language war” in which his father prohibited the use of English in the home, but permitted Irish and German, addresses all the “great issues of the 20th century,” according to the late Nuala O Faolain, an Irish journalist, writer, and book reviewer.

Translations of The Speckled People won the prestigious Prix Femina étranger in France, as well as the Berto Prize in Italy. The memoir also appeared on The New York Times’ notable books list. Hamilton’s equally rich and compelling second memoir, The Sailor in the Wardrobe, continues the story of his complex dual upbringing, and has also been widely praised as an “enchanting piece of work” by critic Terry Eagleton.

In addition to his memoirs, which have been transformed into screenplays and performed in Dublin theatre venues, Hamilton has written six acclaimed novels and a collection of short stories, all of which reflect on the compelling issues of cultural divisions and belonging.

Hugo Hamilton is currently teaching short course ENG 295-02 - Contemporary Irish Fiction.

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Global Engagement.

Writers@Grinnell welcomes Marlon James

Award winning Jamaican author, Marlon James, will read from his work and discuss writing on Thursday, April 5, as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 8 p.m. in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center. 

In addition, James will lead a roundtable discussion, which is free and open to the public, at 4:15 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101.

Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for A Brief History of Seven Killings, making him the first Jamaican author to take home the U.K.’s most prestigious literary award. In the work, James combines masterful storytelling with brilliant skill at characterization and an eye for detail to forge a bold novel of dazzling ambition and scope. He explores Jamaican history through the perspectives of multiple narrators and genres: the political thriller, the oral biography, and the classic whodunit confront the untold history of Jamaica in the 1970's, with excursions to the assassination attempt on reggae musician Bob Marley, as well as the country's own clandestine battles during the cold war. James cites influences as diverse as Greek tragedy, William Faulkner, the LA crime novelist James Ellroy, Shakespeare, Batman and the X-Men. Writing for The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani said of A Brief History of Seven Killings, “It’s epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting—a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent.” In addition to the Man Booker Prize, A Brief History of Seven Killings won the American Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. James is in the process of adapting the work into an HBO television series.

Marlon James’ first novel, John Crow's Devil, tells the story of a biblical struggle in a remote Jamaican village in the 1950s. Though rejected 70 times before being accepted for publication, John Crow's Devil went on to become a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, as well as a New York Times Editor's Choice. His second novel, The Book of Night Women, is about a slave women's revolt on a Jamaican plantation in the early 19th century. The work won the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction, as well as an NAACP Image Award. James’ short fiction and nonfiction have been anthologized in Bronx Noir, The Book of Men: Eighty Writers on How to Be a Man and elsewhere, and have appeared in Esquire, Granta, Harper’s, The Caribbean Review of Books and other publications. His widely read essay, “From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself,” appeared in the New York Times Magazine. In early 2016 his viral video Are you racist? ‘No’ isn’t a good enough answer received millions of hits. He is currently working on the Dark Star Trilogy a fantasy series set in African legend (Riverhead, 2018).

Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1970. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1991 with a degree in language and literature, and from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania in 2006 with a master's degree in creative writing. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and teaches English and creative writing at Macalester College. 

In his presentations, James addresses topics related to writing and the writing process, as well as issues pertaining to the history of the Caribbean, race and gender in the US and UK, and youth subcultures as expressed in literature and music such as hip-hop and reggae.

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