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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Crossing Borders: Women Writing Their Lives, lectures March-April

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URI writers-in-residence to give classroom, public talks

KINGSTON, R.I. --February 9, 2011—In honor of Women’s History Month, the University of Rhode Island will host four prominent memoirists during March and April. They will discuss their lives and work with students in classrooms across the University campus and the public. All public presentations are free and will be held from 4:45 to 6:30 p.m. in Lippitt Hall, Room 402, 5 Lippitt Road, Kingston Campus.

The authors’ visits complement an honors class called “Crossing Borders: Women Writing Their Lives” being taught this semester by Jody Lisberger, director of Women’s Studies at URI and faculty member in the brief residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University.

“These writer-scholars have each written several prize-winning works that speak to the importance of bridging histories and peoples of the world,” said Lisberger who arranged the series. “Shared language and story telling are major entry points into the knowledge, empathy, and sympathy that generate world peace. Each of these writers will inspire the audience to read, write, talk, and communicate about issues vital to human life and history.”

The writers bring a global prospective. Jill Ker Conway, the first women president of Smith College, author of The Road from Coorain, will discuss growing up in Australia and facing cultural expectations there; Elaine Orr, author of Gods of Noonday, is a white Nigerian. She will talk about growing up during the Biafran War and also dealing with a kidney transplant; Nancy McCabe, author of Meeting Sophie and Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to My Daughter’s Birthplace in China will speak about adopting a daughter from China and returning to that country with her daughter; Beth Taylor, author of The Plain Language of Love and Loss, will discuss the effects of the Vietnam War on her family, the suicide of her 14-year-old brother in the midst of the war culture, and the influence of growing up Quaker.

The Rhode Island Council of the Humanities, the URI Women’s Studies Program, the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Human Science and Services, the Honors Program, and the Departments of Anthropology/Sociology, Communication Studies, History, and Psychology sponsor the series. Here’s the schedule with more details:

March 8 International Women’s Day
4:45 to 6:30 p.m.
Lippitt Hall, Room 402
5 Lippitt Road, Kingston Campus.

Jill Ker Conway, best known for her autobiography The Road From Coorain, is a prolific, world-renown historian and writer. Born in Australia, educated at University of Sidney and Harvard, she was the first woman president of Smith College. She has taught in many places, and has received 38 honorary degrees and awards from North American and Australian colleges, universities and women’s organizations. Time magazine named her “Woman of the Year” in 1975.

March 15
4:45 to 6:30 p.m.
Lippitt Hall, Room 402,
5 Lippitt Road, Kingston Campus.

Elaine Orr, author of Gods of Noonday, is a white Nigerian, raised by a medical missionary family during the Biafran War. Her memoir explores issues of race, class, religion, war, and what it means to see (or not see) war through the eyes of a child. A professor of English at North Carolina State University, Orr weaves her story in an unusual way with the experience of a kidney transplant and the kinds of life and death issues that arose. Her recent essays, fiction, and poetry have appeared in prominent journals. Her memoir was a BookSense selection and chosen by MaximsNews as the 2003 best book of creative nonfiction.
March 29

4:45 to 6:30 p.m.
Lippitt Hall, Room 402
5 Lippitt Road, Kingston Campus.

Nancy McCabe, author of Meeting Sophie and Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to My Daughter’s Birthplace in China, has a forthcoming memoir. She has won a Pushcart Prize for memoir and received several Pushcart nominations. Her work been listed twice in the notable section of Best American Essays and won two awards from Prairie Schooner. Her essays have appeared in Newsweek and prominent journals. She directed the Arkansas Writers in the Schools program for two years and worked as a writer in the schools in South Carolina and Missouri. She directs the writing program for the Bradford campus of the University of Pittsburgh.

April 12
4:45 to 6:30 p.m.
Lippitt Hall, Room 402
5 Lippitt Road, Kingston Campus.

Beth Taylor is author of the memoir, The Plain Language of Love and Loss, about a Quaker family in 1960s Pennsylvania, an idyllic childhood in rural Bucks County, the suicide of a teenage brother, and the effects of the Vietnam War on three generations of the Taylor family and her own lifetime of searching, love, loss, and faith. Taylor co-directs the nonfiction writing program in the Department of English at Brown University where she teaches creative nonfiction—literary journalism, historical narrative, memoir, and radio nonfiction.