KINGSTON, R.I. – Nov. 17, 2022 – Terry Tempest Williams, an award-winning writer, naturalist, activist, and educator, will wrap up the fall schedule of the University of Rhode Island Center for the Humanities’ year-long discussion, “Re-Envisioning Nature: An Environmental Humanities Lecture Series.”
Williams, author of about a dozen creative nonfiction books, along with collections of poetry and essays, will read from her works Thursday, Dec. 1, at 4 p.m. in the Hope Room of the Higgins Welcome Center, 45 Upper College Road. The event is free and open to the public and will also be available online. Registration is required.
Along with reading and discussing her work, Williams will take part in a conversation with Jen Riley, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Riley, who helped bring Williams to campus, has published several papers on Williams as part of her research on writers who seek to create positive social change in our communities.
“Williams’ writing brings together issues of social justice, our need to protect the environment, how wilderness and our public parks inform American identity and are essential to community well-being, and more,” said Riley. “She is a significant American environmental humanist and writer. Her book ‘Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place’ is an essential work in environmental literature that our students should know, and her recently published ‘Erosion: Essays of Undoing’ fits our current moment of uncertainties.”
Tabbed a “citizen writer,” Williams is known for speaking out passionately and eloquently on behalf of an ethical stance toward life. Centered in the American West, her writings explore themes of social and environmental justice, conservation, women’s health, culture, and nature. Often, she connects environmental issues and social issues in her work, such as in “Refuge.” In part a memoir, the book discusses the high incidence of cancer in her family, who lived downwind of above-ground nuclear testing in Nevada during the 1950s and ’60s, while also exploring the evolution of the Great Salt Lake and the flooding of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
As an activist, Williams has testified before Congress about women’s health issues, taken part in protests against nuclear testing in the Nevada desert and the war in Iraq, and has been a guest at the White House. She and her husband, Brooke Williams, purchased a 1,120-acre oil and gas lease in Utah to ensure the land would be conserved.
Along with “Refuge,” her books include: “An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field,” “Desert Quartet,” “Finding Beauty in a Broken World,” “The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks,” and “The Secret Language of Snow,” which won the Children’s Science Book Award from the New York Academy of Sciences. Signed copies of Williams’ 2020 book, “Erosion,” and “Refuge” will be available for purchase during her talk.
Williams has garnered numerous honorary degrees, fellowships and awards, including the Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society, its highest honor given to an American citizen; the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western American Literature Association; the Wallace Stegner Award from the Center for the American West; the David R. Brower Conservation Award for activism; the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award; and Lannan Literary and John Simon Guggenheim fellowships.
She was also featured in Stephen Ives’ PBS documentary series “The West” and in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Her work has appeared in The Progressive, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Orion Magazine, and numerous anthologies worldwide.
Williams, who founded the University of Utah’s acclaimed environmental humanities master’s degree program, was the Provostial Scholar at Dartmouth College, and is currently writer-in-residence at the Harvard Divinity School.
The Center for the Humanities’ year-long lecture series continues this spring with writer Gavin Van Horn and Providence-based musician Jake Blount, and closes April 13 with Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Elizabeth Kolbert, author of such books as “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” and “Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future.”
“Bringing Williams to campus adds to an amazing slate of scholars and writers joining us through the Center for the Humanities’ environmental humanities series this year – and helps put further visibility to the value of the humanities for each of us as individuals and for all of us as a community,” Riley said.