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Award-Winning Authors to Discuss New Works

By Erin Garrett

University of Mississippi

Jane Smiley. Submitted photo

Eudora Welty Prize winner Ethel Morgan Smith and Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley will discuss their latest books at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 in Nutt Auditorium at the University of Mississippi.

The event is free and open to the public.

Smith won the 2023 Eudora Welty Prize for her “Path to Grace: Reimagining the Civil Rights Movement” (University Press of Mississippi). The book gives accounts from “heretofore unsung champions” of the civil rights movement through 11 original interviews.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the community at Ole Miss and excited to be coming to Oxford,” Smith said.

Acclaimed author Smiley said she was happy to join Smith for the event. She praises Smith’s work in a review stating it is “a terrific read – shocking, amusing, enlightening and mesmerizing, beginning to end.”

Smiley won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for her book “A Thousand Acres,” which reimagines William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in the 20th century. Her most recent work, “The Questions that Matter Most” (Heyday Books, 2023), is a collection of nonfiction essays.

She will also preview her upcoming book, which is a reimagining of her life as a musician and slated for release in April 2024.

Bruce Levingston, Chancellor’s Honors College Artist in Residence and Lester Glenn Fant Chair, will lead the conversation.

Levingston, a concert pianist who teaches Hon 445: Art and the Republic in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, has assigned his students to read books from Smith and Smiley. He said it is a “wonderful educational opportunity” and even more special for them to meet the authors in person.

“To encounter these two extraordinary creative figures will be an inspiring and transformative experience for my honors students,” he said. “This will be a wonderful opportunity for them to ask these great artists questions about their works and creative processes as well to observe and interact with them personally in the special, unique environment of the Barksdale Honors College.”

Smiley, who hails from Los Angeles, has a surprising connection to Ole Miss.

“My aunt and uncle, David and Nancy Graves, both went to Ole Miss, and I am very eager to visit and see what it was like for them,” she said. “I am really looking forward to this.”

Sponsored by the Honors College, the event is made possible by Ruff and Susan Fant, who established the Lester Glenn Fant Chair and the Chancellor’s Honors College Artist in Residence Fund.

“Their vision gives us the opportunity to invite important and vital creative citizens to our campus,” Levingston said.

He encourages the university community to attend.

“This a wonderful opportunity for all of our students, faculty and members of the Oxford community to hear and meet two of the most interesting writers of our time discussing their latest works as well as the significant events in our society and times which have influenced and shaped their thinking and creative processes.”


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