Thirsty Tome 2016 Salutes the Craft of the Memoir with Four Published Authors

Thursday, August 25, 2016

UNCW’s Thirsty Tome 2016 celebrates the power of the memoir with four authors whose works delve into their diverse and compelling personal histories: May-Lee Chai, Garrard Conley, Dana Sachs and Peter Selgin. The authors will read from their works and discuss the craft of memoir writing Aug. 25 and 26 during the popular two-day event presented by Randall Library.

“Randall Library is honored to welcome four authors who have epitomized the craft of memoir in its modern form,” said Christopher Rhodes, cultural liaison for the library. “It’s a personal thrill for me to be a part of the planning and process that brings such fine writers to UNCW and celebrates the literary arts on campus and in our community.”

Thirsty Tome is an annual tradition celebrating the culture of creative writing at UNCW and is a part of UNCWelcome Week activities. In addition to readings by the authors, this year's events will include a reception, concurrent craft discussions about writing memoir and a book signing with copies provided by Pomegranate Books.

Three of the authors – Chai, Conley and Sachs – have ties to UNCW. Chai is an assistant professor of creative writing. Sachs is a part-time instructor in the Honors College and graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program. Conley was once a student in the MFA program.

Selgin’s short story collection Drowning Lessons won the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award.

Chai’s Hapa Girl is the story of her childhood as she moved with her Chinese-American father – a professor – and Irish-American mother to a small town in South Dakota, where she and her family encountered isolation, racism and violence. The book follows her from there to China, where she discovers similarities in how people react to the fear of cultural and economic change.

Garrard Conley’s memoir, Boy Erased, has attracted considerable attention since its release in May 2016 and was recently featured in The New York Times Book Review. Raised in a devoutly religious Arkansas family – his father was a Baptist minister – Conley was outed as gay while in college. The memoir follows his entrance into a Christian-based “therapy” program that was supposed to “cure” his homosexuality, and the journey of self-discovery that followed the two traumatic weeks he spent there.

Sachs went to Hanoi as a young woman to teach English and documented her experiences in The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam. She stood out in a culture very different from her own, but the people and places she encountered became an indelible part of her life. 

Selgin’s The Inventors revolves around the two most important men in his life – his father and a teacher with whom he shared an unorthodox relationship – and the secrets they kept from him. His journey to uncover the truth about them led to discoveries about himself. Library Journal named Selgin’s memoir one of the best of 2016.

Thirsty Tome will begin with at 6 p.m. Aug. 25 with a reception and readings in the Sherman Hayes Gallery. UNCW creative writing faculty will lead “craft conversations” with the authors from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Fisher University Union. The two sessions will run concurrently.

The event is free and open to the UNCW community and the public.

-- Tricia Vance