Sofia Samatar is the first guest of the Writers Read series on Thursday, Sept. 14, at Eastern Menonnite University. Samatar presents at 8:30 p.m. in the Mainstage Theater in the Campus Center. Cost is $5 or free with student ID. (Photo by Jim C. Hines)

Sofia Samatar, JMU professor, shares fantastical fiction at Thursday’s Writers Read

Eastern Mennonite University’s Writers Read series begins Thursday, Sept. 14, with Sofia Samatar, assistant professor of English at James Madison University. She is the recipient of various writing awards including The British Fantasy Award for Best Novel, the World Fantasy Award, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Crawford Award.

Samatar presents at 8:30 p.m. in the Mainstage Theater in the Campus Center. Cost is $5 or free with student ID.

The Writers Read series, sponsored by the Language and Literature Department, is a special event featuring authors who read from and comment on their work.

Samatar is of European Mennonite and Somali heritage. Her father, a Somali historian and writer, and her mother, a Swiss-German Mennonite schoolteacher, lived in several locations around the world. Fluent in several languages including Arabic, Swahili and Znde, Samatar grew up a world citizen.

She graduated from a North American Mennonite high school and college before earning a PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She specializes in contemporary African and Arabic literature.

Professor Kirsten Beachey says Samatar, a “clever plotter,” provides “a master-class in alternative structures for storytelling” with Tender (Small Beer Press, 2017), her collection of short stories.

Beachy continues: “Her fiction is deeply literary — psychological and character-driven, shaped both by the characters of the wide variety of narrators who populate it and by the characters of the invented cultures and communities in which they find themselves. It is also absolutely fantastical — people encounter ghosts and ride on flying beasts, some humans are not quite human, and space-faring Mennonites flee the Earth to create their own separate and dystopian society.”

This summer, Samatar was a plenary speaker on the topic of “Crossing Ethnicities” at a conference hosted by EMU dedicated to Anabaptist women’s history. Read more at Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Encounter Borders and Boundaries.

The next Writers Read event will be with visiting scholar Marike Janzen on Thursday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. in Marin Chapel. Janzen taught German at EMU from 2004-06. With a focus on world literature, human rights literature, and notions of solidarity, she has published on the authors Alejo Carpentier, Anna Seghers and Bertolt Brecht as well as teaching human rights through service learning.

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