Emmi Itäranta, author of Memory of Water (Teos, 2012), will visit campus on Wednesday, April 19. The book is Eastern Mennonite University’s 2016-17 Common Read. Itäranta will speak at 4 p.m. in Martin Chapel.
The award-winning speculative fiction, which students and faculty were encouraged to read throughout this academic year, imagines a future with diminishing freshwater and its effect on society and a family of “tea masters.”
“The book is an important read for anyone who is concerned about access to basic resources, like clean water,” says Professor Kirsten Beachy.
“Before I even started writing ‘Memory of Water,’ I was very interested in Japanese tea culture and its connection with Zen Buddhism,” said Itäranta in a March 2016 episode of Speculate!, a literary podcast. “I was also at the same time following news about climate change and its impact on freshwater resources.”
“Itäranta’s work stands out among novels written for young adult audiences,” says Beachy. “It takes place in a futuristic world, yet the way that it centers around the practice of the tea ceremony gives it cultural resonance, a sense of weight and history.”
Speculate! described the book, which Itäranta wrote simultaneously in Finnish and English, as “environmentally conscious speculative fiction, the kind of thing people call eco-punk or bio-punk.”
Itäranta was raised in Tampere, Finland, and now resides in Canterbury, U.K. She has traveled globally promoting Memory of Water and her second book, The Weaver (Harper Voyager), which was released in the U.S. last November. In April 2016, a polar bear cub born at the Brno Zoo in the Czech Republic was named Noria, after the main character in Memory of Water.
The next Common Read text will be Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015) by Ta-Nehisi Coates, followed by the StoryCorps collection Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work (Penguin Press, 2016).