Joint Reading with Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Matt de la Pena
This spring, we are thrilled to host two dynamic writers, Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Matt de la Peña. They will perform a joint reading and hold individual workshops during their visit to USF.
Nezhukumatathil (neh-ZOO / koo-mah / tah-TILL) was born to a Filipino mother and Malayali Indian father, both doctors. In an interview with Katonah Poetry Series, says, “I started out, as many children of doctors do, as pre-med, majoring in chemistry. I’m glad I switched to English, but I still have a deep love of the language of the sciences, the musicality of the names of flora and fauna.” She is the author of four books of poetry: Oceanic, Lucky Fish, At the Drive-In Volcano, and Miracle Fruit. Her illustrated collection of nature essays, World of Wonder, is forthcoming from Milkweed in 2018. The essays offer detailed observations about the oddities of our planet. Nezhukumatathil tells them in the context of her unusual childhood growing up on the grounds of mental institutions in rural America, as she navigated her fascination with language and the sometimes conflicting pressure to study science.
In 2014, Nezhukumatathil became one of the country’s youngest poets to achieve the rank of full Professor of English. She teaches environmental literature and poetry writing in the M.F.A. program of the University of Mississippi. She also serves as the poetry editor or Orion magazine. Her poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, Quarterly West, New England Review, Ploughshares, FIELD, Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Southern Review, and Tin House. Her books have garnered many prestigious awards; awards for her writing include the Pushcart Prize, a poetry fellowship to the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Boatwright Prize from Shenandoah, and the Richard Hugo Prize from Poetry Northwest.[KE1]
Matt de la Peña is the New York Times Bestselling, Newbery Medal-winning author of six young adult novels, including his debut novel, Ball Don’t Lie, which was made into a major motion picture starring Ludacris, Nick Cannon, Emelie de Ravin, Grayson Boucher, and Rosanna Arquette (Night and Day Pictures). The book was named an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. In his Newberry acceptance, de la Peña writes, “I didn’t read past page twenty-seven of The Catcher in the Rye, but I read Basketball Digest cover to cover. Every single month. I’d show up at my junior high library an hour before school, find an empty table in back, and tuck the latest issue inside the covers of the most high-brow book I could find – usually some Russian novel with a grip of names I couldn’t pronounce.”
de la Peña is author of six young adult books as well the critically-acclaimed picture books A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis and Last Stop on Market Street. de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.
Both Nezhukumatathil and de la Peña are concerned with issues of representation in English Literature. On Monday, de la Peña will conduct a workshop for K – 8 educators and education researchers where attendees will come away with an appreciation for why and how to incorporate diverse children’s literature into the classroom or an appreciation for how to frame a research project around incorporating diverse children’s literature in the curriculum. This event will be held in the Grace Allen Room at 2 p.m. and is open to the public.
Nezhukumatathil will be conducting a closed workshop with M.F.A. poetry students on Monday afternoon before she and Matt give a joint public reading on Monday, February 8 at 6 p.m. in the Grace Allen Room, on the fourth floor of the library. A reception and book signing will follow.
This series is co-sponsored with the USF Library Special Collections.