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Stanford Writers in Conversation

An Evening with Namwali Serpell

Join us for an evening with one of our generation’s most electric literary talents, Namwali Serpell, as she discusses her debut novel The Old Drift. 

The book opens in 1904 on the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from Victoria Falls, where there was once a colonial settlement called the Old Drift. This epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus, follows three Zambian families as they continually collide over the course of the 20th century, into the present, and beyond. Salman Rushdie, writing for The New York Times Book Review, said, “The Old Drift is an impressive book, ranging skillfully between historical and science fiction, shifting gears between political argument, psychological realism, and rich fabulism . . . a dazzling debut.”

Over the course of the evening, Serpell will discuss a writer’s essential tools—voice, plot, structure, point-of-view—as well as share insights into her creative process. Avid readers and aspiring authors alike will gain fresh ideas about the art of fiction during this engaging discussion with one of today’s most exciting new voices.

Namwali Serpell, Associate Professor, Department of English, UC Berkeley

Namwali Serpell received the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and was selected for Africa39, an anthology of the most promising African writers under 40. A former Stanford Humanities Center Fellow, her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Tin House, n+1, McSweeney’s, The Guardian, and elsewhere. She is also the author of a book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty.

Sara Houghteling, Lecturer, Department of English, Stanford

Sara Houghteling is the author of Pictures at an Exhibition, a New York Times "Editors’ Choice," a San Francisco Chronicle "Best of 2009 Book," and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. She has received an NEA grant, a Steinbeck Fellowship, a Fulbright scholarship, and the Narrative Prize. Houghteling also teaches fiction courses for Stanford Continuing Studies. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere.

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Thursday, February 27, 2020. 07:30 PM


Levinthal Hall, Stanford Humanities Center


Stanford Humanities Center, Stanford Continuing Studies




Free and open to the public