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Marlon James, 2017–18 Distinguished Visiting Writer

Marlon James (photo by Jeffrey Skemp)Invitations for the Distinguished Visiting Writer are extended by the Steering Committee. The amount of the award varies depending upon the length of stay, which may be from a few days to several weeks. The Distinguished Visiting Writer contributes to the program in a variety of ways, including free public talks, readings, or participation in symposia or workshops.

Since its inception in 1993, the program has brought to Calgary two Nobel Laureates, Derek Walcott and Wole Soyinka, and such literary luminaries as Zadie Smith, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Art Spiegelman, Oliver Sacks, Timothy Findley, Margaret MacMillan, Thomas King, Ursula K. Le Guin, Alberto Manguel, and Michael Ondaatje, among others.

The CDWP's 2017-2018 Distinguished Visiting Writer will be Man Booker Prize-winner Marlon James.

Eventbrite tickets for An Evening with Marlon James are no longer available. We will have a rush line tonight for those who would like to attend but do not yet have tickets. At 7:20 pm we will assess how many empty seats there are in the house and let that number of people in via the rush line. Please be advised that standing in the rush line DOES NOT GUARANTEE that you will be let into the event, so come with modest expectations.


A Brief History of Three Readings

Friday, February 9, 2:30 p.m. | TIA House (SS 1059)
Social Sciences Building, University of Calgary

Join us for an informal but engaged discussion of Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings before he comes to speak to the Calgary community through the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program. Three colleagues will offer initial thoughts, insights and provocations, touching on such topics as the role of the storyteller in post-plantation societies, trans-plantation, masculinities, gender representation, Cold War politics in the Caribbean, representations of violence, Jamaican national politics in the 1970s, Bob Marley and the internationalization of reggae, the 1976 Smile Jamaica Concert, the 1978 One Love Peace Concert and more. This will be followed by a conversation aimed at taking us deeper. Audience participation is invited and encouraged.

Bertrand Bickersteth writes and researches on black history and identity in Alberta. He appears in Episode 3 of the podcast The Secret Life of Canada, and his most recent poetry is forthcoming in The Antigonish Review. He was born in Sierra Leone, raised in Alberta, educated in the UK, and lived in the US for several years. He currently lives in Calgary and teaches at Olds College.

Christian Olbey is an Instructor at the University of Calgary.

Larissa Lai has published two novels, When Fox Is a Thousand and Salt Fish Girl; two poetry books, sybil unrest (with Rita Wong) and Automaton Biographies; a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement; and a critical book, Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s. A recipient of the Astraea Foundation Emerging Writers' Award, and a finalist for seven others, she holds a Canada Research Chair at the University of Calgary, where she directs The Insurgent Architects' House for Creative Writing. In Fall 2018, Arsenal Pulp Press will publish her new novel, The Tiger Flu.

Clara Joseph is the author of The Face of the Other (A Long Poem) (2016) and The Agent in the Margin (2008). Her edited books include Global Fissures: Postcolonial Fusions and Theology and Literature: Rethinking Reader Responsibility, as well as three special issues of the journal World Literature Written in English on the Postcolonial and Globalisation. She is an associate professor of English and an adjunct associate professor of Religious Studies.

RSVP to the Facebook event here.


An Evening with Marlon James

Wednesday, February 28, 7:30 p.m. | MacEwan Hall
University of Calgary

Join the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program for a free public reading and book-signing by Marlon James. Tickets are free but must be presented at the door — order them here.

RSVP to the Facebook event here.


Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for A Brief History of Seven Killings, making him the first Jamaican author to take home the U.K.’s most prestigious literary award. In the work, James combines masterful storytelling with brilliant skill at characterization and an eye for detail to forge a bold novel of dazzling ambition and scope. He explores Jamaican history through the perspectives of multiple narrators and genres: the political thriller, the oral biography, and the classic whodunit confront the untold history of Jamaica in the 1970s, with excursions to the assassination attempt on reggae musician Bob Marley, as well as the country’s own clandestine battles during the cold war. James cites influences as diverse as Greek tragedy, William Faulkner, the LA crime novelist James Ellroy, Shakespeare, Batman and the X-Men. Writing for The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani said of A Brief History of Seven Killings, “It’s epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting—a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent.” In addition to the Man Booker Prize, A Brief History of Seven Killings won the American Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. James is in the process of adapting the work into an HBO television series.

Marlon James’ first novel, John Crow’s Devil, tells the story of a biblical struggle in a remote Jamaican village in the 1950s. Though rejected 70 times before being accepted for publication, John Crow’s Devil went on to become a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, as well as a New York Times Editor’s Choice. His second novel, The Book of Night Women, is about a slave women’s revolt on a Jamaican plantation in the early 19th century. The work won the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction, as well as an NAACP Image Award. James’ short fiction and nonfiction have been anthologized in Bronx Noir, The Book of Men: Eighty Writers on How to Be a Man and elsewhere, and have appeared in EsquireGrantaHarper’sThe Caribbean Review of Books and other publications. His widely read essay, “From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself,” appeared in The New York Times Magazine. In early 2016 his viral video Are you racist? ‘No’ isn’t a good enough answer received millions of hits. He is currently working on the Dark Star Trilogy, a fantasy series set in African legend (Riverhead, 2018).

Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1970. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1991 with a degree in Language and Literature, and from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania in 2006 with a Masters in creative writing. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and teaches English and creative writing at Macalester College.

In his presentations, James addresses topics related to writing and the writing process, as well as issues pertaining to the history of the Caribbean, race and gender in the US and UK, and youth subcultures as expressed in literature and music such as hip-hop and reggae.