Congratulations to Rebecca Skloot (MFA Nonfiction, 2008), whose upcoming book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was just named A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, Spring 2010.
Publishers Weekly writes, that Skloot's work is “a remarkable debut … a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society’s most vulnerable people.“
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells — taken without her knowledge — became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though Henrietta has been dead for nearly sixty years. They were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to the small, dying town of Clover, Virginia — a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo — to East Baltimore today, where Henrietta’s children, unable to afford health insurance, wrestle with feelings of pride, fear, and betrayal. Their story is inextricably linked to the birth of bioethics, the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, and the legal battles that could determine whether we own our bodies. Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to pub down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.
Visiting Assistant Professor Elizabeth Kadetsky’s essay “Modeling School” appears in Going Hungry, published this month by Anchor.
The War Against Miss Winter, the first novel in Kathryn Miller Haines’ Rosie Winter Mystery series, has been nominated for a Reader’s Choice Award by the Salt Lake County Library Association. (MFA 1998)
Current MFA student Mark Kramer’s “Immigrant Stories” is one of seven essays featured in Creative Nonfiction’s latest publication, Pittsburgh in Words.
Hey! Cathy Day is in here, too! Read “Week 4: Colts @ Jets, or Against the Odds”.
Brendan Kerr’s “The Sunbather” has been chosen as one of ten finalists for the Wordstock short fiction award. And another story, “The Believer,” has been selected as one of 25 finalists for the Glimmer Train Family Matters short fiction award. (MFA 2007)
West Virginia University Eberly School of Arts and Sciences presented Professor Chuck Kinder with an Alumni Recognition Award.
Kristin Naca’s Bird Eating Bird (Harper Collins, 2009) was named winner of the National Poetry Series contest, judged by Yusef Komunyakaa. In this video, she sits down with the Pulitzer Prize winning poet who thought her work was the best. (MFA 2003)
Sangeeta Mall, a graduate of Pitt’s MFA program, is reporting an “incredible” response at recent readings from her upcoming novel, Cloud 9 Minus One. Mall, who has been focusing on reading to groups of women, gives her all at every reading, commenting that “the way the women react makes it all worth it.” Mall’s novel will be published by Harper Collins India in June 2009.
The Writing Program is pleased to announce that Eugene Cross (MFA Fiction, 2006)is the winner of the 2009 Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. Cross was selected from more than 100 applicants for both the quality of his fiction writing, as well as his proposal to set up and run a progressive series of creative workshops for refugees from Nepal, Sudan and Bhutan-in Erie, PA. The $5,000 prize is awarded annually to a writer working toward completion of a novel or short story collection who is also interested in bettering their community through literary community service. You can find out more about Eugene, his project, and Dzanc Books here.
Rebecca Skloot (MFA Nonfiction, 2008) is featured on the cover of the current issue of Publishers Weekly in promotion of her upcoming book from Crown, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which has been making quite the literary splash. The book, also her MFA thesis here at Pitt, delves into the fascinating and transcendent legacy of Henrietta Lacks, a Southern tobacco farmer, and more importantly, her cells.
From Publisher's Weekly:
"Henrietta Lacks was an accidental medical heroine. The black, 31-year-old mother of four died of cervical cancer in Baltimore in 1951. But before her death, doctors took cervical tissue samples that proved to be medicine's holy grail—Henrietta's cells (known as HeLa) were the first ever to survive in the laboratory, and the cells reproduced ad infinitum, providing material for medical research to be done outside the human body.”
Skloot's book was also recently named a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick.
Read the profile of Skloot and her amazing journey to publication at the Publishers Weekly website.
Peter Kusnic (Senior, Creative Writing) has earned recognition as a national semifinalist in the first annual Norman Mailer College Writing Award for Creative Nonfiction competition.
From the National Council of Teachers of English:
Norman Mailer produced extraordinary writing in many genres, and he was a true pioneer in the emerging realm of creative nonfiction. Thus, evaluation criteria for this award reflected qualities of writing he pursued across a lifetime: originality; insight; clear voice and style; artful arrangement of elements and materials; and overall aesthetic, emotional, or intellectual effect. Out of the extraordinarily rich pool of
work submitted, [Kusnic's] was deemed to show considerable promise, and fell within the top 3% of entries received from College writers.
Robin Clarke’s poetry manuscript, “Cryptography for R. Lansberry,” was selected as a finalist for the Fence/Motherwell prize. Fence is a print and online literary journal that offers the Motherwell prize for a first or second book of poems by a woman writer. (MFA 2008)
Professor Fiona Cheong was named one of four finalists for the Make It Your Own Award for her proposal, “Re-Imagining Our City.”
Karin Lin-Greenberg (MFA 2005) just heard that she’ll be a Visiting Assistant Professor at College of Wooster for the next three years.
“The Plain, Unmarked Box Arrived,” an essay by Lori Jakiela (MFA 1992), was published in the April 13, 2008 edition of The New York Times. Lori is an associate professor at Pitt-Greensburg and directs the writing program.
Lecturer Jeff Oaks received the 2008 David and Tina Bellet Arts and Sciences Teaching Excellence Award. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative teaching in Arts and Sciences.
Professor Irina Reyn participated in the Hedgebrook Writer’s Residency.
Liz Ahl’s chapbook, A Thirst That’s Partly Mine, won the 2008 Slapering Hol Press chapbook competition and has been published in a handbound/numbered edition of 500. She is currently Associate Professor and Chair of the English Department at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. (MFA 1995)
Pitt faculty member Jeanne Marie Laskas appeared on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show, talking about the changes in the world of magazine publishing and what effects, if any, are being felt in graduate creative writing programs. Listen in.
Gregory Lawless’s debut book of poems, I Thought I was New Here, will be published by BlazeVOX in 2009. (B.A. 2001)
Ashleigh Pederson (M.F.A 2009) had a story accepted at The Iowa Review. "Small and Heavy World" will appear in the August 2009 issue.
The English translation of Horacio Castellanos Moya’s Senselessness made NPR’s Best Foreign Fiction of 2008 list!
"Hunters," a short story by Eugene Cross (MFA 2005), is out in Hobart.