English Prof Leads American Memoirs Reading Group

photo of Lauren fath

Dr. Lauren Fath

Las Vegas, N.M – An upcoming reading group at Highlands University will explore three American memoirs.

“The Truth Be Told: Contemporary American Memoirs” reading and discussion group begins Feb. 7. Highlands University English professor Lauren Fath will lead the group.

“We were looking for breadth within the genre of memoirs, and these three selections provide that variety of perspectives and styles,” Fath said.

The free book discussions are from 6 – 7 p.m. in Donnelly Library, 802 National Ave., on these dates:

Feb. 7 – Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez by Richard Rodriguez

March 7 – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

April 4 – Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

All of the books are available at Donnelly Library.

Hunger of Memory is about Rodriguez’ schooling from elementary through graduate school and his attempt as a Hispanic male to assimilate to white culture. His platform that minority students should assimilate to the dominant educational culture generated strong opinions from my students when I used the book in class,” Fath said.

She said the enduring nature of Rodriguez’ book, written in 1982, reflects the experience of minority students in the American education system.

Hunger of Memory won literary awards including the Christopher Award and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.

“What I like about Strayed’s book Wild is that she is very blunt and honest as a narrator. She’s vulnerable as a writer, allowing us to see the transformation in her character as she solo hikes the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail. She’s one of my favorite contemporary memoirists because she takes her personal experience and lends to it a universality to which any reader can relate,” Fath said.

She said the way Strayed writes about grief is groundbreaking in the field of memoirs.

Wild reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller List in 2012 and was made into a 2014 feature film starring Reese Witherspoon.

“At its heart, Fun Home explores the mystery surrounding Bechdel’s father’s death. It also questions her father’s sexuality and aligns it with her own coming out story. Bechdel is a graphic memoirist who uses both text and images to tell her story,” Fath said.

She said Bechdel is a cutting-edge artist who is developing and expanding the field of graphic memoir.

Fun Home was a New York Times Best Seller in 2006 and won literary awards such as the McCarthy Award and the Eisner Award.

Fath joined the Highlands University English faculty in 2015. Her primary teaching and research interest is creative nonfiction. Her own award-winning writing has appeared in literary journals including Fourth Genre, Post Road, Poemmemoirstory, and Cheat River Review, among others.

Fath earned her doctorate from the University of Missouri in English and creative writing. She also holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Oregon State University and a master’s degree in Russian and Slavonic studies from the University of Missouri.

At Highlands, Fath teaches courses such as Graduate Creative Writing; Nonfiction Prose; Creative Nonfiction; Autobiography, Personal Essay and Memoir; and Introduction to Creative Writing.

April Kent, a Donnelly librarian and head of public services, coordinates the library’s reading groups.

“The reading groups are informal, and I encourage people to join the discussion whenever they can,” Kent said. “At Donnelly we offer free library cards to area residents.”

For more information, contact Kent at 505-454-3139, ajkent@nmhu.edu, or visit the library.