– Together with programming for Marshall University’s 2023 Birke Fine Arts Symposium and the HLC Quality Initiative, the A.E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series will host Neema Avashia and Rahul Mehta, two visiting writers with roots in West Virginia. Avashia and Mehta’s reading will take place on Thursday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Shawkey Dining Room of the Memorial Student Center.
Avashia, whose parents emigrated from India in the early 1970s, was born and raised in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley, where her father, a physician, worked for the chemical company Union Carbide. Avashia teaches civics and was named the 2013 Educator of the Year by the Boston Public Schools. She writes frequently on race, class and inequities in education, and her articles have appeared in Cognoscenti, the ideas and opinion page on radio station WBUR’s website. Avashia will read from her new memoir, Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place (West Virginia University Press).
Mehta is the author of the novel No Other World (Harper, 2017), which was one of Booklist’s Ten Best Debut Novels of the Year, and the short story collection Quarantine (HarperPerennial, 2011), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Debut Fiction and the Asian American Literary Award for Fiction. Raised in West Virginia in a Gujarati-American household, they teach creative writing at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Their collection of poems and lyric essays, Feeding the Ghosts, is forthcoming from the University Press of Kentucky.
Dr. Rachael Peckham, professor of English and coordinator of the Stringer Visiting Writers Series at Marshall, organized the reading.
“I couldn’t be more excited about this reading,” Peckham said. “It’s a special treat to welcome home two writers who make West Virginia proud, not only with the acclaim they’ve earned but for the way they’re redrawing the landscape of Appalachian literature. The stories and characters we find in Avashia and Mehta’s work offer a more inclusive and refreshing picture of what it means—to borrow part of Avashia’s title—coming up queer and Indian in West Virginia. To encounter these writers’ work, for many readers, is like throwing them a lifeline—a truth that they’re not alone.”
This reading is presented with financial support from Marshall’s College of Liberal Arts; the College of Arts and Media; the English department; and the West Virginia Humanities Council (WVHC), a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The reading is free and open to the public and can be streamed at www.marshall.edu/livestream.