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Past events: One Book One SFU

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson; author Maggie Nelson in conversation with Amber Dawn

About the book

“Maggie Nelson is one of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation.” —The Guardian

“Maggie Nelson’s new book, The Argonauts, is wholly complex and pleasurable, cross-connecting forms of autobiographical, theorhetorical, and epistolyrical inquiry.” —BOMB Magazine

"The Argonauts affirms that love is a radical act. . . . Reading [it] feels like watching the rush of a stream, or staring at the lights from a sea of cars driving down a highway at night. . . . Through her flickering prose, Nelson reminds us that there is a real pleasure in change."—The New Republic

“I am joyfully awed by how its queerness is bedrock, how it starts from the place of queerness. . . . In its constant motion between criticism and memoir, The Argonauts is a thrilling realization of that effort so central to so many queer and feminist lives: the effort to live (with) our theory.”—Feministing

About the speakers

Maggie Nelson is the author of nine books of poetry and prose, many of which have become cult classics defying categorization. Her nonfiction titles include the National Book Critics Circle Award winner and New York Times bestseller The Argonauts (2015), The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (2011), Bluets (2009), The Red Parts (2007), and Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (2007). Her poetry titles include Something Bright, Then Holes (2007) and Jane: A Murder (200). Nelson was granted a MacArthur Fellowship in 2016. She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, an NEA in Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from Creative Capital, and an Arts Writers Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and has taught literature, writing, criticism and theory at the New School, Pratt Institute, and Wesleyan University. Since 2005 she has been on the faculty of the School of Critical Studies at CalArts, where she currently directs the MFA Creative Writing Program. She lives in Los Angeles.

Amber Dawn is a writer living on unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, Canada). Her memoir How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir won the 2013 Vancouver Book Award. She is the author of the Lambda Award-winning novel Sub Rosa, and editor of the anthologies Fist of the Spider Women: Fear and Queer Desire and With A Rough Tongue. Her newest book Where the words and my body begins is a collection of glosa form poems. She currently teaches creative writing at Douglas College and the University of British Columbia, as well as volunteer mentors at several community-driven art and healing spaces.

Listen to the conversation

Watch the evening of reading and conversation with Maggie Nelson and Amber Dawn.


Open City by Teju Cole

Open City: One Book, One SFU -- with Author Teju Cole and Eleanor Wachtel

About the book

Teju Cole is an internationally acclaimed Nigerian-American writer and photographer. Cole’s deeply emotional yet unmistakably non-sentimental novel, Open City, provokes its readers to grapple with urbanism’s transcendent as well as oppressive possibilities.

While Open City is ambitious in scope and unapologetically literate in its frames of reference, it is also accessible. On its fundamental level, Open City is about Julius, a young Nigerian-German psychiatry fellow at Columbia Presbyterian in New York City. We meet him in the autumn of 2006 after a recent breakup with his girlfriend, Nadege. Almost immediately, Cole’s invitation to walk the streets of New York (and briefly Brussels) with his protagonist becomes impossible to resist. Through Julius’ many interactions and ruminations, the novel is revealed as a nuanced account of the urban immigrant experience, a hesitant love letter to cities, and a witness to the many atrocities of human history. Lastly, in a devastating and powerful turn of plot, the reader is forced to redefine the book, laying bare the murkiness of the most seductive of stories.

About the speakers

Teju Cole is a writer, art historian, and photographer. He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College and photography critic of the New York Times Magazine. He has lectured widely, from the Harvard Graduate School of Design to Twitter Headquarters, and gave the 2014 Kenan Distinguished Lecture in Ethics at Duke University. He was awarded the 2015 Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction.

Eleanor Wachtel is the host and co-founder of CBC Radio's Writers & Company, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and won the New York Festivals Award. She also co-founded and hosts Wachtel on the Arts. Her most recent books are Original Minds and Random Illuminations: Conversations with Carol Shields, which won the Independent Publisher Book Award. Wachtel has received many honours for her contributions to Canadian cultural life: eight honorary degrees (including from Simon Fraser University, the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design, McGill University, Concordia, and Dalhousie) as well as Officer of the Order of Canada.