Author-commentator Sarah Vowell to speak at UF Monday
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Honors Program will host author and public radio commentator Sarah Vowell for a public reading at 7:30 p.m. April 2 in the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The event is free and open to the public.
Vowell is the New York Times’ bestselling author of five nonfiction books on American history and culture. By examining the connections between the American past and present, she offers personal, often humorous accounts of everything from presidents and their assassins to colonial religious fanatics, as well as thoughts on American Indians, utopian dreamers, pop music and the odd cranky cartographer.
Vowell’s most recent book, “Unfamiliar Fishes,” is the intriguing history of our 50th state, Hawaii, annexed in 1898. Replete with a cast of beguiling and often tragic characters, including an overthrown Hawaiian queen, whalers, missionaries, sugar barons, Teddy Roosevelt and assorted con men, the book is another history lesson in Americana as only Vowell can tell it — with brainy wit and droll humor.
“The Wordy Shipmates” examines the New England Puritans and their journey to and impact on America. She studies John Winthrop’s 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” — and the bloody story that resulted from American exceptionalism. And she also traces the relationship of Winthrop, Massachusetts’ first governor, and Roger Williams, the Calvinist minister who founded Rhode Island — an unlikely friendship that was emblematic of the polar extremes of the American foundation. Throughout, she reveals how American history can show up in the most unexpected places in our modern culture, often in poignant ways.
Her book “Assassination Vacation” is a haunting and surprisingly hilarious road trip to tourist sites devoted to the murders of presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Vowell examines what these acts of political violence reveal about our national character and our contemporary society.
She is also the author of two essay collections, “The Partly Cloudy Patriot” (2002), and “Take the Cannoli” (2000). Her first book, “Radio On” (1997), is her year-long diary of listening to the radio in 1995.
Vowell was a contributing editor for Public Radio International’s “This American Life” from 1996-2008, where she produced numerous commentaries and documentaries and toured the country in many of the program’s live shows. She was one of the original contributors to McSweeney’s, also participating in many of the quarterly’s readings and shows. She has been a columnist for Salon.com, Time and San Francisco Weekly and continues to write occasional essays for the opinion page of the New York Times.
Vowell has made numerous appearances on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and the “Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” She is the voice of teen superhero Violet Parr in Brad Bird’s Academy Award-winning “The Incredibles,” a Pixar Animation Studios film.
Vowell is the president of the board of 826NYC, a nonprofit tutoring and writing center for students ages 6-18 in Brooklyn.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the reading beginning at 7:30 p.m. A book signing follows the event.