What an honor it is to hear from brilliant writers with truths to tell, histories to explore, and characters to unfold. How invigorating to engage in conversation about universal questions. How inspiring to leave the hall, perhaps puzzled or grappling, a bit more enlightened, and a bit more compassionate.
Curating the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures’ Ten Evenings is truly a privilege. I watch excitedly for news of acclaimed writers, across genres, releasing new books. I read feverishly—both books and reviews-and listen to colleagues, publicists, and audience members. I make lists.
I sort lists. I even color-code lists. Eventually, offers are made and accepted (often to great rejoicing among the staff).
The diverse range of authors speaking to us this year boast prestigious awards among them-Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, a coveted Peabody Award, and many list toppers for Best Books of the Year from various publications. They all have important stories to tell.
We open the season with Siddhartha Mukherjee and his deep knowledge of science, medicine, and medical history. Patti Smith will share her powerful odyssey, fluid prose, and love for good black coffee. Colson Whitehead explores the history of slavery, the Antebellum South, and the struggle for freedom through his compelling new novel. Diane Rehm, whose call-in radio show has been called the “gold standard in civic, civil discourse” and who has interviewed thousands of authors, will reveal her personal and professional wisdom.
The history of the environmental/conservation movement unfolds through Douglas Brinkley’s biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The power and frailty of human character, and the tender relationship between mother and daughter will be the focus for Elizabeth Strout. English writer, poet, and naturalist Helen Macdonald has much to say about falconry, the natural world, philosophy, and grief.
Novelist Lauren Groff will elaborate on her stunning work about marriage, creativity, art, and perception. Expect acclaimed novelist, essayist, and critic Roxane Gay to brilliantly tackle issues of race, gender, and culture with wit and ferocity. And how better to close the season than with historian Timothy Egan’s Irish tale of heroism and the fight for freedom.
I look forward to experiencing these authors-and this grand spectrum of humanity-with you.
All best wishes,