ERIE, Pa. — The fiction writer Chinelo Okparanta, winner of the O. Henry Prize and a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, will open the Smith Creative Writers Reading Series at Penn State Behrend on Oct. 6. She will read from her work, which has been published in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House and the Kenyon Review, beginning at 6 p.m. in Smith Chapel.
Okparanta, a Nigerian-American, was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists in 2018. Her second novel, “Harry Sylvester Bird,” stitches a lifetime of racial microaggressions into knives-out satire. Kirkus Reviews described it as “a tart, questioning exploration of how deep racism runs.”
Okparanta, who served as a fiction judge for the U.S. National Book Awards, holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Penn State.
Two other writers will be featured in the fall's Smith Creative Writers Reading Series:
- The poet David Baker will read from his work in the lobby of Behrend’s Metzgar Center on Oct. 13. His books include “Whale Fall,” “Scavenger Loop” and “Never-Ending Birds,” which won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize. Baker has received awards and grant funding from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mellon Foundation. His poems and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Yorker and The New York Times.
- The poet Kathy Fagan will read from her six books, including the 2022 collection “Bad Hobby,” in the Metzgar Center lobby on Nov. 3. Fagan is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and an Ingram Merrill fellowship. In 2017, she was named Ohio’s Poet of the Year. Fagan co-founded the Master of Fine Arts program at Ohio State University, where she teaches poetry and co-edits the Wheeler Poetry Prize Book Series.
The Smith Creative Writers Reading Series is produced by Penn State Behrend’s creative writing program, which leads to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The program is the only one of its kind at Penn State.
To learn more about the Smith Creative Writers Reading Series and Penn State Behrend’s Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, visit behrend.psu.edu/readings or call 814-898-6108.
Assistant director, news and information, Penn State Behrend