2019 Writers' Festival Guest Authors

Three distinguished authors will be on campus April 4-5, 2019, for Agnes Scott College's 48th Annual Writers' Festival, the oldest continuous literary event in Georgia. The 2019 visiting writers are Ngῦgῖ wa Thiong'o, Nikky Finney, and Agnes Scott alumna writer, novelist Gillian Lee-Fong '00.

Image of Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngg wa Thiong’o, literary and social activist, is currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Irvine. Born in Kenya, in 1938, he was educated at Kamandura, Manguu and Kinyogori primary schools; Alliance High School, all in Kenya; Makerere University College (then a campus of London University), Kampala, Uganda; and the University of Leeds, Britain. He lived through the Mau Mau war of Independence (1952-1962), the central historical episode in the making of modern Kenya and a major theme in his early works, and was imprisoned without charge for a year. Amnesty International named him a Prisoner of Conscience and an international campaign secured his release after a year; however, he was forced into exile in Britain and then in the United States. A prolific writer, editor, and theorist, he is the author of dozens of books across genres, including memoirs, theoretical and critical works, novels, and children’s literature. He holds honorary doctorates from a variety of institutions around the world, is an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2003), was awarded the Nonino International Prize for Literature (2001), and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2014).

 Image of Nikky Finney 

Nikky Finney, inspired by the legendary Toni Cade Bambara, follows the path that Bambara lived and taught: a writing life rooted in empathetic engagement and human reciprocity. Finney’s work includes the arenas of Black girl genius unrecognized, Black history misplaced and forgotten, and the stories of women who prefer to jump instead of ride the traditional tracks of polite and acceptable society. Currently, she is the John H. Bennett, Jr., Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters, with appointments in both the Department of English Language and Literature and the African American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. Her awards include the PEN American Open Book Award (1996) and the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for the Arts in South Carolina (2016). She edited Black Poets Lean South, a Cave Canem anthology (2007), and authored On Wings Made of Gauze (1985), Rice (1995), Heartwood (1997), The World Is Round (2003), and Head Off & Split, winner of the 2011 National Book Award (NBA) for Poetry. Her acceptance speech has become a thing of legend, described by the 2011 NBA host, John Lithgow, as “the best acceptance speech ever–for anything.”

Photo of Gillian Lee-Fong

Novelist and Agnes Scott alumna, Gillian Lee-Fong, returns to the college to celebrate the publication of her new novel, Abebi. Lee-Fong writes with historical precision and lyrical intensity about the complex multi-cultural heritage of seventeenth century Jamaican Maroons—an autonomous society of formerly enslaved people who escaped their captors. Born in Jamaica to parents of African, Chinese, and Maroon heritage, she draws on her own personal connection to Jamaican culture and the liminal spaces of identity to explore the lasting implications and influences of the Maroons. With formal studies in Africana history, anthropology, and psychology, she has worked extensively with refugee, immigrant and underserved communities, with a specific interest in advocating for the empowerment of women and children. Lee-Fong has also won awards for short fiction and non-fiction, including the Phyllis E. Newman Award (1998), the Langston Hughes Award (1999), and the Robert Frost Award (1999). In the words of Dr. Harcourt Fuller, Associate Professor of History at Georgia State University, Lee-Fong's second novel, Abebi, "picks up the mantle and maintains the high literary standards bequeathed by previous literary giants in Africa and the African Diaspora in the Caribbean...such as D.T. Niane (Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali) and Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart).”