This year's Writers for Readers literary fundraising event returns in virtual format on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, at 6 p.m. with a special lineup featuring celebrated author Patrick Radden Keefe, author of the bestselling Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. The book chronicles the rise and fall of the Sacklers, once known for their lavish donations to the arts and the sciences but now reviled – with their company Purdue Pharma – as the creators and all-too-successful marketers of the highly addictive narcotic OxyContin.
Keefe is a decorated staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of three other books, including Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland. It earned the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and was selected as one of the 10 best books of 2019 by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and The Wall Street Journal. Keefe’s work also has been recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing (in 2014) and the Orwell Prize for Political Writing (in 2019).
Joining Keefe in conversation is Whitney Terrell, associate professor of English and director of the creative writing program at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He is the author of three award-winning novels including The Good Lieutenant, which was selected as a best book of 2016 by The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and Refinery 29. He is co-host of the Literary Hub podcast Fiction/Non/Fiction.
Writers for Readers 2021 is co-presented by UMKC's MFA Program in Creative Writing and the Friends of the Kansas City Public Library and is co-chaired by Karen and Jack Holland. Tickets to the virtual presentation provide access to the exclusive livestream of the discussion and award presentation. Proceeds benefit an ongoing partnership between the Kansas City Public Library and the University of Missouri-Kansas City's MFA Program in Creative Writing, enabling graduate students to teach writing classes at the Library. Funds also go in part to support the Maya Angelou Book Award.
Maya Angelou Book Award
The Writers for Readers program also introduces the first Maya Angelou Book Award winner, with remarks by Angelou’s son, Guy Bailey Johnson.
The Maya Angelou Book Award was founded in 2020 to honor the legacy of Missouri-born author Maya Angelou by celebrating contemporary authors whose work has demonstrated a commitment to social justice in America and/or the world. Sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library, the University of Missouri – Columbia, Truman State Univerity, Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University, and Northwest Missouri State University, the award is alternatively presented each year for poetry and fiction. The 2021 award will be given to an author of a work of poetry published within the last year, and the winner will be announced that evening. The selected author will receive $10,000 and go on a book tour at all involved universities.
The 2021 finalists are:
- Pilgrim Bell Poems by Iranian American poet and scholar Kaveh Akbar, a poetry professor in the MFA programs at Purdue University, Randolph College, and Warren Wilson College.
- Wild Fox of Yemen by Threa Almontaser, a Yemeni American writer and multimedia artist from New York City and visiting writer at Duke University, and winner of the Academy of American Poets’ 2020 Walt Whitman Award.
- Postcolonial Love Poems by Natalie Diaz, a Latina and Mojave American poet and winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She teaches in the MFA program at Arizona State University.
- Sometimes I Never Suffered by Shane McCrae, an assistant professor of poetry at Columbia University, poetry editor of the quarterly literary journal Image, and National Book Award finalist.
- Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo, an assistant professor of English and director of the creative writing program at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He’s won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and an NAACP Image Award.