Adam Johnson in conversation with Naomi Benaron
Wednesday, November 7, 2012, 7:30 P.M., City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
celebrating the recent release of their current titles
Running the Rift (Naomi Benaron, published by Algonquin Books)
The Orphan Master's Son (Adam Johnson, published by Vintage)
Running the Rift follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a ten-year span in which his country is undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions. Born a Tutsi, he is thrust into a world where it's impossible to stay apolitical—where the man who used to sell you gifts for your family now spews hatred, where the girl who flirted with you in the lunchroom refuses to look at you, where your Hutu coach is secretly training the very soldiers who will hunt down your family. Yet in an environment increasingly restrictive for the Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream of becoming Rwanda's first Olympic medal contender in track, a feat he believes might deliver him and his people from this violence. When the killing begins, Jean Patrick is forced to flee, leaving behind the woman, the family, and the country he loves. Finding them again is the race of his life.
Naomi Benaron was born and raised in Boston Massachusetts and is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Before she lost her mind and decided to devote her life to writing, she worked for many years as a geophysicist and seismologist. She has lived on a sailboat, worked on a Kibbutz, and traveled extensively. She works with Afghan Women through the Afghan Women's Writing Project, an online space where the women of Afghanistan can write in safety and freedom.
An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master's Son follows a young man's journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world's most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.
Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master's Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master's Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today's greatest writers.
Adam Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Harper's, Tin House, Granta, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories. His other works include Emporium, a short-story collection, and the novel Parasites Like Us. He lives in San Francisco.