Summer Reads: Erin Gruwell, Bill Griffin, Terri Kirby Erickson, Kwame Dawes, and Ken Ilgunas
Happy 4th of July weekend to you! This year, instead of celebrating the season with loud fireworks, blaring patriotic music, and flag waving, we’re going to salute our nation’s independence and the freedoms that we all enjoy by…curling up with a good book. Today we’ve got not one, not two, not three, but FIVE outstanding author options for you. Bethany Chafin kicks things off appropriately enough with The Freedom Writer’s Diary mentor and teacher Erin Gruwell. Then David Ford will plum the poets’ perspective with family physician turned poet Bill Griffin, award-winning local poet and educator Terry Kirby Erickson, and University of Nebraska, Chancellor Professor of English Kwame Dawes. Bethany wraps up with author Ken Ilgunas. His Walden on Wheels: A Memoir About Student Debt, Adventure, and Freedom—there’s that word again—provides the bookend to our poetry picnic. What better way to spend your Triad Arts (July Fourth) Weekend NEXT, after this news.
Erin Gruwell and The Freedom Writer's Diary
Erin Gruwell is the educator and mentor behind the group known as the Freedom Writers. The personal stories, classroom adventures, and educational triumphs of Erin and her students are recorded in their moving collaboration and New York Times Bestseller, The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. Their story was made into a feature film in 2007 starring Hilary Swank as Gruwell.
It’s time for a poetry break with Ghanaian-born Jamaican poet, Kwame Dawes. He’s the award-winning author of sixteen books of poetry, numerous books of fiction, non-fiction, criticism and drama. The Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska also teaches in the Pacific MFA Writing program. Kwame’s work has been performed at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem.
Terri Kirby Erickson
David Ford spoke with international award-winning poet Terri Kirby Erickson. Her fourth collection of poetry is A Lake of Light and Clouds which received high praise from NY Times Best Selling author Jill Conner Browne who wrote that Terri “…makes us see everyday things with new eyes and gratitude that beauty is not the exception but the rule of life.” Terri’s also the author of In the Palms of Angels, winner of three international awards.
Bill Griffin is a family doctor and geriatrician living and working in rural North Carolina. Bill’s poems have appeared in many regional and national journals, including Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, POEM, NC Literary Review, and Pembroke Magazine. In 2009 he received the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Poet Laureate Award. His poetry chapbook is little mouse (out on Main Street Rag). The collection of 32 poems, each poem is 20 lines long speaks to the many different struggles and epiphanies we all share as members of the human family.
Ken Ilgunas is the author of Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom. His travel memoir documents a journey from $32,000 of undergraduate debt through a series of menial labor jobs, adventures hitch-hiking across the country, and even a period as a voyageur, retracing and authentically recreating an 18th Century 1,500 kilometer canoe trip along the rivers and lakes of Canada. Ilgunas later enrolled in a Master’s program in Liberal Studies at Duke, but he promised himself that a graduate degree would not take him back into the world of student debt. In order to fulfill his promise, he modified and lived in his 1994 Econoline van in a Duke parking lot unbeknownst to the University and his peers. He broke his silence on this method for staying debt-free when he published his story with Salon.com in 2009. Walden on Wheels was published in 2013, and now Ken has recently moved to Nebraska to do research for his second book, "Trespassing across America," about his 1700 mile walk along the Keystone XL.