Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

October 11, 2006

Author Mary Doria Russell Holds Strong Aversion to "Safe" Art

Acclaimed novels by Whitworth's 2006 Endowed English Reader reveal Russell's boundless imagination, voluminous knowledge, and deep convictions

Author Mary Doria Russell, who was described in a recent book review as an outstanding natural storyteller, is Whitworth's Endowed English Reader for 2006. Russell will present a lecture, "A Thread of Grace: Christians and Jews in Nazi-Occupied Italy," on Thursday, Nov. 2. On Friday, Nov. 3, Russell will read from her novels, including selections from her upcoming novel. A question-and-answer session, book sale and signing will follow the Friday-evening reading.

The Nov. 2 lecture and the Nov. 3 reading will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Weyerhaeuser Hall's Robinson Teaching Theatre at Whitworth College. Admission to both events is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-3258.

"Perhaps because I have had such a nice, comfortable life, on the whole, I am drawn to the dramatic and the tragic," Russell said in an Amazon/UK interview with Roz Kaveney. "I like being slammed up against a vicarious emotional wall. I have very little interest in drawing-room comedies or novels about the divorce of a suburban couple, and no patience at all with string quartets. I like fist-in-the-air heavy-metal rock, and the saddest, angriest blues. I want art to take me where I don't live."

Russell, whose aversion to "safe" art is evident throughout her work, has certainly taken the readers of her always-surprising novels beyond the comfortable worlds they inhabit. Her first two books, The Sparrow (1996) and Children of God (1998), catapult the reader into future times and onto as-yet-undiscovered planets populated by impossibly complex beings – none as pure or as purely heinous as they appear.

Russell's third novel, A Thread of Grace, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and is now available in hardback. In A Thread of Grace Russell delves into the story of the Jewish underground in Genoa during the Nazi occupation of Italy and once again offers readers the gift of her boundless imagination, voluminous knowledge, and deep convictions in ways they might never have expected.

Russell holds a doctorate in biological anthropology and taught human gross anatomy at Ohio's Case Western Reserve University in the 1980s. She left the academy to be a full-time writer. She calls that decision "a good career move," and reviewers certainly agree:

• "In clean, effortless prose, with captivating flashes of wit, Russell creates memorable characters who navigate the world of exciting ideas and disturbing moral issues without ever losing their humanity or humor." Bookwatch

• "Russell shows herself to be a skillful storyteller who subtly and expertly builds
suspense . . . ." U.S.A. Today

• "Brilliant . . . Powerful . . . Russell is an outstanding natural storyteller whose remarkable wit, erudition, and dramatic skills keep us turning the pages in excitement and anticipation."
The San Francisco Chronicle

Russell's awards include the 1997 Arthur C. Clarke Prize for Best Science-Fiction Novel and the 1997 British Science Fiction Association's Best Novel Award (both for The Sparrow); the American Library Association 2001 Readers' Choice Award and induction into the Spectrum Classics 2001 Hall of Fame (both for Children of God). For more information on Russell, visit http://users.adelphia.net/~druss44121/.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college, which has an enrollment of 2,500 students, offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Doug Sugano, professor of English, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4212 or dsugano@whitworth.edu.

Lisa Sem-Rodrigues, English department program assistant, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3253 or lrodrigues@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information officer, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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