Christian Kracht, Shawna Yang Ryan, Steve Sem-Sandberg, and Naomi J. Williams, moderated by Janis Cooke Newman
Historical novels take us inside the minds and hearts of characters from the past—some real, some made-up, but all coming to life in our imaginations. How do real events inspire fictional ones? These extraordinary writers bring us through tumultuous 20th-century Taiwan, the Lodz ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland, an ill-fated French maritime expedition in the late 18th century, and a made-up coconut colony visited by a real German emigre in the early 20th century—with the discussion led by master historical novelist Janis Cooke Newman, who takes us to WWII-era New York and Germany.
Swiss journalist and novelist Christian Kracht's 13 books have been translated into 27 languages. His most recent novel, "Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas," was the recipient of the 2012 Wilhelm Raabe literature prize. Kracht's previous novels include "Faserland," "1979," and "I Will Be Here in Sunshine and in Shadow."
Janis Cooke Newman
Janis Cooke Newman is the author of the Bay Area Bestseller, Mary (MacAdam/Cage, 2006), a historical novel about Mary Todd Lincoln, chosen as both a Booksense Pick for October 2006 and a Booksense Year-End Pick Highlight, as well as The Russian Word for Snow (St. Martin's Press, 2001), a memoir about adopting her son from a Moscow orphanage. Her writing has also appeared in numerous anthologies, including Secret Lives of Lawfully Wedded Wives (Inner Ocean, 2006) and four Travelers' Tales editions.
She is also a travel writer, whose stories have been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Backpacker.
Shawna Yang Ryan
Shawna Yang Ryan, a former Fulbright scholar, is the author of the new novel "Green Island," her second, set in Taiwan. Ryan is a California-born Taiwanese-American. To write the novel, she performed extensive research while traveling in Taiwan and reviewing older archive material in print and online, stating in an interview with The New York Times: "I often thought of my research as similar to unraveling a sweater — I’d tug at one thread, and a whole sleeve would come undone — one interviewee would introduce me to another, who’d introduce me to another, and so on." Ryan teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her short fiction has appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Asian American Literary Review, Kartika Review, and Berkeley Fiction Review.
Steve Sem-Sandberg's huge new novel, "The Chosen Ones," arrives this August. An award-winning Swedish journalist, novelist, nonfiction author, and translator, he is the author of "The Emperor of Lies." The novel recounts the life of the Łódź ghetto and its leader, Chaim Rumkowski, in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. Daphne Merkin in The New York Times said that Sem-Sandberg had succeeded in writing "a freshly felt, fully absorbing novel about the Holocaust," an even more difficult task as he was writing about a known historical figure in Rumkowski." He divides his time between Vienna and Stockholm.
Naomi J. Williams
Naomi J. Williams is the author of "Landfalls," long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as Zoetrope: All-Story, A Public Space, One Story, The Southern Review, and the Gettysburg Review. Williams has an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis and has been the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. Born in Japan, she spoke no English until she was six years old. Today she lives with her family in Davis, California, where she’s hard at work on her second book.