January 2009. Since its birth in 1983, the Key West Literary Seminar has been dedicated to the celebration of the written word and the support of American writers. Each January the Seminar explores a different literary theme through lectures, panel presentations, readings, informal gatherings, and discussions. For this year's theme, Historical Fiction and The Search for Truth, a star-studded roster of novelists and historians will take the stage for a lively debate about their diverse approaches to the writing of history.
Among the featured speakers are Rachel Kushner and Chantel Acevedo, two Cuban-American women with debut historical novels drawing on their family's past. Kushner's Telex From Cuba portrays the American colonies in pre-Revolutionary Cuba and their collapse in the face of revolutionary change; it was inspired by the experiences of her mother's family in Oriente Province in the 1950s. Telex From Cuba received the cover review in The New York Times Book Review and raves from Carolyn See in the Washington Post ("a pure treat from the cover to the very last page.") Acevedo's Love and Ghost Letters is set in Cuba from 1938 to the 1960s, and chronicles the haunted relationship between a daughter and her exiled father. Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings, called Love and Ghost Letters "enchanting." Joining Kushner and Acevedo are Madison Smartt Bell, author of a trilogy of books about the Haitian Revolution of 1804; Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists Marilynne Robinson and William Kennedy; Booker Prize winner Barry Unsworth; and popular bestsellers Russell Banks and Joyce Carol Oates.
The Seminar is a unique affair, with first-rate intellectual discussion by day, and festive parties held in lush backyards by night. Daytime events are held at the San Carlos Institute, founded by Cuban exiles in 1871 as an educational, civic, and patriotic center. It was here that José Martí united the exile community in 1892 to launch the final phase of his campaign for Cuba's independence. Francisco Goldman, another of this year's speakers, delivered a lecture on Martí here in 2004. A recording of this and other past lectures, along with complete information about this year's event, is available on the Seminar's website. Tickets are selling fast, and early registration is highly recommended.
Key West Literary Seminar