Writers & Readers


Writers & Readers: Series of Hope (image)

Michelle KnightMichelle Knight

Saturday, March 14, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.
Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium

Michelle Knight was a young, single mother estranged from her family and fighting for custody of her young son when she disappeared in 2002. For more than a decade afterward, she and fellow captives Amanda Berry and Gina De Jesus endured horrific treatment at the hands of their abductor. Their rescue on May 6, 2013, made headlines around the world.

Barely out of her own tumultuous childhood, local police believed she had run away, so they removed Michelle from the missing persons lists fifteen months after she vanished. Her captor tormented her with this, reminding her that no one was looking for her, that the outside world had forgotten her. But Michelle would not be broken.

In Finding Me: a Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: a Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings, she reveals the heartbreaking reality of her story and, more importantly, the thoughts and prayers that helped her find courage to endure and survive unimaginable circumstances and rebuild a life worth living.

In sharing both her past and her journey to creating her future, Michelle becomes a voice for the voiceless and a powerful symbol of hope for the thousands of children and young adults who go missing every year.


Trisha Meili

Trisha Meili

Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.
Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium

For years she was known to the world as The Central Park Jogger. The 1989 attack in which she was brutally assaulted and raped stunned New York, the nation and the world. Five juvenile males of African American and Hispanic descent were wrongly tried, convicted and served full sentences before a convicted rapist serving a life sentence confessed and was proven, through DNA evidence, to be the assailant.

Because of the nature of her injuries, Trisha Meili remembers nothing of the attack. For her, the crime was not the climax but the beginning of an extraordinary journey. Her amazing story of survival and recovery was detailed in her best-selling memoir I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility. Her memoir recounts her mesmerizing, inspiring, often wrenching story of human strength and transcendent recovery. She tells us who she was before the attack — a young Wall Street professional with a promising future — and who she has become: a woman who learned how to read, write, walk, talk, and love again… and who turned horrifying violence and certain death into extraordinary healing and a victorious life.

Meili reaches out to people struggling through recovery of all kinds to offer healing, hope and new possibilities.


Piper KermanPiper Kerman

Saturday, June 13, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.
Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium

In her memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison, Piper Kerman recounts the thirteen months she spent in the Danbury Correctional Facility for a crime committed ten years earlier during a very brief and careless dalliance in the world of drug trafficking.

Compelling, moving, and often hilarious, the stories of the women she met while in prison raise issues of friendship and family, mental illness, odd cliques and codes of behavior, the role of religion, the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailor and the almost complete lack of guidance for life after prison.

Her memoir was adapted into the award-winning original Netflix series Orange is the New Black. The show has been lauded for its use of the prison setting to create one of TV’s most racially- and sexually-diverse and most complex dramas, examining issues of power and class dynamics inside the prison and the reflections of those same issues in society as a whole.

Piper Kerman serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association and was recipient of the 2014 Justice Trailblazer Award.


LaVar BurtonLeVar Burton

Thursday, July 30, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.
Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium

The multi-talented LeVar Burton is an Emmy and Grammy Award-winning actor, director, producer and author.

His first professional acting audition, at the age of nineteen, earned him the role of Kunta Kinte in Alex Hailey’s acclaimed miniseries Roots. To many fans, he is instantly recognized for his role as Commander Geordie La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Along the way, he has acted in dozens of films and television shows and directed a number of television episodes and specials.

To children and parents over the last 30 years, however, he is instantly recognized and forever loved as the host of the PBS series Reading Rainbow. As a literacy advocate, producer and star of the show, Burton is most proud of Reading Rainbow’s ability to use television to help create human beings who are passionate about literature. In 2012, Burton announced the launch of Reading Rainbow’s mobile app, aimed at fitting the needs of a new generation of children.

Burton is the author of Aftermath (1997) and the children’s book, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm (2014).


JacksonMitchell S. Jackson

Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.
Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium

Mitchell S. Jackson’s coming of age took place in the 1990s in a neglected neighborhood of his hometown of Portland, Oregon which he calls America’s whitest city. His novel, The Residue Years was a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and several other awards and was named an Honor Book by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

While not strictly autobiographical, the main character, like Jackson, struggles to do right by his mother and his family while striving to achieve his dreams in a world of few options and little opportunity. Jackson says his story is about family relationships, but it’s also a story about a place and its people, a way to ensure that their stories and their experiences, good and bad, aren’t diminished or forgotten.

His writing career began while he was serving a 16-month sentence in prison after which he went on to receive an M.A. in writing from Portland State University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from New York University. He currently teaches writing at New York University and is also the author of Oversoul: Stories and Essays.


Cristina HenriquezCristina Henríquez

Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.
Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium

Cristina Henríquez’ most recent novel, The Book of Unknown Americans, was listed as one of the New York Times Notable Books of 2014.

The Book of Unknown Americans is a dazzling page-turner about a family’s hopes for their new life in America. Inspired by her father’s Panamáto- U.S. immigration story and the experiences of family and friends in Delaware, where she grew up, it transcends the one-dimensional headlines which focus on the hardships and legal battles of immigration, revealing nitty-gritty details, humor, and human stories seen through the eyes of characters from across Latin America.

Henríquez currently teaches at Northwestern University. She is the author of Come Together, Fall Apart and The World in Half. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Oxford American and the anthologies State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America and Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Women Writers Reflect on the Candidate and What Her Campaign Meant. She is a recipient of the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award, created by author Sandra Cisneros in honor of her father.