Photo of Tom Piazza and book cover of The Auburn Conference

Tom Piazza: The Auburn Conference (ONLINE)

Join us for an afternoon program with celebrated author Tom Piazza who reads from and discusses his recent novel The Auburn Conference. Piazza shares insight into his writing and the themes of his book, an “intriguing mix of humor and underlying seriousness” (Kirkus). Piazza is joined in conversation by author and Booklist editor Donna Seaman. REGISTER HERE.

This event is the live online broadcast of an in-person event. When you register for this event you will get a link to view the broadcast via Zoom. If you would like to attend the event in-person at the American Writers Museum, register here.

The Auburn Conference by Tom Piazza book coverAbout The Auburn Conference:

It is 1883, and America is at a crossroads. At a tiny college in Upstate New York, an idealistic young professor has managed to convince Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Confederate memoirist Forrest Taylor, and romance novelist Lucy Comstock to participate in the first (and last) Auburn Writers’ Conference for a public discussion about the future of the nation. By turns brilliantly comic and startlingly prescient, The Auburn Conference vibrates with questions as alive and urgent today as they were in 1883—the chronic American conundrums of race, class, and gender, and the fate of the democratic ideal.

Praise for The Auburn Conference:

What do Frederick Douglass and Mark Twain discuss over brandy and cigars? What gets Emily Dickinson out of the house? The Auburn Conference is an ebullient work of loving homage, pitch-perfect ventriloquism, and drawing-room farce that unfolds into an examination of grand American questions: What, finally, is America? And does it deserve to be saved?
—Nathaniel Rich

“The Auburn Conference is a display of intellectual pyrotechnics, a fictional nineteenth-century writers’ conference in which modern and historical observations abound on literature, celebrity, and ego, culminating in a grand debate over slavery, women’s suffrage, and the American ideal. Both witty and intellectually acute, this is a powerful novel.
—Roxana Robinson

The mother of all writers’ conferences. Piazza doesn’t force anything, and he doesn’t miss a trick.
—Roy Blount Jr.

“The Auburn Conference is a brilliant imagining of an 1883 writers’ conference with Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, and other luminaries as characters. This august round table in Upstate New York grapples with the fate of American democracy and what constitutes literature. The dialogue imagined by Piazza—especially his treatment of Harriet Beecher Stowe—is dazzling. Piazza conjures a distant era that eerily translates to our own broken and troubled times. This is an epic novel by one of America’s greatest writers.
—Douglas Brinkley

Tom Piazza has gathered the nation’s most renowned writers in response to a provocative question: ‘What is an American?’ These four words posed by a character in the aftermath of the Civil War, resound today with such perfect timing. Through this tantalizing dialogue, the past interrogates the present and future, and we cannot play innocent or uninformed. To read The Auburn Conference is to be there, listening, raising one’s hand, nodding one’s head, or even rising to one’s feet in protest or applause.
—Yusef Komunyakaa

TOM PIAZZA is celebrated both as a novelist and as a writer on American music. His twelve books include the novels The Auburn Conference and City Of Refuge, the short-story collection Blues and Trouble, the post-Katrina manifesto Why New Orleans Matters, and the essay collection Devil Sent The Rain: Music and Writing in Desperate America. He was a principal writer for the innovative New Orleans-based HBO drama series TREME and the winner of a Grammy Award for his album notes to Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey. He lives in New Orleans.

DONNA SEAMAN is Editor, Adult Books for Booklist. A recipient of the Louis Shores Award for excellence in book reviewing, the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism, and the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award, Seaman is a member of the Content Leadership Team for the American Writers Museum, a frequent presenter at various literary events and programs, and an adjunct professor for Northwestern University’s MA in Writing and MFA in MFA in Prose and Poetry Programs. Seaman’s author interviews are collected in Writers on the Air and she is the author of Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists.

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Sep 10 2023


Central Time
1:00 pm

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