Best-selling author Anne Lamott is required reading in one of Tennessee Tech University’s American literature classes, and students this year will get to hear her words first hand, not just from the page.
Lamott will speak, answer questions and sign books beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, in Derryberry Auditorium. Her talk will immediately follow the university’s Constitution Day events, which begin at 6 p.m. in the auditorium. Both events are free and open to the public.
“As Americans, we’re a society that really respects stories of recovery, whether it’s addiction or another obstacle,” said Andrew Smith, TTU English instructor. “I’m trying to cultivate a respect and appreciation for reading books. She’s just hilarious. She uses language artfully, but not pretentiously.”
In the American literature class, Smith’s students will read Lamott’s collection of autobiographical essays, “Traveling Mercies,” which documents her battle against substance abuse and her rediscovery of faith.
The class is a continuation of Smith’s Living Writers Project. In his general education literature classes, Smith uses texts written by living authors. Previously, he has compiled student work into a book, “Breathing Antecedent,” that will be celebrated in a reading and release event at 4:30 p..m. on Thursday, Sept. 20, in the Backdoor Playhouse in Jere Whitson Building.
“I’ve tilted the syllabus toward living writers because that’s what I enjoy reading, and it’s what I think students enjoy as well,” Smith said. “When the students read this memoir, I’m going to be teaching it as literature, but I’m also teaching it to inspire.”
Lamott is the author of seven novels and six non-fiction works, including best sellers “Bird by Bird,” a writing guide, and “Operating Instructions,” an account of life as a single mother during her son’s first year. She has taught at the University of California at Davis and writes a column for Salon.com.