Emily St. John Mandel, author of “Station Eleven,” the novel being featured during this year’s NEA Big Read Lakeshore, will discuss her work during a keynote presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

The evening will feature an on-stage conversation between Mandel and Dr. Stephen Hemenway, professor of English at Hope.  The event is being in partnership by the NEA Big Read Lakeshore and the college’s Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.

Mandel will also be participating in a question-and-answer event earlier in the day that will be geared toward the high school and college students participating in this year’s NEA Big Read Lakeshore.

Mandel is the author of four novels.  “Station Eleven,” which is the most recent, was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Toronto Book Award and the Morning News Tournament of Books, and has been translated into 31 languages.  Her second novel, “The Singer’s Gun,” was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France.  Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013.

She is a staff writer for The Millions, and lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Set in the Great Lakes region 20 years after a flu pandemic wiped out 99 percent of the world’s population, “Station Eleven” centers on a traveling troupe that performs Shakespeare’s plays to the communities that have arisen in North America in the event’s aftermath.  The narrative visits both the story’s post-apocalyptic present and the world before the pandemic, not only exploring the collapse of society and its aftermath but emphasizing the connections between people and the efforts of those seeking to do more than merely exist.

The Independent of London has described the book as “Possibly the most captivating and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic novel you will ever read.”  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has called “Station Elven” “Audacious…  A book about gratitude, about life right now, if we can live to look back on it.”  Karen Valby of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “This is not a story of crisis and survival.  It’s one of art and family and memory and community and the awful courage it takes to look upon the world with fresh and hopeful eyes.”

NEA Big Read, a national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, showcases a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire conversation and discovery.  Hope is one of 79 nonprofit organizations to receive a grant to host an NEA Big Read project between September 2018 and June 2019.  The NEA awarded Hope $15,000 for the Lakeshore events, with additional funding and in-kind support provided by area organizations, businesses and individuals.

NEA Big Read Lakeshore is a Hope program with many community partner organizations, including the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony, CultureWorks, Fellowship Reformed Church, Fennville District Library, Herrick District Library, Holland Area Arts Council, Holland Museum, Howard Miller Public Library, Loutit District Library, Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, Ready for School, Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Saugatuck-Douglas District Library and Western Theological Seminary.  The area schools involved are Allegan Public Schools, Allendale Public Schools, Black River Public School, Godwin Heights Public Schools, Hamilton Community Schools, Holland Christian Schools, Holland Public Schools, Saugatuck Public Schools, West Ottawa Public Schools and Zeeland Public Schools.

NEA Big Read Lakeshore was formed in 2014 and is directed by Dr. Deborah Van Duinen, who is an associate professor of English education at the college.  Formerly called Big Read Holland Area, it was renamed this year to reflect its expanded geographic scope.  The program puts on numerous events and book discussions centered on a specific novel each November. The previous four books were “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Things They Carried,” “Brother, I’m Dying” and “When the Emperor Was Divine.”

This year’s NEA Big Read Lakeshore is featuring more than 25 events for people of all ages between Tuesday, Oct. 30, and Thursday, Nov. 15.  More information about the events and “Station Eleven” is available at hope.edu/bigread

More information about the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series is available.

The Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts is located at 221 Columbia Ave., between Ninth and 10th streets.

Photo by Sarah Shatz