|Kenny Fries, author of In the Province of the Gods|
A reading from the award-winning book by Kenny Fries to be published by University of Wisconsin Press in September, 2017. October 17, 6 PM in Gelman Library 702
An American’s journey of profound self-discovery in Japan, an exquisite tale of cultural and physical difference, sexuality, love, loss, mortality, and the ephemeral nature of beauty and art.
A disabled foreigner in Japan—a society historically hostile to difference—Kenny Fries spins a tale of exciting, bewildering adventure. As he visits Japanese gardens, experiences Noh and butoh, and meets artists and scholars, he also discovers disabled gods, one-eyed samurai, blind chanting priests, and A-bomb survivors. When he is diagnosed as HIV-positive, all his assumptions about Japan, the body, and mortality are shaken, and he must find a way to re-enter life on new terms.
A reading from In the Province of the Gods is a good lead-in for discussion about issues around disability, LGBTQ, intersectionality, traditional and contemporary Japanese arts, and “otherness.” It also is one of the few books recently published about living with HIV. The book’s narrative also makes for a good jumping off point for writing-based discussions about memoir, travel writing, and the incorporation of research in memoir and creative nonfiction. The book also has much to say about disability representation in Japanese culture.
About Kenny Fries, Joshua Kupetz, managing editor of The Offing, says, “to say that he is a pioneer in literary disability culture is to barely scratch the surface.” In addition to In the Province of the Gods, which received the Creative Capital grant for innovative literature, Kenny Fries is the author of Body, Remember: A Memoir and The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory, winner of the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights. He is the editor of the groundbreaking Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out and author of the libretto for The Memory Stone, an opera commissioned by Houston Grand Opera. His books of poems include Anesthesia and Desert Walking, as well as In the Gardens of Japan, which will be published concurrently with In the Province of the Gods. In addition to the prestigious Creative Capital grant, he has been a Creative Arts Fellow of the Japan/US Friendship Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts; twice a Fulbright Scholar (Japan and Germany); and has received grants from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange), Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council. He teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Goddard College.