Wellesley College will welcome six award-winning writers and poets to the Boston area this spring as part of the Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities Distinguished Writers Series.  Authors Pico Iyer (Feb. 2), Jennifer Egan (Feb. 28), Leah Hager Cohen and Jim Shepard (March 13), and Nikky Finney and Tom Sleigh (April 10) will each read from their work, then engage in an open dialogue with their audience. All readings occur at 4:30 PM on the dates indicated and are free and open to the public.  

“We are thrilled to announce a fabulous slate of writers for this spring’s Writers Series – including recent Pulitzer and National Book Award winners,” said Carol Dougherty, Professor of Classical Studies at Wellesley College and Director of The Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities. “[The Series] is quickly becoming one of Wellesley College’s signature public programs.” 

The Distinguished Writers Series offers a great way to discover new books, talk to authors about their work and meet fellow booklovers in a setting like no other. Wellesley College’s picturesque campus is located just 12 miles from Boston and is accessible by public transit. For more information about the Series visit www.newhouse-center.org or call 781-283-2698. For driving and public transit directions to the campus, please visit www.web.wellesley.edu/web/AboutWellesley/.  

Pico Iyer

Thursday, Feb. 2 | 4:30 pm | Newhouse Center for the Humanities – 237 Green Hall

Pico Iyer is one of the most revered and respected travel writers alive today. He was born in England, raised in California, and educated at Eton, Oxford, and Harvard. At Wellesley, he will read from his newly released book, The Man Within My Head, (Knopf, January 2012). Iyer is the author of seven works of non-fiction, including Video Night in Kathmandu (cited on many lists of the best travel books), The Lady and the Monk (finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award) and The Global Soul (subject of theatrical productions and websites around the globe). He has also written the novels Cuba and the Night and Abandon.  For a quarter of a century, he has been an essayist for Time magazine, written on literature for The New York Review of Books, on globalism for Harper’s, and on many other topics for The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, The New Yorker, National Geographic, and Salon.com, among others. His 2008 book, The Open Road, describing more than 30 years of talking and traveling with the fourteenth Dalai Lama was a bestseller in the United States.  Based for the past 20 years near Nara, in rural Japan, Iyer is still often to be found making stops everywhere from North Korea to Ethiopia, and from Bolivia to Easter Island. 

Jennifer Egan 

Tuesday, Feb. 28 | 4:30 pm | Newhouse Center for the Humanities – 237 Green Hall

Jennifer Egan is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf 2010) and the recipient of the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. A Visit From the Goon Squad topped many “Best of 2010” lists (including The Washington Post, Time, Slate, Salon, and People). It was also nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction and for the Pen/Faulkner award, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. It has been tapped by for series treatment. 

Egan’s other books include Emerald City and Other Stories, The Invisible Circus (which was made into a feature film starring Cameron Diaz in 2001), Look at Me (a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award), and the bestselling The Keep. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, HarpersGranta, and McSweeney’s, among other magazines. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library. Her nonfiction articles appear frequently in The New York Times magazine. A 2002 story on homeless children received the Carroll Kowal Journalism Award, and a recent article, ”The Bipolar Kid,” received a 2009 Outstanding Media Award for Science and Health Reporting from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

Leah Hager Cohen and Jim Shepard

Tuesday, March 13 | 4:30 pm | Newhouse Center for the Humanities – 237 Green Hall

Leah Hager Cohen is the author of four novels, most recently The Grief of Others, and four works of narrative nonfiction, which include Train Go Sorry and Glass, Paper, Beans. She serves as the Jenks Chair in Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross and on the faculty of Lesley University’s low-residency M.F.A. in Creative Writing. After years of swearing she would never write criticism, she has also become a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.

Jim Shepard is the author of six novels, including Project X, and four story collections, including Like You’d Understand, Anyway, winner of The Story Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award, and You Think That’s Bad. His novel, Project X, won the 2005 Library of Congress/Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction, and the ALEX Award from the American Library Association. Shepard’s short fiction has appeared in Harper’sMcSweeney’sThe Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Tin House, the New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Playboy, and he was a columnist on film for the magazine The Believer. Four of his stories have been chosen for the Best American Short Stories, two for the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and one for a Pushcart Prize. He also won an Artists’ Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Shepard teaches at Williams College.  

Nikky Finney and Tom Sleigh

Tuesday, April 10 | 4:30 pm | Newhouse Center for the Humanities – 237 Green Hall
Nikky Finney is the winner of the 2011 National Book Award in Poetry for her recent work, Head Off & Split, an impassioned summation of African American history.  Finney has established herself as one of the most eloquent, urgent, fearless and necessary poets writing in America today.

 “As an artist and a daughter of the South, and as someone who honors my feelings as often as I can, I don’t have to acquiesce to the polite expectations of the moment,” Finney has said. “I have watched black people forgive and forget over and over again … I too forgive, but I don’t forget … My responsibility as a poet, as an artist is to not look away.” Finney is a professor of creative writing at the University of Kentucky, and is a member of the Affrilachian Poets group that also includes Frank X Walker and Kelly Norman Ellis. 

Tom Sleigh is the author of more than half a dozen volumes of poetry. Space Walk (2007) won the 2008 Kingsley Tufts Award and earned Sleigh considerable critical acclaim. Sleigh has also received the Shelley Award from the Poetry Society of America, an Individual Writer’s Award from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, a Guggenheim grant, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and an Academy Award from the Academy of American Poets.
As a dramatist, Sleigh has written several critically acclaimed plays, a multimedia opera, and a full-length translation of Euripides’ Herakles (2001). His prose collection Interview with a Ghost (2006) includes both literary and personal essays.  Sleigh has taught at Dartmouth College, the University of Iowa, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and Hunter College.


Founded in 2003 by a generous gift from Susan Marley Newhouse ’55 and Donald Newhouse, the Newhouse Center for the Humanities generates and supports innovative, world-class programming in the humanities and arts. The Newhouse Center’s mission is to create a dynamic and cosmopolitan intellectual community that extends from Wellesley College to the greater Boston-area community and beyond. For more information, visit www.newhouse-center.org or call 781-283-2698.  For driving and public transit directions to the campus, please visit web.wellesley.edu/web/AboutWellesley/.  


The Wellesley College arts curriculum and the highly acclaimed Davis Museum and Cultural Center are integral components of the college’s liberal arts education. For decades, various departments and programs from across the campus have enlivened the community with world-class programming — classical and popular music, visual arts, theater, dance, author readings, symposia and lectures by some of today’s leading artists and creative thinkers — most of which are free and open to the public.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,400 undergraduate students from 50 states and 75 countries.