Novelist Tom Piazza to visit FCCOL on Sunday, September 17th.

Tom Piazza has been a long time friend of FCCOL.  His novel City of Refuge helped to inspire our refugee resettlement efforts, and he visited us in 2018 during our Sanctuary project, as we helped Malik, Zahida, and Roniya remain in the US when they were threatened with deportation.  During that visit, Tom read from his then-latest novel A Free State, which depicted an earlier moment in which individuals and communities were asked to provide sanctuary for those fleeing enslavement.  Tom and his partner Mary Howell have given members of FCCOL a warm reception when we’ve traveled to New Orleans in recent years for St. Joseph’s Night.  They have become honorary members of our community.

Tom has recently published a new novel entitled The Auburn Conference, a kind of follow-up to A Free State.  It imagines a late 19th century literature conference set in upstate New York, in which Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson all converge in the lingering aftermath of the Civil War to answer the question, “What is America?”  Things don’t go well.  A riot ensues.  But some profound insights do as well.  Through a miracle of imagination, Tom allows each of those writers to come alive again as flesh and blood personages (rather than museum pieces).  And he allows us to see our own dislocated social moment, in all of its many contradictions, as already contained, in embryonic form, within the very best minds and writers that the United States has ever produced.  The Auburn Conference is, in my estimation, Tom’s finest piece of writing, which is saying quite a lot, because he has written a handful of my favorite books of all time.

As a teaser, here is a link to a conversation between Tom and Elvis Costello about the novel, published on Katie Couric’s blog site.

Tom will be with us at FCCOL on Sunday, September 17th.  He’ll join us for our service at 10:00, and then he’ll be staying for an adult forum afterwards, talking more about the book, and any other topics about which we might wish to ask (his passion for the ritual life of New Orleans, say, or learning to box with Norman Mailer, or developing a friendship with John Prine, or figuring out how to write in the voices of Twain, or Stowe, or Melville, or writing outstanding pieces of literature, like Blues and Trouble, A Free State, and City of Refuge).  Tom’s writing is a prism that allows us to ask important questions about the state of our democracy, the historical undercurrents of our contemporary struggles, and the human practices that may help to bind us more deeply, rather than fracturing us still further.

Join us at 10:00 on Sunday the 17th for what is sure to be a wonderful morning with Tom Piazza.