As the climate crisis intensifies, none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines, novelists included. Fortunately, two of our most gifted and insightful novelists have turned their considerable talents toward addressing the terrors of a climate-devastated future that’s all too near. In Weather, Jenny Offill employs her signature fractured narrative style to tell the story of a woman juggling her various identities—as a writer, a mother, a former academic, a librarian—and handling the mundane tasks of daily life while becoming increasingly preoccupied with its apocalyptic end. And in A Children’s Bible, which Ron Charles has called “a blistering little classic,” Lydia Millet starkly dramatizes the generational divide around climate change in a novel that finds a group of children and teenagers taking action, Noah’s Ark–style, while their clueless parents descend into torpor and debauchery. Leading their timely and thoughtful conversation is novelist Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne, author of Holding on to Nothing. Sponsored by Lesley University.
Fiction at the End of the World
Lydia Millet is an American novelist and conservationist. Her many literary honors include being named a Pulitzer Prize finalist and receiving the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, a Guggenheim fellowship, and most recently, an Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has written books and stories ranging from the philosophical to the satirical, on matters such as the inventors of the atom bomb, political culture under George H.W. Bush, the discovery of mermaids in a coral reef, and the crises of extinction and climate change. Her latest novel, A Children’s Bible, has been called a “tense, prophetic…[and] gripping page-turner” (Library Journal, starred review) and a “blistering classic” (Washington Post). This ironic allegory of climate change was also a New York Times Book Review’s Editors’ Choice. Millet lives in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona with her two children and works for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Jenny Offill is an acclaimed novelist, children’s writer, editor, and recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her novel Dept. of Speculation, about the strains and pain of marriage, was recognized as one of the 10 Best Books of 2014 by the New York Times Book Review. Offill also wrote Last Things, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the L.A. Times First Book Award. Her latest work, the novel Weather, was an instant New York Times bestseller and called "a dazzling response to climate crisis and political anxiety" by the Guardian.
Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne has worked as a novelist, editor, and journalist. Her nonfiction work has been published in the Atlantic Monthly, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, and Global Post. Her short fiction has been longlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize and was a finalist for the Rash Award in the Broad River Review. Her novel, Holding on to Nothing, tells the gripping story of a struggling family in rural Tennessee. It was named one of the Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2019 by The Millions, one of the 25 Books to read in the second half of 2019 by The Week, and was selected as an Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Patricia Park calls it “a smart, wry novel filled with bourbon, bluegrass, grit, and heart."