Arts & Letters Live

Arts & Letters Live is a literary and performing arts series for all ages that features award-winning authors and performers of regional, national, and international acclaim. The series is recognized for its creative multidisciplinary programming—combining literature with visual arts, music, and film—and for commissioning new work from musicians, dancers, and poets, inspired by works of art in the Museum's collection and special exhibitions.

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Upcoming Events

Format: 4/24/18

Danielle Allen

Monday, April 23, 7:30 p.m.

Featured on the front page of the New York Times, Allen’s Our Declaration reinterprets the promise of American democracy through our founding text, combining a personal account of teaching the Declaration line by line with a vivid evocation of the colonial world. Bestselling author Andrew Solomon praises Allen’s 2017 memoir, Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A., saying, “In this narrative of freedom and incarceration, education and disadvantage, rehabilitation and punishment, Danielle Allen paints an unforgettable portrait of a cousin she loved. The pacing is brisk and novelistic, but the message is large and clear: we need urgently to reform the system through which we process juveniles who commit crime, because the cur­rent system perpetuates the very injustices it was designed to address.”

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David Sedaris

Monday, April 30, 7:30 p.m.

Beloved satirist David Sedaris returns for his ninth consecutive year with Arts & Letters Live to share new and unpublished essays, imparting his incisive social critiques and sharing his sardonic wit with devoted fans. Hailed as the “rock star of writers,” Sedaris has become one of America’s preeminent humor writers, with bestselling books such as Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice, as well as collections of personal essays including Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.  

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Marcia Gay Harden

Friday, May 4, 7:30 p.m.

In her new book The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers, one of America’s most revered actresses takes on her most important role to date: gatekeeper of memories. This poetic and inspiring memoir is a beautifully rendered portrait of two lives—Marcia’s own, and that of her mother, Beverly, a proper Dallas lady and an accomplished practitioner of ikebana, the art of Japanese floral arrangement, who now struggles with Alzheimer’s disease. Harden will talk about the different seasons of her mother’s life, all the while weaving in the story of her own journey from precocious young girl to budding artist to award-winning actress.

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Naomi Shihab Nye

Sunday, May 6, 3:30 p.m.

Naomi Shihab Nye describes herself as a “wandering poet.” Born to a Palestinian-American father and an American mother, she grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. Drawing on her family heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas, and her experiences traveling the world leading writing workshops for all ages, Nye uses her writing to attest to our shared humanity. She is the author and/or editor of more than 30 volumes; her work has been presented on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion and on two PBS specials. Nye is a Lannan Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow, and has received numerous awards for her poetry and children’s literature. At this event, she will debut a new poem inspired by a work of art in the DMA’s collection and juxtapose art in the collection with a live reading of her poetry.

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Noah Charney

Thursday, May 17, 7:30 p.m.

International bestselling author and art histo­rian Noah Charney has been hailed as “the Sherlock Holmes of art theft” and is famous for his dynamic exploration of art crime. His new book The Museum of Lost Art explores the world’s most important lost treasures through an illus­trated guide to art that has been destroyed, stolen, and vandalized. In constant demand as a lecturer, Charney gave a sold-out talk at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for his previous book The Art of Forgery, which was an Amazon #1 bestseller. Charney’s first novel, The Art Thief, was a bestseller in five countries and translated into 17 languages. He often appears as a presenter and guest expert on National Geographic and NPR. 

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Michael Ondaatje

Tuesday, May 22, 7:30 p.m.

In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself, Michael Ondaatje tells a vivid, thrilling story of violence and love, intrigue and desire, in his new novel Warlight. In London immediately following World War II, 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, find themselves parentless and in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth, who they suspect might be a criminal. A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand at that time, and it is this journey—through reality, recollection, and imagination—that is told in this magnificent novel. Among Ondaatje’s many recognitions, his novel The English Patient won the Booker Prize and was adapted into a multi-award-winning Oscar movie.

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Caroline Weber

Wednesday, May 30, 7:30 p.m.

Acclaimed author, French literature professor, and fashion historian, Dr. Caroline Weber returns to French high society with Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin de Siècle Paris. The book features three wealthy but unhappily married paragons of Parisian nobility, elegance, and style, who captured the attention of Marcel Proust and were the inspiration for his supreme fictional character, the Duchesse de Guermantes. Through masked balls, court visits, and nights at the opera, Weber escorts her reader into the daily lives of these women celebrated as living legends. Back by popular demand, Weber appeared at Arts & Letters Live years ago for her book Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution.

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Clemantine Wamariya

Wednesday, June 20, 7:30 p.m.

Human rights advocate Clemantine Wamariya captures the personal aftershocks of war, displacement, and survival in her powerful memoir The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After. At age 6, Clemantine and her 15-year-old sister, Claire, were two of the millions of people who fled Rwanda in 1994 while over 800,000 people were murdered. She recounts with breathtaking clarity both the kindness and the cruelty she and Claire encountered while wandering through seven African countries for six years searching for safety and shelter. Wamariya now uses stories drawn from her experiences to catalyze change and create community; she has spoken at the United Nations, TEDxYale, and the US Depart­ment of Homeland Security Human Rights Law Conference. 

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