Pulitzer Prize Winner Elizabeth Strout to Be Guest Speaker at People and Stories Benefit


Elizabeth Strout, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge, will read from her work at the People and Stories / Gente y Cuentos annual spring benefit to be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 11 at the Nassau Club in Princeton.

Proceeds from the event will support People& Stories / Gente y Cuentos, a reading and discussion program offered in English or Spanish for adults and young adults that is offered in residential treatment facilities, prisons, homeless shelters, adult education programs, libraries, and senior centers.

From a young age, Elizabeth Strout thought of herself as a writer, keeping notebooks filled with the details of her days in the small towns of Maine and New Hampshire where she lived. An avid reader she spent hours in the local library studying the way American writers, in particular, told their stories.

“Reading was essential to me,” she said. “It connected me to the world.”

By the age of sixteen,  Strout was sending her stories to magazines. After graduating from Bates College, she studied law at Syracuse University, finishing with honors in 1982, the same year her first story, “The Suicide’s Daughter,” was published in New Letters.  Her first book, Amy and Isabelle, was shortlisted for the 2000 Orange Prize and nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. The novel had taken almost seven years to write, and only her family and close friends knew she was working on it. In 2009 Strout was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of connected short stories about a woman and her immediate family and friends on the coast of Maine. Her most recent novel, The Burgess Boys, was published in 2013.

Sheila Kohler, a two-time O’Henry Prize winner, will introduce Strout at the event. Kohler is also a member of the board of People & Stories / Gente y Cuentos.

For reservations,  email stephanieh@peopleandstories.org, contact Pat Andres at 609-393-3230,  or call Michelle McKenna at 609-688-8494. Ticket prices range from $100-$1,500. Sponsors ($250) receive a dinner with the author before the reading, Patrons ($500) receive dinner and a signed book, and Benefactors ($1,500) receive dinner for two, two tickets and two signed books.

Since 1972, People and Stories / Gente y Cuentos has been connecting lives to literature through reading and discussion programs set in diverse settings. People and Stories invites low-income, high-risk, or otherwise vulnerable participants to read and critically examine literature through the lens of their own life stories. Trained coordinators, who are also  scholars of literature, read aloud a  short story while the participants follow along. The group then engages in a discussion that connects the themes of the story to their own lives.

Through discussion of short stories that grapple with loss, racism, class privilege, addiction, domestic violence, dignity, friendship, and love, participants confront their own stereotypes about the characters, each other, and themselves. Readers may see reflections of their own circumstances in the texts; but they also witness possibility as the characters, transformed by their experiences, are represented as agents of change in their own lives. These examples can shed light on readers’ own conflicts and choices and empower participants to confront and overcome hurdles they face.

For more information, please visit www.peopleandstories.org.