Tracy K. Smith & Jose Antonio Vargas
ALA President Jim Neal welcomes Tracy K. Smith and Jose Antonio Vargas to the ALA President's Program.
Author and poet Tracy K. Smith was born in Massachusetts and raised in northern California. She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Ordinary Light and four books of poetry. Her collection Life on Mars won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. Duende won the 2006 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and an Essence Literary Award, and The Body’s Question was the winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. The Root has noted that Smith's recently released poetry collection ̶ her fourth ̶ Wade in the Water is sure to be on everyone's awards and best-of lists.
Smith earned a BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. In June 2017, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden reappointed Smith the twenty-second United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. “I am thrilled that Tracy K. Smith has accepted my invitation to continue sharing her poetry with the nation,” Hayden said. “Her exchanges with Americans in small towns and rural communities are inspiring an appreciation of poetry and history ̶ and remind us that poetry has value for all of our lives.”
“Poetry invites us to listen to other voices, to make space for other perspectives, and to care about the lives of others who may not look, sound, or think like ourselves,” Smith said upon learning of her reappointment from the Librarian of Congress. “My project as Poet Laureate has brought me into contact with rural communities in the South and Southwest, and not only do we recognize and have many things to say to each other, but talking about poems together allows us to access and share our feelings and bear witness to the experiences that shape our lives.”
Smith is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities and director of Princeton University's Program in Creative Writing. She was recently named successor to Michael Cadden as chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts, effective July 2019.
Sponsor: Graywolf Press/Macmillan
Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist, filmmaker, and CEO of Define American, a nonprofit media and culture organization that uses the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America. Vargas will discuss his first book, a provocative memoir, that is both personal and universal. Available Fall 2018, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen is both an urgent and personal letter to his country and a window into Vargas’s American experience. It is a transformative argument about migration and citizenship and an intimate, searing exploration of what it means to be “home” when the country you live in doesn’t consider you one of its own.
Vargas was born in the Philippines and brought to the United States illegally as a twelve-year-old. He hid in plain sight for years, writing for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country while lying about where he came from and how he got here. After publicly admitting his undocumented status, risking his career and personal safety, Vargas challenged the definition of what it means to be an American. He has advocated for the human rights of immigrants and migrants during the largest global movement of people in modern history.
Vargas was part of the Washington Post team that won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for their coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. He revealed his undocumented immigration status in a 2011 essay in the New York Times Magazine and later produced and directed his autobiographical documentary, Documented, which aired on CNN. He later produced and directed White People, which aired on MTV.