Popel Shaw Center Hosts Award-Winning Novelist

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Popel Shaw Center Hosts Award-Winning Novelist

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Author Matthew Salesses read excerpts from his new novel, The Hundred-Year Flood, and discussed his writing process at a Sept. 24 event hosted by the Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity (PSC).

At the reading in Stern Great Room, Salesses read one chapter from the novel and answered questions from students.

The novel focuses on a character named Tee, a Korean-American adoptee living in Prague and dealing with the aftermath of 9/11, as well as other personal strife, as he comes into his own identity through the course of the book.

Tee’s experiences parallel to Salesses’ own struggles with cultural identification as  both an English teacher in Prague and an adopted Korean-American.

“It was a very strange, distancing experience…” Salesses explained about his time in Prague. “[The book] reflects the loneliness and confusion I felt as an Asian-American.” 

While writing the character of Tee, Salesses said that he put a lot of his own confusion and struggles into the novel, as well as his eventual acceptance of his identity. 

“[Tee] spends a lot of the book trying to figure out who he is,” Salesses explained.

Salesses said that the writing process for The Hundred-Year Flood was ten years of editing, revising, and scrapping multiple drafts.  After starting the book in 2004 and being unhappy with the yearlong creation of the first draft, Salesses travelled back to Prague and decided to change his vision for the novel. 

“The book when I started it in Prague was completely different,” he stated.  “There’s [only] a page or two left of that draft.” 

Originally, Salesses had envisioned a novel about the political turmoil in Prague. However, his vision shifted over the next decade as he drafted and revised his work. 

“It just became much a book about identity, relationships…the political stuff is much more background,” he said.

Ian Ridgway ’19, one of the students who attended the reading, stated, “I previously didn’t have knowledge of Salesses or his book, but [after hearing that chapter] I left intrigued and ready to pick up a copy.”

Several other students had similar reactions, and asked Salesses a variety of questions about his personal experiences, his time in Prague, his advice for writers, and his opinion about the situation of racial inclusivity.

Vincent Stephens, director of the PSC, said that he was referred to Salesses last spring by another author and decided to bring him to Dickinson’s campus.

“It was clear that many domestic and international students could relate to him and his work,” Stephens said of Salesses. “The fact that Matthew’s novel chronicles the experience of a Korean-born, American-raised adoptee who finds himself in Prague is structurally intriguing, and relates to the Popel Shaw Center’s focus on race and ethnicity.”

For more information on Salesses and his work, including his awards and other writings, visit his website at http://matthewsalesses.com/.

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