August: Masha Hamilton’s 31 Hours

In August, we’ll turn to Masha Hamilton’s novel 31 Hours, the desperate story of a disenchanted young American man coached by Islamic radicals plotting an act of terrorism in New York City.

We’re very pleased that Hamilton will visit Sweet Briar for several days this fall, when she’ll meet with students from a number of disciplines — including creative writing, business, and theatre — to talk about her work. A journalist, novelist, and humanitarian activist, Hamilton is a compelling role model for young women in today’s global world. Founder of two non-profit organizations and author of several award-winning novels and works of journalism, Hamilton was named the 2010 winner of the Women’s National Book Association Award, which has been given continuously since 1940 to honor a woman writer who has done meritorious work in the world of books beyond the duties or responsibilities of her profession.

A former foreign correspondent, she worked for the Associated Press in the Middle East and for the Los Angeles Times and NBC/Mutual Radio, reporting from the Soviet Union during its final years. She has written several award winning novels, including The Camel Bookmobile, about a traveling library in Africa that brings precious books to villagers, and 31 Hours, chosen by The Washington Post as one of the best novels of 2009.

In 2007, Hamilton launched the nonprofit organization The Camel Book Drive, which supplies books through a camel-borne lending library to remote rural villages in northeastern Kenya. In 2009, Hamilton established the Afghan Women’s Writing Project to foster creative and intellectual exchange between Afghan women writers and American women authors and teachers. The website publishes the work of Afghan writers under the mentorship of authors, poets, essayists, memoirists, and journalists.

Hamilton’s career is an inspiring example of a woman who is a courageous traveler and adventurer, a thoughtful observer and eloquent chronicler of human experience, and an enterprising advocate for human rights, especially the rights of women. Her work — especially the Afghan Women’s Writing Project — is also an example of the important links that exist today between technology, literature, journalism, politics, nonprofit development, and humanitarian achievement… all issues that engage Sweet Briar students and faculty, as well.

Here‘s a link to an essay by Hamilton about the chain of events that led to the writing of 31 Hours. The novel is absolutely riveting. This trailer about the novel will give you a sense of the story that Publisher’s Weekly called “gorgeous and complex.”




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