KU Common Book author Eula Biss visits campus to discuss her book

Eula Biss is the author of the KU Common Book and will be visiting campus today to discuss “Note from No Man’s Land: American Essays.”
The book addresses issues including race, place and identity. Biss said a lot of her essays come from experiences that left her unsettled, wondering and full of questions.

“I’m trying to unravel the knot of experiences, to figure out why I feel uncomfortable,” Biss said.
Biss earned her BA in nonfiction writing from Hampshire College and her MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. She now is an Artist in Residence at Northwestern University teaching writing.

“Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays” was chosen as KU’s first common book, described by the Office if Public Affairs as a “campuswide initiative to engage first-year students” in a discussion of important modern issues. Biss said being chosen was a “tremendous honor” for her.

“My work is so concerned with thinking about the community, and it is very meaningful to me that a whole community across a campus is engaging in my book,” Biss said.

As a writer, Biss said that it’s interesting to talk with readers, because most don’t get that opportunity.

Christina Kerns, program coordinator of Office of First-Year Experience, said it makes the whole experience more useful for students. Kerns said attending the event will be beneficial because it encourages critical thinking and dialogue that hass already been happening but will now take place on an even higher level.

“It puts a face to a work the students have seen as academic,” Kerns said. “It’s a unique opportunity.”

Some of the questions laid out in the book are some of the fundamental questions of identity that college students deal with.

Biss wrote a lot of “Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays” while she was very young, just out of college. It is a coming-of-age story and took her seven to 10 years to complete. The book addresses the process of growing up and parallels it to America’s maturation from a young nation to a more adult nation. It explores how to come to terms with issues of our nation’s past.

“I’m trying to reckon what it means to be a young white woman in this country and my responsibilities as that,” Biss said.

Student Union Activities’ Tea at Three will be hosting a casual conversation with Biss in the Traditions area on the fourth floor of the Union. “Who, Then, is One’s Neighbor?” will be a conversation with students about Biss’ book “Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays” at 5 p.m. in the Kansas Union Ballroom. The Commons of Spooner Hall will be hosting “Coffee and Conversation” with Eula Biss on Friday at 9 a.m.

Biss is currently working on a book about vaccination and its history and politics, a completely different subject. She’s discovered that some of the concerns are surprisingly similar.

“In the deepest sense, it’s kind of picking up where I left off.”

Hannah Barling is a junior from Arkansas majoring in journalism. Read more from .

  • Updated Oct. 4, 2012 at 12:30 am