Best-Selling Author and Historian Coming to West Liberty University

Best-selling author, historian and social commentator Sarah Vowell will be the guest lecturer at West Liberty University’s Hughes Lecture on Thursday, March 26.

Her most recent book is titled “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.” Chronicling General Lafayette’s years in Washington’s army, Vowell reflects on the ideals of the American Revolution versus the reality of the Revolutionary War.

Free and open to the public, the lecture will take place at 7 p.m. in Kelly Theatre and will be followed by a book signing.

“We’re pleased Sarah Vowell is joining us this spring for the annual Hughes Lecture. It should be a very entertaining evening and we encourage anyone interested in history, literature and contemporary commentary to join us,” said Dr. William Scott Hanna, WLU English professor who is coordinating the event.

Vowell’s lecture will be about 90 minutes long, which includes time for questions from the audience. While visiting WLU, the author also will visit English classes and interact with writing students.

The author of seven nonfiction books on American history and culture, Vowell examines the connections between the American past and present, as she offers personal, often humorous accounts of everything from presidents and their assassins to colonial religious fanatics, as well as thoughts on American Indians, utopian dreamers, pop music and the odd cranky cartographer.

Vowell’s 2011 book, “Unfamiliar Fishes” is the intriguing history of our 50th state, Hawaii, annexed in 1898. With a cast of interesting characters, including an overthrown Hawaiian queen, whalers, missionaries, sugar barons, Teddy Roosevelt and con men, it is another history lesson on Americana as only Vowell can tell it — with brainy wit and droll humor.

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“The Wordy Shipmates” (2008) examines the New England Puritans and their impact on America. She studies John Winthrop’s 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” and the bloody story that resulted. And she also traces the relationship of Massachusetts’ first governor, and Roger Williams, the Calvinist minister who founded Rhode Island — an unlikely friendship that was emblematic of the polar extremes of the American foundation.

Her book “Assassination Vacation” (2005) is a haunting and surprisingly hilarious road trip to tourist sites devoted to the murders of presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Vowell, who was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, examines what these acts of political violence reveal about our national character and our contemporary society.

She is also the author of two essay collections, “The Partly Cloudy Patriot” and “Take the Cannoli.” Her first book “Radio On,” is her yearlong diary of listening to the radio in 1995.

Vowell was a contributing editor for the public radio show “This American Life” from 1996-2008, where she produced numerous commentaries and documentaries and toured the country in many of the program’s live shows.  She has been a columnist for, Time, San Francisco Weekly and is a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times.

Vowell has made numerous appearances on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” She is the voice of teen superhero Violet Parr in Brad Bird’s Academy Award-winning “The Incredibles” and its sequel, “Incredibles 2,” from Pixar Animation Studios.

Vowell was the president of the board of 826NYC, a nonprofit tutoring and writing center for students aged 6-18 in Brooklyn, from its founding in 2004 until 2014. She is still a member of its advisory board, along with its sister organization in Los Angeles, 826LA.

The Hughes Lecture Series began in the 1970s and is named after Dr. Raymond Grove Hughes, a beloved teacher who joined West Liberty in 1931. His generous endowment gift established a fund managed by the West Liberty University Foundation and known as the Hughes Lecture Series Endowed Fund.

For more information, call 304-336-8501.