Department of English

Peter Manseau

2011-2012 Patrick Henry Writing Fellow
September 27, 5:00 p.m., Litrenta Lecture Hall, John S. Toll Science Center

A 1996 graduate of UMass Amherst, Peter Manseau has published three books of his own, co-authored a fourth, and co-edited a fifth. They have focused on the history of religion, and have included Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World's Holy Dead (Henry Holt, 2009) and Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 2005), as well as a novel, Songs for the Butcher's Daughter (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 2005), which was internationally acclaimed and translated into six languages. The story of a fictional Yiddish poet in turn-of-the-century Russia, it won the 2008 National Jewish Book Award and the American Library Association's Sophie Brody Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Jewish Literature, among other honors. Manseau's essays and articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Vanity Fair, and other publications.

His Patrick Henry Fellowship project is a book entitled Twenty Gods or None: The Making of a Nation from the Margins of Faith, due for publication by Little, Brown & Co. in 2013. A sweeping synthesis, it will focus on "minority religions," ranging from "the neglected saga of how Hindu scriptures inspired Thoreau and Emerson," to the "secret Jews" who sailed with Columbus, to Muslim traditions among African Americans, to the Buddhism that Chinese railroad workers brought to America in the 19th century. The Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship aims to encourage reflection on the links between American history and contemporary culture, and to foster the literary art of historical writing.

sponsored by: The C.V. Starr Center for the American Experience and The Rose O'Neill Literary House