A New Twist on Chaucer


Writer Kim Zarins, who puts a modern teen spin on The Canterbury Tales, will read at the Rose O’Neill Literary House Feb. 6.


Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales may make some people yawn, but not the way writer Kim Zarins tells the story. Zarins, a professor of medieval and children’s literature and author of the novel Sometimes We Tell the Truth, retells the tale from the point of view of modern teens, who change things up in unpredictable, entertaining, sympathetic ways.

Zarins will read from her work at the Rose O’Neill Literary House on February 6. The event, which is part of the Sophie Kerr Lecture Series, starts at 4:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Zarins has a Ph.D. in English from Cornell University and teaches at Sacramento State University. Her debut novel, Sometimes We Tell the Truth (Simon and Schuster, 2016), retells Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with modern teens, transforming the 14th-century collection into contemporary genres and tackling issues relevant for today’s teens. On the long bus ride to Washington, D.C., a group of seniors each tell a story—some fantastical, some realistic, some downright scandalous—in a competition for the ultimate prize: a perfect grade. Whether zombie war epic, love story between an angel and a devil, tale of interracial adoption, eulogy for a lost sibling, or Harry Potter fan fiction, the tales entertain and invite empathy. In this contemporary young adult adaptation of The Canterbury Tales, students wrestle with issues of class and wealth, fears of going off to college, moral reckoning with the cost of cheating, and LGBTQIA identity.

In addition to Sometimes We Tell the Truth, Zarins has published two picture books for very young children, The Helpful Puppy (Holiday House, 2012) and The Playful Bunny (Cartwheel Books, 2006). When Zarins isn’t reading, writing, or teaching, she hangs out with her family in Davis, California, and coaxes a scrub jay named Joe to take peanuts from her hand.

For more information on this and other English Department and Sophie Kerr events, visit the website at www.washcoll.edu/departments/english/events.php, or view our annual Literary Events Calendar brochure here: www.washcoll.edu/live/files/7406-2017-2018