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The Art of the Short Story

The Art of the Short Story: Diane Oliver's Neighbors with Tayari Jones, Lan Samantha Chang, and Dawnie Walton

Wednesday, 7:00 pm EDT February 21, 2024

The Center for Fiction
& Livestreamed

A remarkable literary talent far ahead of her time, Diane Oliver died in 1966 at the age of 22—just weeks away from graduating from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop—leaving behind crisply told and often chilling tales that explore race and racism in 1950s and ‘60s America, now posthumously published in her first and only collection: Neighbors and Other Stories. We welcome an esteemed panel of writers—all graduates of the University of Iowa—to the stage for a celebration and exploration of Oliver’s collection: Tayari Jones (An American Marriage, Silver Sparrow), director of the Workshop Lan Samantha Chang (The Family Chao, Hunger), and Dawnie Walton (The Final Revival of Opal and Nev) will discuss Neighbors—as a literary feat, a rich historical document, and a missing piece of the canon of twentieth-century African American literature.

This event is presented in partnership with The Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Oliver, NEIGHBORS jacket art
  • Diane Oliver author photo (c) Peeler Studios

    Diane Oliver

    Diane Oliver

    Diane Oliver was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and after graduating from high school, she attended Women’s College (which later became the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and was the Managing Editor of the Carolinian, the student newspaper. She published four short stories in her lifetime and two more posthumously: “Key to the City” and “Neighbors” published in the Sewanee Review in 1966; “Health Service,” “Traffic Jam,” and “Mint Juleps Not Served Here” published in Negro Digest in 1965, 1966 and 1967 respectively; and “The Closet on the Top Floor”
    published in Southern Writing in the Sixties in 1966. “Neighbors” was a recipient of an O. Henry Award in 1967. Diane began graduate work at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was awarded the MFA degree posthumously days after her death, at the age of 22, in a motorcycle accident in 1966.

    Photo Credit: Peeler Studios

  • Tayari_Jones_credit-Nina-Subin HI RES Large

    Tayari Jones

    Tayari Jones

    New York Times bestselling author Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, most recently An American Marriage, which was awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Jones, a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, United States Artist Fellowship, and NEA Fellowship. Her third novel, Silver Sparrow, was added to the NEA Big Read Library of classics in 2016.

    Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. She is an Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University and the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing at Emory University.

    Photo Credit: Nina Subin

  • Lan Samantha Chang

    Lan Samantha Chang

    Lan Samantha Chang

    Lan Samantha Chang is the author of The Family Chao, a winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award for Fiction. A twenty-fifth anniversary edition of her first collection, Hunger: A Novella and Stories was recently published by W.W. Norton & Company. She is also the author of All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost and Inheritance, which won the PEN Open Book Award. Her short stories have been published in Harper’s Magazine, the Atlantic, and The Best American Short Stories. Since 2006, she has directed the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

  • Dawnie-Walton__0_02-020

    Dawnie Walton

    Dawnie Walton

    Dawnie Walton is the author of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, winner of the 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize, the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and the Audie Award for Fiction. Her debut novel was also named one of the best books of 2021 by the Washington Post, NPR, Esquire, and President Barack Obama. She is the cofounder and editorial director of Ursa, an audio production company celebrating contemporary writers of color, and cohosts its accompanying podcast. Formerly an editor at Essence and Entertainment Weekly, she has received fellowships from MacDowell and Tin House, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

    Photo Credit: Rayon Richards