Author Alexandra Styron — the daughter of “Sophie’s Choice” writer William Styron — is coming to Stony Brook Southampton March 6 to discuss her memoir centered on her father’s life, art and depression, and to share her advice with aspiring writers.
Stony Brook Southampton's Writers Speak Wednesdays series, presented by the MFA in Creative Writing & Literature Program, brings acclaimed writers of all stripes — novelists, essayists, journalists — to the campus in Shinnecock Hills to discuss their craft.
Styron authored the novel "All the Finest Girls," and more recently her memoir "Reading My Father."
Styron said in an interview Monday that, by nature and by trade, she is a fiction writer, but she felt that "Reading My Father" was a story that needed to be told. “It’s sort of a hybrid biography-memoir," she said. “His rise as a writer and his fall at the end of his life — he suffered from clinical depression for many years at the end of his life."
The book is about an American artist and his life, as well as the challenges of being raised by someone who is passionately devoted to his art before all else, Styron said.
Styron said she is a "pinch-hitter" professor of memoir writing at Hunter College, and 12 years ago she earned her MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University.
It was while she was in the MFA program that she began work on "All the Finest Girls," about a woman who goes to the Caribbean for the funeral of her former nanny, who had saved her from an unhappy childhood. Years after losing track of the person who helped raise her, the woman meets the family her nanny had left behind. Styron said it is a story on race, class, motherhood and coming of age.
Styron now lives in Brooklyn, but was raised in Litchfield, Conn. She said that although "All the Finest Girls" is a work of fiction, while growing up she was cared for by a number of Caribbean women who had a big impact on her life. She said the thought that these women leave their own families to be with another always preoccupied her.
A great challenge of writing a memoir, as opposed to a novel, is that many of an author's subjects are still alive and in the author's life still, according to Styron. “Finding a voice that allows you to be both honest and generous to the people you’re close too, I think is probably the trickiest part,” she said.
Styron’s Writers Speak visit begins at 7 p.m. March 6 in the Radio Lounge on the second floor of Chancellors Hall at Stony Brook Southampton. Admission is free and all are welcome.
Coming up in the Writers Speak series are author Benjamin Anastas on March 13, author Alice Mattison on April 3, middle-grade and young adult author Maryrose Wood on April 10, New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman interviewed by former New Yorker fiction editor Dan Menaker on April 17; and author Elissa Schappell on April 24.
For more information, call 631-632-5287 or visit www.stonybrook.edu/mfa.