N.K. Jemisin keynote highlights upcoming activity to close 2023-24 KU Common Book slate

Programming in support of the 2023-24 KU Common Book draws to a close with a flurry of activity over the next couple of weeks, including a series of storytelling workshops hosted by the AfroRithm Futures Group (April 24-26) and a virtual conversation with acclaimed science fiction writer N.K. Jemisin (April 25).  

KU’s Giselle Anatol and Anthony Boynton, along with UMKC professor Deja Beamon, recently joined Kaye McIntyre for a conversation about this year’s Common Book, “Parable of the Sower,” on KPR Presents Book Club. That exchange included a preview of Jemisin’s virtual visit. 

“There are very few people who have won (a Hugo Award for Best Novel) more than once. [Jemisin’s] won it three times, and she’s won it three times in a row – no one has done that before,” said Anatol, Director of KU’s Hall Center for Humanities and co-chair of the Common Book steering committee. 

Jemisin is a New York Times bestselling writer and one of the most acclaimed science fiction and fantasy authors of the present day.  In a Crowdcast event streamed online on April 25, Jemisin will read from her “Broken Earth” trilogy and speak about the influence of “Parable of the Sower” and Octavia E. Butler on her work. She composed the preface to the most recent edition of the novel. 

A copy of "Parable of the Sower" in a field.

Next week, The AfroRithm Futures Group will be in residence at KU between April 24-26. During its stay, the group will host three world-building workshops, which lead with Afrofuturist storytelling and tools that empower groups and individuals to imagine new, more equitable, and inclusive visions of the future. They use collaboration, education, and play to overcome obstacles and drive transformative action for social justice-related issues in any organization. 

These events are among five public events remaining on the schedule for the KU Common Book program, a campus-wide initiative that fosters critical thinking and generates opportunities for shared experiences and conversation about topics and issues of significance in today’s world. The program is presented via partnership between KU Libraries, the Hall Center for the Humanities, and Academic Affairs. 

Throughout the academic year, the KU campus community has participated in interdisciplinary conversations and programs related to "Parable of the Sower,” with wide-ranging themes like science fiction, African-American studies, climate change, dystopian novels, coming of age tales, urban planning, and others. 

“(Octavia Butler) speaks to some of the issues that are really critical in the field of science fiction and fantasy, and [...] does so in a really accessible way to a really wide range of audiences,” Anatol said. 

Additionally, a Common Book-themed digital exhibit called “Reimagining Hope: Celebrating Afro-Futurism Scholars and Collections at KU” is available for viewing in the Haricombe Gallery in Watson Library through the end of the spring semester.  

• AfroRithms from the Future: World-building and Radical Imagination | Event Link 
Wednesday, April 24 | 7-8:30 p.m., Liberty Hall (7th Street and Massachusetts)   
• AfroRithms from the Future: Service and the Future | Event Link 
Thursday, April 25 | 5-6:30 p.m., Woodruff Auditorium   
• AfroRithms from the Future: Butler, Jemisin and Black Futurists | Event Link 
Friday, April 26 | 10-11:30 a.m., Hall Center for the Humanities   
AfroRithm Futures Group (ARFG) is an Afrofuturist consultancy and storytelling collective led by Dr. Lonny Brooks, Ahmed Best, and Jade Fabello. AfroRithms will be leading a cooperative design, exploration, and storytelling game that centers Black and Indigenous perspectives in Woodruff Auditorium. Each player is a traveler of the multiverse, exploring possible futures and creating exciting new artifacts to send back out to all of the other parallel worlds. Copies of “Parable of the Sower” will be available for pick-up at the event.  

KU Common Book Keynote: N. K. Jemisin | Event Link 
Thursday, April 25, 2024 | 7:30 p.m., Woodruff Auditorium  
New York Times bestselling writer N.K. Jemisin, who composed the preface to the most recent edition of “Parable of Sower,” is one of the most acclaimed science fiction and fantasy authors of our day, winning the prestigious Hugo Award three times in a row (the first author in history to do so). Jemisin will read from her “Broken Earth” trilogy and speak about the influence of “Parable of the Sower” and Octavia E. Butler on her work. 

Reimagining Hope: Celebrating Afro-Futurism Scholars at KU | Online Exhibit 
Through the end of the semester | During Library Hours, Watson Library’s Haricombe Gallery  
Afrofuturism, as defined by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, expresses notions of Black identity, agency and freedom through art, creative works and activism that envision liberated futures for Black life." The University of Kansas hopes to continue fostering this beautiful, imaginative aesthetic by showcasing the scholarly and creative works of current and previous KU scholars; curating a selection of resources intended to further future Afrofuturistic research and thought; and by connecting those inspired by this year's Common Book, The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, with a broader understanding of the movement in which she stands as a central figure.