Long before facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg turned up on Oprah to announce a $100 million challenge grant for the Newark Public Schools (alongside twitter-transparency model mayor, Cory Booker), author/educator/philanthropist/literary entrepreneur/screenwriter Dave Eggers was searching for imaginative ways for private citizens to engage with public education.
Long before the "education reform zeitgeist" heated up over at HuffPo with this fall's much-discussed documentary Waiting for Superman, Eggers co-wrote Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers.
Eggers is at the University of Kentucky this afternoon for his 7 pm, September 27 address tonight at the Singletary Center about his bestselling, award-winning Zeitoun (chronicling one family's struggles caught between Katrina and the "war on terror"), selected this year for the University of Kentucky's Common Reading Experience. (Read the NYT Review here.)
Eggers is famous for his books (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius What Is the What (Vintage)
You Shall Know Our Velocity); his screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are; and for founding McSweeney's (which might be the salvation of books, magazines, and newspapers, depending on who you ask).
As he told the L.A. Times in 2009,
"We don't pretend to have the solutions...We're just asking a few questions. We admit how little we know, but we're trying to luxuriate in print and maybe remind people of everything it can do."
In that same article, David Ulin commented on how the McSweeney's "imprint has become a brand, the apotheosis of writerly hip in a world where cachet for literature is sorely lacking. In addition to its publishing efforts, the press works closely with 826 National, a nonprofit literacy organization for kids 6 to 18 that Eggers established in 2002. What connects these endeavors is a sense that writing and publishing should be ambitious."
Three UK students were on the committee that selected Zeitoun for the Common Reading Experience, considering the book's relevance to first-year students and potential to spark passionate discussion, among other factors.
Eggers speaks tonight at 7 pm in the concert hall of the Singletary Center, followed by Q and A.
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