Esther Freier Lecture


Fall 2017 speaker: Edwidge Danticat

Image of Edwidge Danticat

Thank you for joining us in 2016 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Esther Freier Endowed Lectures in Literature, which began February 5, 2001, with Jamaica Kincaid as our guest. We look forward to seeing you at our next free event at the University of Minnesota campus, as the series continues to explore literature and the humanities.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Edwidge Danticat: "The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story"
7:30 pm, Coffman Union Theater, 300 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis


The Department of English presents novelist, memoirist, and children's book author Edwidge Danticat, winner of a MacArthur Fellows Program Genius grant, as well as the National Book Critics National Book Critics Circle Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her 2007 memoir Brother, I'm Dying. Her new book The Art of Death, part of Charles Baxter's "The Art of" series at Graywolf Press, is at once a personal account of her mother dying from cancer and a reckoning with the ways that other writers have approached death in their own work. “Writing has been the primary way I have tried to make sense of my losses,” Danticat notes in her introduction. “I have been writing about death for as long as I have been writing.”

Danticat's debut novel Breath, Eyes, Memory was an Oprah Book Club selection. She has since written three more novels, including 2013's Claire of the Sea Light, and the short story collection Krik? Krak! She's also published three young adult novels, most recently Untwine (2015), and a picture book, Mama's Nightingale. Her essays have been collected in Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work.

Danticat was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; she immigrated to Brooklyn as a 12-year-old. She earned a BA in French Literature from Barnard College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University.

Danticat will also answer audience questions and sign books.

Free and open to the public! No tickets or reservations necessary.

More author readings are offered through our creative writing program's Edelstein-Keller Visiting Writer Series.



About Esther Freier

The Esther Freier literature series hosts two free lectures each year featuring various prize-winning authors, from Zadie Smith to David Mitchell, Louise Glück to Natasha Trethewey.

The literary legacy that Esther Freier envisioned began in 2001, when celebrated novelist and essayist Jamaica Kincaid inaugurated the Esther Freier Endowed Lecture in Literature series. A clinical laboratory chemist and professor, Freier had a deep and profound love for literature and the humanities. She wanted to leave a legacy that would benefit the public and inspire emerging authors. In her will, Freier created an endowment that would bring prize-winning national and international authors to campus for free, public lectures and informal visits with students.

Esther Freier was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, in 1925. She moved to Minneapolis while still a child and spent her entire academic (BS ‘46, MS ‘56) and professional career of 45 years at the University of Minnesota. She co-authored the first paper dealing with quality control in clinical chemistry, winning several awards. When she retired in 1991, she held the only endowed professorship in medical technology in the nation. That year, Freier served as the first woman president of the Academy of Clinical and Laboratory Physicians and Scientists and was re-elected the following year.

Esther Freier was a teacher, friend, and mentor to many. The Department of English is deeply grateful for her generosity to us, the University, and the community.

Previous Freier Lecturers

  • April 13, 2017: Andrew Solomon
  • October, 2016: Claudia Rankine & Marilynne Robinson
  • April, 2016: Abraham Verghese
  • October, 2015: Jeanette Winterson
  • February, 2015: Lynn Nottage
  • October, 2014: James McBride
  • April, 2014: David Mitchell
  • October, 2013: Katherine Boo
  • April, 2013: Colum McCann
  • October, 2012: Zadie Smith
  • April, 2012: Denis Johnson
  • October, 2011: Philip Gourevitch
  • April, 2011: Natasha Trethewey
  • October, 2010: James Salter
  • April, 2010: Richard Powers
  • September, 2009: Maxine Hong Kingston
  • March, 2009: Louise Glück
  • October, 2008: Junot Díaz
  • March, 2006: Suzan-Lori Parks
  • November, 2007: Paul Muldoon
  • April, 2007: E. L. Doctorow
  • November, 2006: Bharati Mukherjee
  • April, 2006: T. C. Boyle
  • October, 2005: Philip Levine
  • April, 2005: Anna Deavere Smith
  • November, 2004: Rita Dove
  • April, 2004: A. S. Byatt
  • October, 2003: Arnold Rampersad
  • February, 2003: Michael Chabon
  • November, 2002: Edmund White
  • March, 2002: Barry Lopez
  • March, 2001: W. S. Merwin
  • February, 2001: Jamaica Kincaid