An internationally renowned auther, Deborah Baker, will read from her latest non-fiction book at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5 at the Gorecki Family Theater at the College of St. Benedict. The event is free and open to the public.
Baker’s newest book is entitled “The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism.” It’s the true story of a Jewish woman in New York who decided in the early 1960s to convert to Islam and move to Pakistan. The woman’s story encapsulates the many contradictions of East vs. West, idealism vs. reality, religious extremism vs. secularism, individualism vs. communalism and other seemingly irreconcilable conflicts that continue to bring strife to the world. The book was nominated last year for the prestigious National Book Award and won the Sister Mariella Gable Prize, awarded by CSB. That prize honors work published by Graywolf Press, which is a collaborative partner with CSB.
Baker will be an artist-in-residence at CSB from Dec. 3-6, visiting classes and spending time with students.
Baker was raised in Charlottesville, Va.; Puerto Rico and New England. She attended both the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the University of Cambridge. Baker’s first biography was published in 1982 while she was still a college student. She worked as a book editor and publisher for a number of years, and then moved to Kolkata, India. With her husband, acclaimed India-born writer Amitav Ghosh, Baker divides her time between living in the United States and in Calcutta and Goa, India.
While living in Calcutta, Baker wrote “In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding,” which was a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1994. That book details the life of Riding, who was a poet, essayist and close friend to some of the literary giants of the 20th Century.
From 2008-09, Baker was a fellow scholar at the Dorothy and Lewis C. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at The New York Public Library. There, she researched and wrote “The Convert.”
Baker is also the author of the widely acclaimed non-fiction book, The Blue Hand: The Beats in India,” which is an exploration of the travels of American poet Allen Ginsberg and other poets and artists in India in the early 1960s. Those cultural connections influenced a widening of cross-cultural influences throughout the world.
Baker’s reading at CSB is part of the Warner Reading Series of the Manitou Fund, a long-standing supporter of CSB and the Literary Arts Institute in particular. The Manitou Fund has sponsored readings and presentations at CSB for more than two decades and established the Sister Mariella Series, which is formed by each of the individual award winners of the Sister Mariella Gable Award.