Lydia Kiesling at Harvard Book Store
in conversation with NAMWALI SERPELL
August 9, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes LYDIA KIESLING—author of The Golden State—for a discussion of her new novel Mobility. She will be joined in conversation by NAMWALI SERPELL—author of The Furrows.
The year is 1998. The Soviet Union is dissolved, the Cold War is over, and Bunny Glenn is a lonely American teenager in Azerbaijan with her Foreign Service family. Through Bunny’s bemused eyes, we watch global interests flock to her temporary backyard for Caspian oil and pipeline access, hearing rumbles of the expansion of the American security state and the buildup to the War on Terror. We follow Bunny from adolescence to middle age—from Baku to Athens to Houston—as her own ambition and desire for comfort lead her to a career in the oil industry, eventually returning to the scene of her youth, where slippery figures from the past reappear in an era of political and climate breakdown.
Propulsive and thought-provoking, empathetic yet pointed, Mobility is a story about class, power, politics, and desire told through the life of one woman—her social milieu, her romances, her unarticulated wants. Through Bunny’s life choices, Lydia Kiesling masterfully explores American forms of complicity and inertia, moving between the local and the global, the personal and the political, and using fiction’s singular power to illuminate a life shaped by its context.
Praise for Mobility
“State Department brat Bunny Glenn, Mobility's hapless, sometimes feckless, protagonist, likes her lip gloss and her Louboutins, and isn’t likely to let vaguely leftish views stand between her and her rise in the oil industry. But this sly bildungsroman has subterranean intent. A masterpiece of misdirection and a cautionary tale for our times.” —Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Horse
“This is the story of a single American life, a frank (and often funny) look at one woman’s becoming. But the accomplishment of Lydia Kiesling’s second novel is untangling the forces—politics, sex, and corporate might—that dictate all of contemporary existence. Mobility is at once a tale of family life and an indictment of capitalism itself; a truly extraordinary book.” —Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind
“Mobility is that rare gem that has the power to transport its reader, page to page, moment to moment, while subtly building to a conclusion of cosmic profundity. One could compare the deft Kiesling to any great novelist of our time, but ultimately her exploration of complicity reminded me most of Hannah Arendt; here is a writer who sees the world so clearly that she cannot help expose us to ourselves. I put down the book feeling both grateful for this author's all-seeing honesty, and a little frightened of it.” —Kerry Howley, author of Thrown
Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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