Winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Barbara Kingsolver is lauded as one of the most celebrated novelists of our time. With her latest novel, Demon Copperhead, Kingsolver takes on David Copperfield as her inspiration for a story following one boy through the mountains of Southern Appalachia. Reckoning with institutional poverty, opioid addiction, and class divides visible and unseen, Kingsolver’s voice resonates with the truth of loving a place others will hardly believe exists.
Kingsolver will appear in conversation with Ruth Dickey, the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation.
Single tickets and Create Your Own Series subscriptions, with the exception of a limited number of Pay What You Can tickets, include a copy of Demon Copperhead, shipped to the ticket holder’s door by our partner bookstore, University Book Store. Encore Series subscriptions do not include the book.
Demon Copperhead is set in the mountains of southern Appalachia. It’s the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.
Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.
Barbara Kingsolver is the author of ten bestselling works of fiction, including the novels Unsheltered, Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her work of narrative nonfiction is the influential bestseller Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned literary awards and a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts, as well as the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.
Ruth Dickey has spent over 25 years working at the intersection of community building, writing, and art. Since 2013, she served as Executive Director of Seattle Arts & Lectures, which brings the best writers and thinkers to Seattle stages and classrooms. A builder and believer in big dreams, Ruth has had the pleasure of leading organizations in Washington, DC; New Orleans, LA; Cincinnati, OH; and Seattle, WA to dramatically expand their community impact. Ruth holds an MFA in poetry from UNC-Greensboro, and a BS in Foreign Service and an MA in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University. She was a 2017 fellow with the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program, and served as a judge in Fiction for the 2019 National Book Awards.