Visiting Writers Series: Christa Parravani

Visiting Writers Series: Christa Parravani

By: Zoe Aslop

Christa Parravani, a memoirist who gets to the messy heart of being a woman under duress, will speak at AU on Wednesday, October 23rd, as part of the Visiting Writers Series. As an accomplished photographer and an acclaimed writer, Parravani makes art out of loss, finding agency even when her back is to the wall. Her new memoir on life and abortion in West Virginia will be published by Henry Holt in September 2020. The essay, Life and Death in West Virginia, out of which this latest memoir was grown was published in Guernica last April.

As a young student, Parravani photographed herself and her troubled twin, Cara, in hooded white or black robes in desolate outdoor settings. Against the naked stubble of a frozen New England cornfield or in front of a tumble-down shack at the edge of a thicket, the twins pose, managing to buck comparisons to nuns or handmaidens, staring down the camera and wearing unapologetic swatches of bright red lipstick.

In her Indie bestseller, Her: A Memoir, Parravani chronicles the death of her identical twin, Cara, and her own survival, covering rape, addiction, divorce and the redemption of writing. More recently, in the Guernica essay, Parravani writes about her thwarted effort to get an abortion in the state where she’d moved for a tenure-track teaching position. Alongside the description of the social and economic hurdles to ending her pregnancy, Parravani tenderly describes the sickly newborn son, who wouldn’t have been born, if she had been able to go through with the procedure. Even as she celebrates the child and helps him thrive, Parravani calls out the broken health system that jeopardized first her health and, after a difficult birth and inadequate neonatal care, that of her son.

Parravani is Assistant Professor in Creative Nonfiction at West Virginia University. 

The Visiting Writers Series event will take place on Wednesday, October 23, at 7:00 p.m. in the Abramson Family Founders Room, School of International Service.

Photo credit: Christa Parravani, Kopeikin Gallery

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