‘This American Life’ star and writer Sarah Vowell brings signature style to campus Oct. 8

From microphone or book, Vowell’s work mixes a sharp intellect with droll humor to tell stories that shape culture

Sarah Vowell is an extraordinary storyteller. To fans of “This American Life,” she needs no introduction. From 1996 to 2008, Vowell entertained and enlightened listeners with her unusual, quirky tales. She brings that same beguiling style to her books, essays and columns, telling stories that reveal episodes in American history that will never be found in standard texts.


Vowell will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, in Graham Chapel on the Washington University in St. Louis Danforth Campus. Sponsored by the university’s Assembly Series and the American Culture Studies program in Arts & Sciences, the event is free and open to the public.

“We are especially excited to bring Sarah Vowell to campus because she explores fundamental questions of American identity, history and memory,” says Heidi Kolk, PhD, assistant director of American Culture Studies (AMCS). “Many of her works consider how defining events and stories of our past intersect with personal experience, contemporary political discourse and, of course, popular culture — all of which, like Mark Twain, she engages with in both playful and serious ways.”

Kolk notes that many student groups are preparing for her program by reading selections from her work, including a group of freshman in the Liggett/Koenig Residential College, AMCS graduate fellows, and a group of freshman taking the FOCUS course on American Memory and Memorialization.

“Students in the freshman FOCUS course will explore sites Vowell discusses in her book Assassination Vacation during a trip to Washington, D.C., next spring,” Kolk says.

In addition to her six books, Vowell contributes to McSweeney’s and also writes for Salon.com, Time and the San Francisco Weekly. She is the president of the board of 826NYC, a nonprofit organization in Brooklyn providing tutoring and writing services for schoolchildren.

Vowell earned a bachelor’s degree from Montana State University in modern languages and literatures, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

For more information on this event and other Assembly Series programs, visit assemblyseries.wustl.edu or call 314-935-4620; for more information on the American Culture Studies program, visit http://amcs.wustl.edu/ or call 314-935-5216.