Mothers and Strangers: Essays on Motherhood with Samia Serageldin & Lee Smith

Thursday 4/4, 7 p.m.

Join us for a conversation among editors Samia Serageldin & Lee Smith and contributors Marianne Gingher, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, and Michael Malone as they discuss Mothers and Strangers.

In this anthology of creative nonfiction, twenty-eight writers set out to discover what they know, and don't know, about the person they call Mother. Celebrated writers Samia Serageldin and Lee Smith have curated a diverse and insightful collection that challenges stereotypes about mothers and expands our notions of motherhood in the South. The mothers in these essays were shaped, for good and bad, by the economic and political crosswinds of their time. Whether their formative experience was the Great Depression or the upheavals of the 1970s, their lives reflected their era and influenced how they raised their children. The writers in Mothers and Strangers explore the reliability of memory, examine their family dynamics, and come to terms with the past.

In addition to the editors, contributors include Belle Boggs, Marshall Chapman, Hal Crowther, Clyde Edgerton, Marianne Gingher, Jaki Shelton Green, Sally Greene, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Eldridge "Redge" Hanes, Lynden Harris, Randall Kenan, Phillip Lopate, Michael Malone, Frances Mayes, Jill McCorkle, Melody Moezzi, Elaine Neil Orr, Steven Petrow, Margaret Rich, Omid Safi, James Seay, Alan Shapiro, Bland Simpson, Sharon K. Swanson, and Daniel Wallace.

Samia Serageldin is a novelist, writer, and editor. Her autobiographical first novel, The Cairo House, is set in her native Egypt and was followed by The Naqib’s Daughter and Love Is Like Water and Other Stories. She is also the author of essays and nonfiction in several anthologies and has edited books and written a regular book-review column for ten years. She is an editor and founder of the magazine South Writ Large: Stories, Arts, and Ideas from the Global South. Serageldin received her M.S. degree in politics from London University and immigrated to the United States with her family in the early 1980s. She has called Chapel Hill, N.C., home for the past thirty years.



Lee Smith is the author of seventeen works of fiction, including Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History, and the recent novel Guests on Earth. She has received many awards, including the North Carolina Award for Literature and an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; her novel The Last Girls was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. Dimestore, a Writer’s Life, a collection of personal essays, was published in March 2016.


Marianne Gingher has published seven books and writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her novel Bobby Rex’s Greatest Hit was made into an NBC movie, and she has published widely in magazines and periodicals, including the Southern Review, Oxford American, North America Review, Oprah Magazine, New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, and Our State. Her latest books are Adventures in Pen Land, a comic memoir about the writing life (illustrated by Daniel Wallace), and two editing projects: Long Story Short, a flash fiction anthology, and Amazing Place, a collection of personal narratives by twenty-two North Carolina writers. A puppeteer, she cofounded Jabberbox Puppet Theater, a venue based in Greensboro, N.C., for salon-style adult puppet comedy. An award-winning teacher and former director of UNC’s Creative Writing Program, she is currently professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also codirects the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship Program.

Stephanie Elizondo Griest is an award-winning author of three travel memoirs, Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana; Mexican Enough: My Life between the Borderlines; and All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands, as well as the best-selling guidebook 100 Places Every Woman Should Go. She has also written for the New York Times, Washington Post, The Believer, VQR, and Oxford American and edited Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010. An assistant professor of creative nonfiction at UNC–Chapel Hill, she has performed across the globe, including in Venezuela as a featured author with the U.S. State Department. Distinctions include a Henry Luce Scholarship to China, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton, and a Margolis Award for Social Justice Reporting.

Michael Malone’s twelve novels include the classics Handling Sin and Time’s Witness. He is also the author of the short-story collection Red Clay, Blue Cadillac and of two books of nonfiction. His novels have been translated into many languages. A number were bestsellers. His work has appeared in such periodicals as the Partisan Review, Playboy, Harper’s, New York Times, and Nation. In addition to his plays, he was for many years head writer for network television shows at ABC and NBC. Among his prizes are the O’Henry, the Edgar, the Writers Guild Award, and the Emmy. He taught at Yale, at Penn, and until his recent retirement, at Duke University. He and his wife, Professor Maureen Quilligan, live in Hillsborough, N.C.

Praise for Mothers and Strangers

"A fascinating and variegated account of the way children construct their mothers in childhood and then have to reconstruct them as adults. Mothers and Strangers is a rumination on the delicate interweaving of our mothers' extreme familiarity with their ultimate inscrutability, offering a multitude of diverse and compelling perspectives."
Sarah Menkedick, author of Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm
"Mothers and Strangers is a rare thing: a book of intelligence, heartbreak, humor, and grace all in one. If you did or do have a mother, this collection of thoughtful, well-told essays is for you."
Therese Anne Fowler, author of Z and A Well-Behaved Woman
"By turns touching, wistful, irreverent, and deeply, hilariously wicked, this book—featuring some of my favorite writers--earns its title. It left me--and I expect it will leave many readers--a 'little bit homesick,' in Lee Smith's words. I'm very glad it fell into my hands."
David Payne, author of Barefoot to Avalon
Event date: 
Thursday, April 4, 2019 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Mothers and Strangers: Essays on Motherhood from the New South Cover Image
By Samia Serageldin (Editor), Lee Smith (Editor)
ISBN: 9781469651675
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of North Carolina Press - April 2019