One year after the death of his beloved musician father, thirteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house — a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn’t understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.
At first, Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. Here, Benny meets his very own Book — a talking thing — who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
With its blend of sympathetic characters, riveting plot, and vibrant engagement with everything from jazz, to climate change, to our attachment to material possessions, The Book of Form and Emptiness is classic Ruth Ozeki — bold, wise, poignant, playful, humane, and heartbreaking.
Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest, who has garnered acclaim for her ability to integrate issues of science, technology, religion, environmental politics, and global pop culture into unique, hybrid forms.
In addition to being a celebrated novelist, Ozeki is affiliated with the Everyday Zen Foundation and teaches creative writing at Smith College, where she is the Grace Jarcho Ross 1933 Professor of Humanities.
Shawn Wong, the Q&A moderator for the evening, is the Byron and Alice Lockwood Professor in the Humanities at the University of Washington, where he teaches Asian American literature in the Department of English and screenwriting in the Department of Cinema & Media Studies. Wong is the author of the novels Homebase (1979) and American Knees (1995), the latter of which was adapted into the feature film, Americanese (2006), directed by Eric Byler. He is the editor of numerous anthologies, including the landmark Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers. Learn more.
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Seattle Arts & Lectures (SAL) cultivates transformative experiences through story and language with readers and writers of all generations. Learn more about SAL programs here.
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