Novelist, Penn State alumnus, and State College native Sunil Yapa will speak on the University Park campus March 21 and 22 in two free public events. Yapa will discuss his debut novel, “Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist,” at 7 p.m on March 21 at the HUB-Robeson Center’s Freeman Auditorium. Yapa will read from his novel at 7:30 p.m. on March 22, in the Alumni Lounge at The Nittany Lion Inn.
Yapa’s novel, published in 2016, is set in Seattle in November 1999 when tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered to protest the World Trade Organization (WTO) conference that took place in the city's convention center. The book was selected as a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and found its way onto many “best” lists, including Time’s and Amazon’s “Best Books of the Year”, Barnes & Noble’s “Discover Great New Writers,” and The Washington Post’s “Notable Books.”
About “Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist,” Ron Charles of The Washington Post wrote: “What is so enthralling about this novel is its syncopated riff of empathy as the perspective jumps around these participants—some peaceful, some violent, some determined, some incredulous ... Yapa creates a fluid sense of the riot as it washes over the city. [The novel] ultimately does for WTO protests what Norman Mailer’s “Armies of the Night” did for the 1967 March on the Pentagon, gathering that confrontation in competing visions of what happened and what it meant.”
In addition to his 2002 bachelor of arts in geography from Penn State, Yapa received his masters of fine arts (MFA) in fiction from Hunter College, where he was a Hertog Fellow for Zadie Smith. The biracial son of a Sri Lankan father and a mother from Montana, Yapa has lived in Greece, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, China, and India, as well as London, Montreal, and New York City. He currently lives in central Pennsylvania and teaches in a low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.
The March 21 discussion is part of the slate of events for the Center for American Literary Studies’ and Centre County Reads’ 2018 Community Read. Information about this and additional Community Read events can be found at cals.la.psu.edu and www.centrecountyreads.org.
The March 22 reading is the latest offering in the Mary E. Rolling Reading Series, which is a program within Penn State’s Creative Writing Program in English and receives generous support from Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts; the Department of English; the Joseph L. Grucci Poetry Endowment; the Mary E. Rolling Lectureship in Creative Writing; and, University Libraries. Additional information on the series is available at creativewriting.psu.edu.