'Dietland' author to speak at MFA commencement

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BENNINGTON — Sarai Walker, the author of the bestselling novel and critically-acclaimed AMC series "Dietland," will be the commencement speaker for the Bennington Writing Seminars in June 2019. Walker is a 2003 graduate of the fiction program and will deliver the commencement address on Saturday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Bennington's Usdan Gallery.

While at Bennington, Walker will conduct a master class and give a reading. In addition, she will emcee a panel titled "Page to Screen to Film: Four Writers Discuss Their Experiences" with Susan Scarf Merrell MFA '09, whose novel "Shirley" is being made into a major motion picture starring Elizabeth Moss; Joanne Proulx MFA '14, whose debut novel "Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet" is being made into a major motion picture starring Juliette Lewis; and faculty member Manuel Gonzales, who teaches screenwriting at Bennington and whose first novel, "The Regional Office is Under Attack," has been optioned for film. Walker will screen "Dietland" during the residency and Proulx will screen "Anthem."

"Dietland" was one of Entertainment Weekly's Top Ten Books of the Year in 2015. "Dietland" was adapted for television in 2018 by AMC and is now on Hulu in the United States and on Amazon Prime globally. Walker's essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, the Washington Post, and many national magazines. She also worked on the 2005 update of "Our Bodies, Ourselves."

After receiving her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, Walker earned a PhD in English from the University of London. Her research focused on normative femininity of the body; the fat female body; consciousness-raising and the "personal is political" in feminist practice and as a literary aesthetic; American second-wave feminist history and fiction; "chick lit;" and critical theory, particularly Michel Foucault. She talked with NPR's Scott Simon about writing "Dietland" and reclaiming the word "fat."

She has taught writing and literature at several universities and lives in Los Angeles, where she is developing a new TV series, as well as writing her second novel, "The Cherry Robbers," which will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2021.

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