Dinaw Mengestu is the Distinguished Writer in Residence for the Fall semester of 2008.


Dinaw Mengestu is the author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, a Los Angeles Times bestseller and Seattle Reads pick of 2008, as well as the forthcoming novel How To Read the Air. He was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. In 1980, he immigrated to the United States with his mother and sister, joining his father, who had fled Ethiopia during the Red Terror. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University’s MFA program in fiction and the recipient of a 2006 fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and a 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation in 2007. He has written for Rolling Stone and Harper's, among other publications. He lives in New York City.


Timothy Liu is the Distinguished Writer in Residence for the Spring semester of 2008.


Timothy Liu (Liu Ti Mo) was born in 1965 in San Jose, California, to parents from the Chinese mainland. He studied at Brigham Young University, the University of Houston, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

He is the author of For Dust Thou Art (Southern Illinois University Press, 2005); Of Thee I Sing (2004), selected by Publishers Weekly as a 2004 Book-of-the-Year; Hard Evidence (2001); Say Goodnight (1998); Burnt Offerings (1995); and Vox Angelica (1992), which won the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Award.

He has also edited Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry, (Talisman House, 2000). His poems have been included in many anthologies and have appeared in such magazines and journals as American Letters & Commentary, Bomb, Grand Street, Kenyon Review, The Nation, New American Writing, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry and Virginia Quarterly Review. His journals and papers are archived in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library.

About Liu's work, the poet Fanny Howe has said, "Timothy Liu writes out of an angry materialism, ill-fitting body, disappointment at every turn. He takes on his point of view wholeheartedly and compresses the consequences into phrases that echo and mimic each other, thereby increasing the sensation of claustrophobia and fever."

Liu is currently an Associate Professor at William Paterson University and on the Core Faculty at Bennington College’s Writing Seminars; he lives in Manhattan.


ZZ Packer is the Distinguished Writer in Residence for the Fall semester of 2007 

ZZ Packer is the author of the short story collection, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, a PEN/Faulkner finalist and a New York Times Notable Book.  Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Story, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, and The Best American Short Stories 2000 and 2004 and have been read on NPR's Selected Shorts.  Her nonfiction has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Magazine, The American Prospect, Essence, O, The Believer and Salon.  She is the recent recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.  She was recently named one of America's Best Young novelists by Granta Magazine.

She was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Atlanta and Louisville, Kentucky.  Although intent on becoming an electrical engineer, she forsook MIT for Yale (and is forever grateful she did).  She received her M.A. at Johns Hopkins and M.F.A. at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.  She was a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where she also held a Jones Lectureship.

ZZ Packer currently lives with her husband and two sons in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Jason Berry was the Distinguished Writer in Residence for the Spring semester of 2007

Jason Berry is an author and independent film producer. His seventh book, Last of the Red Hot Poppas (2006, Chin Music Press) is a comedy about Louisiana politics, finished before Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Berry achieved national prominence for his investigative reporting on the Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis in Lead Us Not Into Temptation (1992), a book used in many newsrooms. He has been widely interviewed in the national media, with numerous appearances on Nightline, Oprah, ABC, NBC and CNN. USA Today called Berry “the rare investigative reporter whose scholarship, compassion and ability to write with the poetic power of Robert Penn Warren are in perfect balance.”

Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, written with Gerald Renner, was published in 2004 by Free Press, with foreign editions in Australia, Italy and the Spanish-speaking world. Mr. Berry is directing a film documentary based on the book.

The author writes on culture and politics for many publications. Up From the Cradle of Jazz (1986) a history of New Orleans popular music, grew out of a film on musical families. His other books include Amazing Grace: With Charles Evers in Mississippi (1973), The Spirit of Black Hawk (1995) and Louisiana Faces: Images from A Renaissance (2000) with photographs of Philip Gould.

Mr. Berry received a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship for research on jazz funerals and a 1992 Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship for reporting on demagogues. His play, Earl Long in Purgatory, won a 2002 Big Easy award for Best Original Work in Theatre.

A 1971 graduate of Georgetown University, he lives in New Orleans, and is working on a history of the city, using brass band funerals as the prism.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000