On April 5, students and staff filled the seats of Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC) as author Peter Ho Davies, one of the most anticipated VOICES Reading series presenters of the year, read excepts from his widely anthologized short stories.
Davies is the author of several novels, including “The Welsh Girl,” written in 2007, “Equal Love,” and a collection of stories entitled “The Ugliest House in the World.”
While introducing Davies, visiting Assistant Professor of English Jerry Gabriel commented on the versatility that the author uses when writing. “His characters grapple with love and loss, but also with cultural identity and imperialism” Gabriel said. “We’re incredibly lucky to have him here with us.”
Davies often writes about the experience of being biracial, as he himself was born to Welsh and Chinese parents. He began his reading with a short story titled “Minotaur,” a humorous piece that used the half-man half-bull creature that originated in Greek Myth to comment on the struggle of being caught between two worlds.
This touching and funny piece played off the word “half” to depict not only the mixed-race of his character, but also to emphasize adolescence as a time in which the speaker was “half child, half adult.” Davies expertly used the myth of the Minotaur to highlight the struggle of having to make a choice between two differing cultural identities.
Later in the reading, Davies spoke animatedly about his experience as a teacher. He has taught at the University of Oregon and Emory University and is currently on the faculty of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
His second piece called, “What You Know,” was about a creative writing teacher, whose student committed suicide. Davies made it a point to assure the audience that the speaker was not based off of him. This piece was much darker, and followed the speaker’s twisted stream of consciousness as he considers a variety of moral and ethical questions.
According to Davies, in order to avoid having his new writing held to a standard set by the previous work he has written, Davies never writes in the same style or genre as his previous pieces.
“One of the biggest competitions we [as writers] struggle with is the competition with ourselves,” Davies said. “I never write the same thing twice.”
Davies’ work has appeared in anthologies such as “Best American Short Stories” and he was named as one of the top twenty “Best of Young British Novelists” by Granta magazine. His novel “The Welsh Girl” was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2007, and short-listed for The Galaxy British Book Awards “Richard and Judy Best Read” in 2008. Davies is also a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.