Angela Flournoy. Photo by LaToya T. Duncan

Hugo House’s Literary Series on ‘Exile’ Is More Relevant to 2017 Than Expected

Angela Flournoy, Megan Kruse, and Phillip B. Williams read on a prescient theme this Friday.

Hugo House management plans the themes for their Literary Series events months in advance. They have to give the participating three writers and one musical act plenty of time to come up with new work incorporating their prompts. So it’s not as though the theme of this Friday’s all-ages Literary Series event, “Exile,” was chosen as a response to the chaos unleashed by President Trump’s Muslim ban. It’s just—well, “a happy accident” isn’t the right term, obviously. More like the dread floating around in the backs of everyone’s minds as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump coaxed throbbing waves of xenophobia from his base happened to be more relevant to 2017 than many of us ever expected.

So this Friday at Fred Wildlife Refuge, the writers and band will present new work centering around the word “Exile.” A certain bigoted red-trucker-cap-wearing specter will undoubtedly loom over the proceedings all night. Will the artists directly engage with those affected by Trump’s Muslim ban? It’s very likely; the Internet is heavy with footage of families broken across international lines for no real reason besides a narcissist’s capricious misunderstanding of what causes terrorism. Citizens are openly and seriously talking about wanting to leave America. Exile is in the air.

Hugo House selected some very fine writers: Angela Flournoy, whose debut novel The Turner House won accolades for its depiction of an African-American family in Great Recession-era Detroit, is headlining. She will return later this spring as part of the Seattle Public Library’s “Seattle Reads” celebration, so this event is kind of a trial run, a way to familiarize yourself with the author before she appears in libraries all over town.

Joining Flournoy will be Portland author Megan Kruse, whose debut novel, Call Me Home, is a Northwest gothic about the members of an unhappy family that breaks up but can’t quite stop orbiting each other. And poet Phillip B. Williams writes beautifully about the rage and heartbreak of American cities—his “Of Darker Ceremonies” features a chalk outline around a body that “unpeels from the street,” goes on a drug-fueled rampage, and “smashes every windshield” it encounters.

These three writers already focus on exiles. Flournoy wrote a whole book about the economic exiles of Detroit, the first people abandoned by the American Dream that seems to be slowly edging us all out. Kruse writes beautifully about emotional exile. And Williams has written about the exile of race, the uncomfortable Schrödinger’s-cat situation that African-Americans find themselves in: If they speak out about injustice, they’re making everything about race, but if they say nothing they’re excluded from the conversation because of their race. Together with electronic-industrial-pop duo Crater, these three will deliver strangely timely pieces that took months to write. Now is the time to speak up for exiles. Fred Wildlife Refuge, 128 Belmont Ave. E., 322-7030, hugohouse.org. $10–$25. 7:30 p.m. Fri., Feb. 17. Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at seattlereviewofbooks.com.

More in Arts & Culture

The Kinesthetic Truth of Jerome Robbins

Pacific Northwest Ballet opens its season with a centennial celebration of legendary choreographer.

Musicians Rally for a Free #SaveTheShowbox Concert at City Hall

The event corresponds with the City’s public land use hearing regarding expanding the Pike Place Market Historic District.

Welcome to the new Hugo House. Photo by Seth Sommerfeld
A New Chapter For Hugo House

After two nomadic years, the nonprofit Seattle writing center is ready to open its new, expanded home.

The finale of ‘Volta’ brings the X Games to Cirque du Soleil. Photo by Patrice Lamoureux
Cirque du Xtreme

While thematically uncentered, Cirque du Soleil’s BMX-adorned Volta still entertains.

Walking Seattle Art Museum’s halls is just one of the options available on Museum Day. Photo by Natali Wiseman
Snag a Free Museum Day Ticket

Smithsonian Magazine ‘s September 22 celebration opens the doors to some of the region’s best cultural institutions.

Angel Olsen: Always worth a closer inspection. Photo by Taylor Boylston
The Bare Bones of Angel Olsen

Seattle Weekly chats with the reflective singer-songwriter ahead of her Seattle solo show.

Illustration by Taylor Dow
Polaroid Picture

Mercury and Uranus reveal details and surprises.

If you see the poster art for Mandy and are surprised it’s wild, it’s your own damn fault.
Totally Uncaging the Cage

Nicolas Cage taps into his manical best for the acid-trip fantasy revenge film, ‘Mandy.’

Most Read