Congratulations to Sarah Viren for her upcoming memoir To Name the Bigger Lie, published by Scribner. It begins as Sarah researches her high school English teacher—a man who taught his students to question everything—in preparation for a new book. As she delves into the effects of his teaching, however, her wife Marta is informed that she’s being investigated for sexual misconduct. Sarah knows the accusations must be false, but when she’s drawn further into the investigation, Sarah struggles with the nature of truth, skepticism, and what is fact.
A thrilling, labyrinthine and ultimately illuminating reckoning with what it feels like to caught up in a vortex of post-truth, conspiracy, and lies, Sarah Viren’s To Name the Bigger Lie is a fascinating and deeply disturbing account of our contemporary age of weaponized falsehoods. That what most of us experience only through the news came for her life so personally makes for heart-in-throat reading. This is a memoir, yes, but it’s also a view into a terrifying aspect of modernity, and Viren’s ability to unspool complicated tangles for the reader is unparalleled.
Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body
Sarah Viren has written an essay collection, Mine, which won the the River Teeth Book Prize and the GLCA New Writer’s Award. Currently, she is an assistant professor in the creative writing program at Arizona State University and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine. To learn more about her, visit her website.
Sarah Viren’s To Name the Bigger Lie is a work of radical moral philosophy as much as a memoir of one woman’s confrontation with the seeming contradictions of certainty and doubt, truth and conspiracy, of the sometimes unbridgeable distance between the truth we know and the one we can prove. This is one of the most astonishing books I’ve ever read—a beacon in these uncertain times.
Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Reckonings
To Name the Bigger Lie will be available in June of 2023. Pre-order it here.
Today we are pleased to feature an interview with Sarah Viren. Sarah is a journalist, writer, and translator working at Arizona State University specializing in the art of the creative nonfiction essay. She is the author of an essay collection entitled MINE.
In this fascinating interview she discusses her experience with writing from her working in journalism to her transition to writing literary essays. During her time as a journalist, she found that she wanted to write about things that “had no place in newspapers” and essay writing provided a new solution. The literary essay presents its own problems as the author is dealing with real people and Sarah explains how she has learned to write ethically about close loved ones from her sister to her children. Literary essays allow the author to “find ways to let those people have their voice be heard” while also showcasing the uniqueness of their own.
Sarah also takes time to explain her writing process from inspiration to research and observation identifying herself as a fan of the idea of “writing something and giving it time.” She uses moments of inspiration and wants to write honestly about herself and others, to share meaningful stories. In memory writing she says “remembering the self I was” can be hard and that in writing of others it is the “people that are outside of our sympathies… those are the people you need to write about.” Her essays are dark and honest and real, and though they are at times difficult to write she remembers “it’s hard work, but good work.”
This interview is a culmination of immersive student work on non-fiction narratives for ENG 509 in the Narrative Studies program in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. In this class, students read longform non-fiction writing and listened to author interviews to theorize writerly practices related to a variety of non-fiction genres. Students’ final reading for the course was Sarah Viren’s essay collection Mine. After a semester of critically engaging with author interviews, they composed their own questions and interviewed Dr. Viren on Tuesday, November 19. Watch the full interview to learn more about her creative process and inspiration and be inspired yourselves by the reflections and advice of a fellow creative mind.
Sarah Viren is a writer, journalist, and literary translator. Her essay collection, Mine, won the River Teeth Book Prize, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and was longlisted for the Pen/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. Her translation of the novella Córdoba Skies by the Argentine author Federico Falco was published in 2016 by Ploughshares Solos, and her co-edited anthology of the essay in the Americas, The Great American Essay, is forthcoming from Mad Creek Books. An award-winning newspaper journalist for half a decade in Texas and Florida, Sarah holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and is now an assistant professor at Arizona State University.
Michelle Stuckey is a clinical assistant professor and the writing program administrator for the Writers’ Studio, a fully online first-year composition program in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. Stuckey is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research and teaching are informed by feminist and critical race theories.
Kendall Dawson is a current Narrative Studies Master’s student at Arizona State University. She holds a Bachelor’s in Communication and English Literature from Central Michigan University, enjoys reading, and loves her hometown of Chicago, IL.
Delena Humble is a first year graduate student in the narrative Studies MA program at Arizona State University. At ASU, she also serves as the primary research assistant to New York Times best selling author, Jewell Parker-Rhodes. Delena’s passions include writing and studying Latinx identity negotiation, ethical story representation, and autoethnography. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her two cats.
Riley Hess is a second-year graduate student in the Communication Studies Master’s program at ASU’s West Campus. He is working on a short memoir about his trials and tribulations as a student-athlete in high school and college, as well as an applied project using persuasion theory to effectively fill out a general grant application form for nonprofit organizations.
Monique Medina is a second year graduate student. She is in the beginning stages of her Capstone project, which will focus on the relationships between parents and their trans children. This topic hits close to home as she has a trans nonbinary child and it’s been a journey in rediscovering who my child is, while building upon and redefining our relationship.
H. Rae Monk is a graduate student in the Narrative Studies Master of Arts program. She is currently doing grant funded public history research in the rural towns of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. She resides and works in Mesa.
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