By Michael Newsom
Kathryn Miles, author of an acclaimed book that about a ship that carried passengers escaping Ireland’s potato famine, will give the University of Mississippi’s Edith T. Baine Lecture at 7 p.m. Nov. 20, 2013 at the Oxford-University Depot.
Miles, a creative nonfiction writer, was a professor of environmental writing at Unity College in Maine for 12 years until she left recently to work on a book project. She also serves on the faculty of Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program. Her lecture, titled “All Standing: Escape from Famine,” is free and open to the public.
“It will be extremely informative and entertaining,” said UM professor of English and poet Ann Fisher-Wirth, who chaired the Baine Lecture selection committee. ”She is a good friend. She is very charming and articulate, energetic and full of life, as well as being extremely sharp and intelligent and solidly grounded in her research and scholarship. She is going to be a really good performer.”
Miles has written articles for various publications and also a book, “Adventures with Ari,” about life with her dog, as well as pieces on eel poachers, Puerto Rican street food, homing pigeons and lifesavers, among other topics.
“All Standing: The True Story of Hunger, Rebellion and Survival Aboard the Jeanie Johnston” (Free Press, 2013) is her most recent book. It tells the story of the famine tall ship Jeanie Johnston and its miraculous journeys from Ireland to the United States. It sailed from Tralee to North America on several voyages between 1847 and 1855, carrying 2,500 people total on the seven-week trip. Despite the hardships, all passengers survived the dangerous passages.
“This ship is unique in that they never lost anyone,” Fisher-Wirth said. “It’s a really fascinating book of creative nonfiction that has a lot of amazing historical research.”
As part of her research, Miles sailed on a replica of the ship and did archival studies in Ireland and the United States, Fisher-Wirth said.
Miles, who enjoys sailing, is also working on a book about the sinking of the HMS Bounty, which is expected to be released in 2015. Her recent article on the event, “Sunk: The Incredible Truth About a Ship that Never Should Have Sailed,” was published in Outside magazine and received positive reviews from the New Yorker and the websites Daily Beast and Longform.
The lecture series is named for Edith Turley Baine, a graduate of Leland High School and the University of Mississippi, where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English. She was a tree farmer and retired English teacher, of El Dorado, Ark., who taught at El Dorado High School and also in Mississippi schools. Baine, 66, died in April 2012, but her generous gift to the UM English Department supports the lecture series and “promotes academic and creative exchange.”