(Virtual) Talking Volumes Book Series: Claudia Rankine, Yaa Gyasi, Helen Macdonald and Sarah Broom

Four notable and honored writers — all women — make up the list for this year’s Talking Volumes lecture series, which will move from St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater to your living room, via Zoom, during this time of COVID-19.

The interviews with writers Yaa GyasiClaudia RankineHelen Macdonald and Sarah Broom will air weekly between Sept. 17 and Oct. 6. Ticket prices will change, too, to a pay-what-you-can format. They will go on sale Sept. 1 at MPRevents.org.

The programs begin at 7 p.m. with a prerecorded interview hosted by Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller, followed by a live Star Tribune-led discussion that listeners are invited to join. Talking Volumes is a partnership between MPR and the Star Tribune.


Born in Ghana, the author of Homegoing and a new novel, Transcendent Kingdom, holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. The bestselling Homegoing follows the descendants of two Ghanaian women and won the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard first book award and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Gyasi’s new novel tells the story of a Ghanaian family in the United States, narrated by the daughter, who is working on a doctorate in microbiology at Stanford and is looking back on the tragic death of her brother. Gyasi was one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” authors, selected in 2016.


Her new book, Just Us: An American Conversation, is built around intimate and difficult conversations about race. Rankine, a poet, playwright and essayist, is the author of Citizen: An American Lyric, which won the National Book Critics Circle prize for poetry and was also a finalist in its criticism category. It was a finalist for a 2014 National Book Award and won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for poetry. Both books were published by Minneapolis’ Graywolf Press. Rankine, who teaches at Yale University, is a MacArthur Fellow.


Macdonald is the author of the bestselling H Is for Hawk, a memoir of grief and falconry. Centering on her grief over her father’s unexpected death and her relationship with a goshawk named Mabel, the book won the Samuel Johnson Award and was the Costa Book of the Year and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, the Carnegie Medal and others. Her new book, Vesper Flights, is a collection of essays about the natural world in which she observes the migration of songbirds from the top of the Empire State Building and hunts for the last of the golden orioles in the poplar forests of Suffolk.


Broom’s memoir The Yellow House won both the National Book Award for nonfiction and the John Leonard first book prize from the National Book Critics Circle. Now out in paperback, it is the story of her family’s determination to make a home in New Orleans — a home that is eventually wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. Broom has a master’s degree in journalism, has worked as an editor at O, the Oprah Magazine and has taught nonfiction writing at Columbia University.