Villanova Welcomes Bryan Washington to Lit Fest 2021


Courtesy of Todd Spoth

Acclaimed Author Bryan Washington spoke at the English Department’s 2021 Literary Festival.

Katie Reed, Staff Writer

Each spring, the Villanova English Department sponsors a Literary Festival, at which contemporary writers and poets are invited by the University to read some of their published work and interact directly with students and faculty. Alan Drew, an Associate Professor of English and the Director of the Creative Writing Minor, is the director of the program.  There is also a class that works in correspondence with Lit Fest, called Authors On and Off the Page, which is co-taught by English Professors Adrienne Perry, Ph.D. and Lisa Sewell, Ph.D.

Lit Fest kicked off on Thursday, Feb. 11 with poet Brenda Shaughnessy. The most recent event occurred on Feb. 25 with author Bryan Washington. The events were held via Zoom at 7 p.m. 

Washington is a fiction writer from Houston, Texas who has received many accolades for his writing. He is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 winner, and he has received a Lambda Literary Award, an O. Henry Award and an International Dylan Thomas Prize, among many others. His writing has been published in major media institutions, such as The Paris Review, The New York Times, The BBC, The Boston Review and The New York Times Style Magazine.  His most well-known pieces of writing include his collection of short stories, “Lot,”and his first novel, “Memorial”, which is the piece he read from at Lit Fest.

At the event, Washington was introduced by two students from the University, Casey Del Guercio and Virginia Mannion. Both of them are members of the class Authors On and Off the Page, so they are very familiar with Washington’s writing.

“It [Washington’s writing] challenged me to recognize each and every person’s humanity- I am more empathetic towards people’s varied personal experiences and cultural backgrounds,” Del Guercio said, since Washington’s work addresses the experiences of the queer, black, brown and immigrant communities of Houston. 

Del Guercio also emphasized the importance of authors like Washington coming to campus to share their work with members of the University.  

“It exposes us to a diverse set of ideas that provides insight into a different perspective,” she said.

Mannion expressed many similar sentiments after the reading.  

“Washington’s work has allowed me to think critically about the way in which we write about underrepresented individuals,” she said. “Something that [also] resonated with me was when Washington spoke about how authors are often compelled to write stories that they believe that people will want to read, instead of writing the stories that they want people to read.” 

Washington’s power lies in his ability to share the experiences and truths of communities whose stories often go untold.

Both Del Guercio and Mannion expressed the value of List Fest and the course that accompanies it, appreciating how they get to directly interact with these literary figures and learn from their experiences.  This not only allows them to better engage with the authors’ works, but it also allows students to shape their own experiences with writing. 

“I feel like this course is a diamond in the rough and I would encourage people across all majors to take this class,” Mannion said. “I don’t know when I will ever get another opportunity to read an author’s work and be able to have an in-depth conversation with them about it.”

For those interested in having similar experiences, there are two more Lit Fest events lined up for this semester, both on Zoom starting at 7 p.m.  The first one, which is on April 8, showcases the work of poet Robin Coste Lewis. The second, which is on April 15, invites playwright Hannah Khalil to showcase her work. To register for these events, be sure to visit and sign up for each event.