This fall's Common Reader is "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe," by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
CMC’s Common Reader hosts bestselling author Ben Alire Sáenz at eight free author talks
Oct. 21, 2023 – Colorado Mountain College is hosting bestselling author Benjamin Alire Sáenz for author talks at Breckenridge, Leadville, Steamboat Springs, Edwards, Rifle, Aspen and Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs, from Oct. 23-27.
The focus of Sáenz’s talks will be his bestselling novel, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” which community members and CMC students, faculty and staff have been reading together. Saenz and his book are the college’s Common Reader fall 2023 selection. Even those who haven’t read the book are sure to appreciate spending time with the author at the live presentation offered through the college.
For Sáenz, his author talks are more about others than himself.
“I’m most looking forward to the dialogue,” he said. “Whatever the students (and audience) learn from me I’m going to learn from them. The talks are going to give me another opportunity to learn.”
Ari and Dante
Sáenz’s young adult novel takes place in 1987 El Paso and is a coming-of-age story that pivots around two young men. Dante is more assured; Ari, the narrator, is more uncertain and doubtful about who he is. Their story has funny episodes, tragic accidents and unconditional love as they learn to navigate societal and familial expectations about gender and sexuality.
Like his young characters, Sáenz’s home is the border town of El Paso where he’s lived most of his life. There are other similarities too. Sáenz, like Ari and Dante, questioned his identity and his place in the world.
“Parts of them are parts of me,” said Sáenz, who’s now 69. “Absolutely.”
A poet, author, short story writer, children’s and young adult author, Sáenz received his bachelor’s degree in humanities and philosophy from St. Thomas Seminary in Denver and his master’s in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso.
Sáenz said he was given the ability to express himself with words.
“Since I was a little boy, I’ve been able to write,” he said. “I write by instinct. It’s a gift that was given to me.”
Poetry plays a key part of his writing life. He received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford from 1988-90, where he completed a book of poetry, “Calendar of Dust,” and another collection of short stories, “Flowers for the Broken.”
“I wouldn’t be a writer if I weren’t a poet first. I still write poetry. It’s my favorite genre,” he said.
Education, like writing, has always been the forefront of Sáenz’s focus.
“I taught for 23 years at UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) in an open admissions college system,” Sáenz said. “The open admission system, like CMC, is terribly important. You go to school to get educated. Where you go doesn’t matter. If we learn we learn because we want to learn and people need places and opportunities to learn. Places like this are saving this country.”
In addition to Sáenz’s novel and talks, Common Reader also includes an art and creative writing contest. Entries are due by Nov. 10.
For more information about Common Reader, Sáenz’s author talks’ schedule and more, visit Common Reader.