City Lights in conjunction with Asian American Writers’ Workshop and Tin House present
Talia Lakshmi Kolluri joined by Meng Jin and Juhea Kim. Moderated by Lily Philpott
celebrating the publication of
What We Fed to the Manticore
By Talia Lakshmi Kolluri
Published by Tin House Books
Through nine emotionally vivid stories, all narrated from animal perspectives, Talia Lakshmi Kolluri’s debut collection explores themes of environmentalism, conservation, identity, belonging, loss, and family with resounding heart and deep tenderness. In Kolluri’s pages, a faithful hound mourns the loss of the endangered rhino he swore to protect. Vultures seek meaning as they attend to the antelope that perished in Central Asia. A beloved donkey’s loyalty to a zookeeper in Gaza is put to the ultimate test. And a wounded pigeon in Delhi finds an unlikely friend.
In striking, immersive detail against the backdrop of an ever-changing international landscape, What We Fed to the Manticore speaks to the fears and joys of the creatures we share our world with, and ultimately places the reader under the rich canopy of the tree of life.
Talia Lakshmi Kolluri’s short fiction has appeared in The Minnesota Review, Ecotone, Southern Humanities Review, and The Common. She was born and raised in Northern California and currently lives in California’s Central Valley. What We Fed to the Manticore is her debut collection of short stories.
Meng Jin is the author of the novel Little Gods. she is a Kundiman Fellow, a David TK Wong fellow, and a Steinbeck Fellow. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, and the Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize Anthologies. she currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she is a visiting lecturer in creative writing at Harvard University. Her most recent book, Self-Portrait with Ghost, is published by Mariner Books.
Juhea Kim is the author of the novel Beasts of a Little Land, an Indie Bestseller, published by Ecco Books. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Granta, Slice, Zyzzyva, Catapult, Times Literary Supplement, Joyland, Shenandoah, Guernica, Sierra Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, The Independent, Portland Monthly, and Dispatches from Annares anthology (Nov 2021, Forest Avenue Press). Her translation of Yi Sang Award-winning author Choi In-Ho was published in Granta. She is the founder and editor of Peaceful Dumpling, an online magazine covering sustainable lifestyle and ecological literature. She has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, Regional Arts & Culture Council, and Arizona State University, where she taught a class on ecological fiction as a 2020 Desert Nights Rising Stars Fellow.
Lily Philpott runs and manages AAWW events, fellowships, and workshops. She has many years of experience curating literary programs in New York City. Previously, she served as the Public Programs Manager at PEN America, where she launched the PEN Out Loud event series with the Strand Book Store, co-curated a summer event series with the Brooklyn Museum, and coordinated Lit Crawl NYC. She has also worked on public programs and development events at the Guggenheim Museum and the New York Public Library, respectively, and is a member of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s International Literature Committee and of The Starlings Collective, a collective of BIPOC adoptee writers and artists. She is a candidate for an MFA in Fiction at the Institute of American Indian Arts.
Praise for the work of Talia Lakshmi Kolluri
• Exquisite. . . . exceptional. . . . This remarkable collection leaves an indelible mark. —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
• What We Fed to the Manticore is a work of incredible imagination and daring, asking us to recognize the inner lives of whales, donkeys and pigeons to be as complex and deep as our own. The stories in this collection are gorgeously written and richly emotionally textured; in Talia Kolluri’s hands, the familiar world we live in comes freshly to life. I looked up from the last page to find that my own world—and my heart—had become bigger. —Claire Comstock-Gay, author of Madame Clairevoyant’s Guide to the Stars
• If like me, you fell in love with Fiver and Hazel and Charlotte and Wilbur as a child and have been looking ever since for stories that work that same magic—here they are. This spellbinding collection reminds us that every animal story is a human one, and every human story an animal one. These stories work like incantations. —Ayse Papatya Bucak, author of The Trojan War Museum: and Other Stories
• Kolluri delivers a dazzling, daring bestiary brimming over with textured, tender lives. A most magnificent debut! —Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders
• The voicing of other species is an ancient, vulnerable, and utterly human practice. For millennia, we’ve placed our stories inside non-human animals not only to celebrate these creatures, but to see the ways our own natures bend and twist in a new set of stripes. The fiction in this deft collection proves that what we call ‘humanity’ exists within a menagerie of other beings, but it also showcases the mind of the one human animal regaling us with her singular wit and wonder. How lovely to get to know a storyteller like Talia Lakshmi Kolluri while she winks at us from inside the minds of a tiger, a vulture, a donkey, a whale. —Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses
The Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) is a national literary nonprofit dedicated to publishing and incubating work by Asian and Asian diasporic writers, poets, and artists. Since their founding in 1991, they have provided a countercultural literary arts space at the intersection of migration, race, and social justice. Find out more at: https://aaww.org
This event is made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation.