Literature Program

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.


Earth's Daughters presents

Olga Karman & Fred Whitehead

The Gray Hair Reading Series

Olga Karman—teacher, poet, and memoirist—is the author of Scatter My Ashes Over Havana and two books of poetry, Adios and Border Crossings. Her poems have also appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, and numerous anthologies. Her verse has been set in tile in Buffalo's subway system. Karman has been a professor of Spanish Language & Literature at D'Youville College for more than two decades; she also serves as the college's director of community affairs.

Olga Karman was born in Havana of Cuban and American parents. When Fidel Castro's regime came to power in 1959, she sympathized with the aims of the revolution, but when Castro cancelled elections and built his one-person rule, she left Cuba and moved to the United States to marry her American fiancè. She attended Connecticut College, graduating summa cum laude, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She entered Harvard University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, winning her Ph.D. in Spanish language & literature. After moving to Buffalo, she taught high-school Spanish before landing a position at D'Youville College.

In 1997—after an exile of 37 years and a prolonged anguish over her Cuban identity—Karman made a momentous return visit to her native city of Havana. These experiences formed the material for her memoir Scatter My Ashes Over Havana, which she composed over a period of seven years. In advance of Miami's 2006 book fair, The Miami Herald accorded major coverage to Scatter My Ashes Over Havana and its author. WBFO broadcaster Sarah Campbell praised Karman's narrative: "Like the best writers of exile, she sees with the eye of the foreigner and the local simultaneously; a little like seeing an aerial view of the city from the ground." On the book's official publication date, Mayor Byron Brown proclaimed "Olga Karman Day" in the City of Buffalo, and U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY) entered a tribute to her into the Congressional Record.

Fred Whitehead is the author of the chapbook, Half Speed Epiphany (Saddle Road Press /Forty-Three North Series, 2014), as well as five other volumes of poetry: songs.cradled (2009), Protected by Paradox (2011), Orbs in March (2012), Water From A Toad (No Frills Buffalo Books, 2012), All Sail No Rudder (No Frills Buffalo, 2013). His work has appeared in Potluck, The Buffalo News, Earth's Daughters, The Allentowner, and elsewhere. He created and runs Destitute Press, which prints diminutive, limited-run chapbooks (by local poets). Whitehead hosts the Fourth Friday Poetry Series at Dog Ears Bookstore. He has been a featured reader at many local series, including The Woodlawn Diner, The Center for Inquiry, Poets' Hall in Erie Pennsylvania, The Screening Room, Meridian West Gallery, Steel Bellow at A.R.T., and Art All Over the Place (Brighton Library).