P O W E L L, W y o. - Award-winning journalist Jeff Biggers comes to Powell Thursday, Nov. 2, to talk about his year-long experience in the Sierra Madre and his resulting book chronicling the history and influences that went before him in the widely recognized but little understood Mexican mountain range.
Biggers will speak at 7:30 p.m. in Room 70 of the Fagerberg Building at Northwest College in Powell. He is the third writer brought to Powell this fall by the NWC Writers' Series. Biggers' reading is co-sponsored by the Northwest College Spanish Club, the Northwest College Humanities Division and the Northwest College Student Senate.
The author of "Sierra Madre" and "The United States of Appalachia," Biggers has worked as a writer,
educator, radio correspondent and community organizer across the United States, Europe, India and Mexico. His award-winning stories have appeared on NPR (National Public Radio), PRI (Public Radio International), and in scores of travel, literary and music magazines, and national and foreign newspapers. He has been a commentator on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" and for Pacific News Service national syndication.
His latest book, "Sierra Madre," gives more than a contemporary look at the topic. Biggers offers up a study of the threatened culture and language of the Raramuri/Tarahumara peoples of Copper Canyon as viewed through the recent news that his family's original homeplace in Eagle Creek, Ill., was gone, purchased by a coal company that "blasted away ... family memories without a funeral in an expansion move."
Biggers chronicles the exploits of the Mexican mountaineers and the parade of argonauts and accidental travelers that has journeyed into the Sierra Madre over centuries-African explorers, Bohemian friars, Confederate and Irish war deserters, French poets, Boer and Russian commandos, hidden Apache and Mennonite communities, bewildered archaeologists, addled writers, and legendary characters like Antonin Artaud, B. Traven, Sergei Eisenstein, George Patton, Geronimo and Pancho Villa.
Author Luis Urrea credits Biggers with "the keenest eye in the business," adding that he has a "fine, luminous voice to tell you what he has seen...Biggers manages to write like a poet, a historian, a naturalist and an adventurer. His pages are burnished and alive, and I admire his work."
Biggers' work has received numerous honors, including an American Book Award, a Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism, a Field Foundation Fellowship and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. He serves as a contributing editor to The Bloomsbury Review, and is a member of the PEN American Center. In the 1990s, as part of his work to develop literacy and literary programs in rural, reservation and neglected communities in the American Southwest, he founded the Northern Arizona Book Festival. In the 1980s, Biggers served as an assistant to former Senator George McGovern in Washington, D.C., and as a personal aide to Rev. William Sloane Coffin at the Riverside Church in New York City.
Born in Ohio, raised in Illinois and Arizona, he earned a bachelor's degree in history and English at Hunter College in New York City. He also studied at the University of California-Berkeley, Columbia University and the University of Arizona. He and his wife Carla, and their two boys, Diego and Massimo, presently divide their time between Illinois and Italy.
Following Biggers' program, the Northwest College Writers Series has tapped Wyoming's detective fiction writer C.J. Box for a Thursday, Nov. 30, presentation. For more information, check out The Writers Series.