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Children of History

Past Event

How does a country’s history or identity affect its ideas of family and family life?

How does a country’s history or identity affect its ideas of family and family life?

The Baltic countries of Lithuania and Latvia have lived through some tumultuous 20th century history.

Two writers from these countries, Nora Ikstena (Latvia) and Alvydas Šlepikas (Lithuania) join Sara Taylor, whose novels The Shore and The Lauras both explore families and place, to unpick the thorny connections between national history and the intimate relationship of the family with Carolyn Jess-Cooke.


Nora Ikstena is a prose writer and essayist. Ikstena is one of the most visible and influential prose writers in Latvia, known for elaborate style and detailed approach to language. After obtaining a degree in Philology from the University of Latvia in 1992, she went on to study English literature at Columbia University. In her prose, Nora Ikstena often reflects on life, love, death and faith. Soviet Milk (2015, shortlisted for the Annual Literature Award for best prose), Besa (2012), Celebration of Life (1998), The Virgin’s Lesson (2001) are some of her most widely appreciated novels. Ikstena is an active participant in Latvia’s cultural and political life, and a co-founder of the International Writers and Translators’ House in Ventspils. In 2006, she received the Baltic Assembly Prize in literature.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is a poet, novelist and editor published in 23 languages. Her most recent works are Writing Motherhood (as editor) (Seren, 2017) and I KNOW MY NAME (as CJ Cooke) (HarperCollins, 2017). She is Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.

Alvydas Šlepikas is one of the most multi-talented contemporary Lithuanian writers, moving between the worlds of literature, theatre, film and television. He is a poet, novelist, playwright, screenwriter, actor and director. His novel Mano vardas – Marytė (My name is Marytė) became the most read novel of 2012 in Lithuania and has gone through six reprints. It is one of the most translated Lithuanian books of recent times and has now been published in Belarusian, Dutch, Estonian, German, Latvian, Polish and Ukrainian.

Sara Taylor was born and raised in rural Virginia. She has a BFA from Randolph College and an MA in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia. She is currently chipping away at a double-focus PhD in censorship and fiction at UEA. She spends her time between Norwich and Reading. The Shore, her debut novel, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. In 2015, Sara was shortlisted for the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award.

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