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Noted novelist, activist Marnie Mueller to speak at APSU’s Asanbe Diversity Symposium

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — The path that Marnie Mueller would forge during her career was, in many ways, foreshadowed by the circumstances that led to the first moments of her life.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — The path that Marnie Mueller would forge during her career was, in many ways, foreshadowed by the circumstances that led to the first moments of her life.

Born to Caucasian American parents during World War II, Mueller nonetheless was born behind the barbed wire fences of a Northern California segregation camp designed to keep Japanese Americans contained during the war effort. Unusually politically progressive for the time, Mueller’s parents chose to work behind the fence to make an intolerable situation tolerable for those incarcerated by their own countrymen.

That early exposure to intolerance and injustice created a strong desire for change in Mueller. In the years to come, she would develop a career as a community organizer, arts and public service administrator, media director and arts producer. Her work as a volunteer, activist and author led to her being featured as one of the “voices of the 20th century” by ABC News journalist Peter Jennings in his 2001 documentary, “The Century.”

At 1 p.m. on March 24, Mueller will delve deeper into her earliest days with her lecture “The Color of Citizenship: The Impact of the Japanese American Internment During WWII—Then and Now,” during the Austin Peay State University Asanbe Symposium. This lecture will take place in room 303 of the Morgan University Center, and a panel discussion, titled “Immigrant Experience, Immigrant Voices: Locating Culture in the Twenty-First Century,” will follow at 2:30 p.m.

The symposium, sponsored and organized by the APSU Department of Languages and Literature, was established 21 years ago in memory of Dr. Joseph Asanbe, who was the first professor of African and African-American literature at APSU. The event is co-sponsored by the APSU Office of Academic Affairs, APSU Diversity Committee, African-American Studies Program, Department of History & Philosophy, Department of Psychology, Glover’s Lock Service, International Studies Program, Latin American Studies Program, The Honors Program, Women’s and Gender Studies Program and the Wilbur N. Daniel African-American Cultural Center.

Mueller has published three novels, each of which evolved out of her life experience. Her debut novel was “Green Fires,” set in the rainforest of Ecuador and dealt with the first incursions of oil companies into the Amazonian region. Her second, “The Climate of the Country” was based on her parents’ time in the Tule Lake Camp, and her most recent was “My Mother’s Island,” which dealt with her mother’s death in a small Puerto Rican community outside San Juan, PR.

Over the course of these novels, she garnered many awards, including an American Book Award; a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers choice; a New York Times Book Review, New and Noteworthy in Paperback; the New York Public Library “Best Books for the Teen Age;” the Maria Thomas Award for Outstanding Fiction; The Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards honorable mention; and a BookSense76 selection.

“The Climate of the Country” was recently selected for inclusion in the Japanese American Densho online encyclopedia about the history of the WWII incarceration experience. Essays by her that are pertinent to her internment camp experience have been included in various anthologies, including “That Mad Game: Growing up in a Warzone” and “Last Witnesses: Reflection on the Internment of Japanese Americans.”

The Asanbe Diversity Symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the APSU Department of Languages and Literature at 221-7891.