'American Afterlife' Author on the Oddities of Death, Reads at Murray State
Atlanta NPR station WABE's award winning news reporter and author of American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning, Kate Sweeney, visits Murray State University to give a reading tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:30 p.m. in Clara Eagle Gallery. The University of Georgia Press publication is about memorialization of death, both current and historic. Kate Lochte speaks with Sweeney on Sounds Good about the work of creative non-fiction.
Kate Sweeney worked on the majority of her book while working towards her MFA at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2007. It was a topic she was interested in, but knew nothing about, and became fascinated about it as she uncovered unusual burial and memorialization practices across the country. What went into making a funeral? Where do cemeteries come from? Why do funeral directors do what they do? Death is one of those topics that no one is supposed to talk about, but Sweeney found that people are generally concerned about the legacy they leave behind and how they'll be remembered when the time comes.
She wanted to make sure in her writing that she wasn't being too jokey on the topic, but sought to tell the stories of all kinds of people who either had to make choices about memorialization or the people who help shepherd those who make the decisions. "The way I write always winds up having some irreverence in it. I always wind up finding humor in things," she says. Some of the people and practices covered in her book include ones ashes made into artificial coral reef, an obituary writer for 'everyday people,' a small town tattoo artist who specializes in portraiture work of departed loved ones, and a "green" burial ceremony. She notes that while some of the people and practices seem unusual, they come from serious decisions or reverent places in their hearts.
Kate Sweeney lives in Atlanta where she writes and creates stories for public radio station WABE. She has won two Edward R. Murrow awards and two Associated Press awards for her work. She visits Murray State University tomorrow to read from her non-fiction book, American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning, published this year by the University of Georgia Press. Sweeney's reading is open to all at 7:30 p.m. in Clara Eagle Gallery, which is on the sixth floor of the Doyle Fine Arts Building at 15th and Olive.
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American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning by Kate Sweeney