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Search for Meaning

SU's popular book festival will feature 50 regional, national and international authors

Written by Izzy Gardon, '16
February 16, 2016

The eighth annual Search for Meaning Book Festival, one of Seattle's largest literary events, will bring more than 50 authors from the U.S., India, Rome and Ireland who represent ecumenical and secular perspectives on a quest that has become more complex in the Internet Age. 

The day-long book festival on the Seattle U campus takes place on Saturday, Feb. 27. Tickets are $10; full details, including schedule, list of authors and ticket ordering are available online at www.seattleu.edu/searchformeaning/

Authors in attendance will speak about their literary work and discuss finding meaning within the context of diverse topics ranging from "cybertheology" to global health. 

This year's three keynote authors, Suki Kim, Tracy Kidder and Sam Quinones, offer three ways to find meaning in modern life.   

A New York Times bestselling author, Kim explores meaning-making from a Korean-American perspective. In her latest book, "Without You, There Is No Us," Kim chronicles the six months she spent teaching English to 270 university students during the year of Kim Jong-il's death-a turbulent time in North Korea's already troubled history. The New York Times referred to Kim's book as "a chilling memoir."

Discussing his book, "Mountains Beyond Mountains," Pulitzer Prize winning author Kidder details his time with Dr. Paul Farmer, a leader in addressing the global health crises of AIDS and TB. Reflecting on his time with Dr. Farmer, Kidder uncovers meaning in a philosophy of human interconnectivity. 

Quinones finds meaning from understanding despair in his latest book, "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic," which tells the story of how widespread painkiller and heroin addiction is rooted in the corrosion of community in American life over the last 35 years - yet may also be helping to recreate community.

The roster of other authors, which includes SU faculty and staff, represents a wide range of ethnicities and religious denominations.

"The idea of Search for Meaning is to provide as many diverse voices as we can from authors who are wrestling with this issue and how they address it," said Mark Markuly, PhD, dean of the School of Theology and Ministry, which launched the festival in 2009. "This is an eclectic post-modern event on the human search for what it all means."

Markuly said the book festival resonates with so many people because it puts the theme in the context of today's society. 

"There was a time in American history when there were only a couple of meaning-making paths you had to choose from, and people were pretty much prescribed to go down a certain path at birth," he said. "But beginning in the 1970s it started fragmenting and different paths proliferated throughout the '80s and '90s. And then you bring the Internet into it and suddenly the whole world's meaning systems are on our doorsteps. It's become much more complicated to talk about the most precious things that we hold to as human beings."