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Award Winning Author Laleh Khadivi Announced as Reed’s 102nd Commencement Speaker


Portland, Ore (May 11, 2016)—Reed College announces that award winning novelist, journalist, documentary filmmaker, and Reed alumna, Laleh Khadivi, will be the keynote speaker at the college’s 102nd annual commencement ceremony. The ceremony, which is open to the public, will take place on Monday, May 16 on Reed’s Great Lawn at 11 a.m.

Khadivi is a 1998 graduate and the winner of the Whiting Award for Fiction, the Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers Award, and an Emory Fiction Fellowship for her debut novel, The Age of Orphans. She is the recipient of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Grant and a 2016 Pushcart Prize for her story “Wanderlust.” Her fiction and nonfiction can be found in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Virginia Quarterly Review, the Sun, and other publications.

Khadivi was just a toddler when her Kurdish family emigrated to the United States from Iran in 1979, shortly after the Iranian Revolution, and her fiction explores characters beset by cultural alienation. Her first novel in a planned trilogy, The Age of Orphans, is the story of a Kurdish boy whose father is killed in a battle with the Iranian army in 1921. The boy is captured, becomes a soldier and eventually is turned into an oppressor of his own people.

The New York Times said of  the second book in the trilogy, The Walking, that “the precision of Khadivi’s sentences, each with a gentle rhythm and a sure-footed intelligence, engenders deep sympathy for the miseries experienced by forced migrants.” Publisher’s Weekly has praised her writing as having a “strong, unflinching voice” and “penetrating vision.”

Khadivi’s debut documentary film 900 Women brings viewers into the Louisiana Correctional Institute to share the frustrations and hopes of women incarcerated among the state's most dangerous female prisoners. The Institute often exceeds its maximum capacity of 900 inmates. Khadivi interviews a grandmother, young high school student, pregnant woman, recovering heroin addict, prison guard, and the only woman on death row. The women share their stories of life on the streets, abuse, freedom, childbirth and motherhood. The film was produced by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Jonathan Stack, aired on the A&E network, and premiered at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. It was reviewed as delivering a striking, sensitive portrait of life in a deceptively peaceful atmosphere.

Khadivi was born in Iran and has lived in Belgium, Puerto Rico, Canada and several stops in the United States. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated Reed in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in International Comparative Policy Studies, and from Mills College in 2006 with a Master of Fine Arts in fiction. She has taught at Emory University as a Fiction Fellow, and creative writing at Santa Clara University and University of Wisconsin at Madison, and recently accepted a permanent position at the University of San Francisco Master of Fine Arts program.

More information about commencement is available at www.reed.edu/commencement.