Birmingham Reads: “High Art From the Hollar”

Birmingham Reads

Please join PEN America Birmingham for a community discussion and writing workshop on southern vernacular and cultural identity. Using Imani Perry’s South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation as a discussion guide, attendees will explore the south’s role in shaping this country’s national identity. 

The Birmingham Reads Project is a citywide literary event dedicated to engaging and uniting Birmingham community members in reading one book of fiction or nonfiction in one given year. This year’s selection, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation (winner of the 2022 National Book Award for nonfiction), by Birmingham native Imani Perry, is an ambitious accounting of the beauty, tragedy, and history of the Southern United States.

Teaching artist Tania De’Shawn and co-panelist Eric Marable Jr. will lead attendees through a collaborative workshop that will integrate native speech and the power of storytelling.

Please note: You don’t have to have read South to America to enjoy this dynamic and interactive event.


Teaching Artist

Tania De'Shawn headshotTania De’Shawn is a poet, teaching artist, and entrepreneur. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Berea College; she is the author of her debut poetry collection, Be Gentle with Black Girls. Her collection serves as an entry point to addressing the adultification bias that negatively affects the education and social development of Black girls across the nation. She is set to be the Keynote Speaker for the Birmingham Public Libraries Local Authors series to discuss her book further and hold an open discussion on addressing the adultification bias within her community. Her collection was nominated for the 2022 VIP Heavy Hearts Neighborhood Award. Tania’s poetry has been featured at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Sidewalk Film Festival, Birmingham Public Library, the historic Majesty Lounge, and more. Her co-choreographed choreopoem “Sister Circle” debuted at the Berea College Kinetic Expressions showcase in 2018. She uses her craft to keep the legacy of Ntozake Shange alive by teaching choreopoetry to artists of all ages and backgrounds. Tania is currently based in Birmingham; she serves the community as a volunteer with Flourish Alabama, which helps young artists bloom. Tania is the founder of Element Agape, an organization that nourishes artists to create art that affects social change.



Eric Marable Jr. headshot

MRVLL a.k.a. Eric Marable Jr., is a rapper and performing artist from Birmingham, Alabama. After moving to New York City to teach and pursue acting, MRVLL decided to focus on developing a creative brand that combines all modes of his expression to create work that drives thought, communication, and healing forward.

This project was made possible by: 

In partnership with:

PEN Across America Birmingham chapter logo