Sonali Deraniyagala

In Conversation
Wed, Apr 10, 2024 5pm - 7pm | David Brower Center

While on vacation at a beach resort on the coast of Sri Lanka in 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her husband, their two sons, her parents, her best friend, and her best friend’s mother in the Indian Ocean tsunami. Deraniyagala herself was carried two miles inland by the water; by clinging to a tree limb, she was the only member of the group to survive.

Wave is Deraniyagala’s account of the nearly incomprehensible event and its emotional aftermath. An economist who currently teaches at the University of London and Columbia, Deraniyagala did not have a background in personal, creative, or literary writing. Her decision to write a memoir began at the advice of her therapist, who suggested that she write down her painful memories in an effort to work through her trauma and suffering.

Described by Cheryl Strayed as “the most exceptional book about grief I’ve ever read,” Wave became a New York Times bestseller and won the PEN Ackerley Prize in 2013. Hailed for its “scrupulous honesty and unsentimentality,” it was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography/memoir.

In her visit to Berkeley, Deraniyagala engages in conversation about her writing practices, her evolution as a memoirist, and the emotional and intellectual experience of writing Wave.

The Art of Writing Lecture is supported by a generous endowment created in memory of Michael Rogin, who taught political science at UC Berkeley for more than three decades.

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