Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini to Receive Steinbeck Award

Hosseini poster

Khaled Hosseini will speak at SJSU Sept. 10.

Media Contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, CA – Best-selling Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini is the next recipient of the John Steinbeck Award: In the Souls of the People.

Join the The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies for a special evening with the author at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 in the SJSU Student Union. Hosseini will sit down for an on-stage conversation with KGO Radio Host Pat Thurston. Tickets are on sale now at Eventbrite and the SJSU Event Center Box Office.

“I am greatly honored to be given an award named after John Steinbeck, not only an icon of American literature but an unrelenting advocate for social justice who so richly gave voice to the poor and disenfranchised,” Hosseini said. “Both as a person and a writer, I count myself among the millions on whose social consciousness Steinbeck has made such an indelible impact.”

The Steinbeck Award

Authorized by the Steinbeck estate, the Steinbeck Award is presented to artists and activists whose works exemplify the spirit of Steinbeck’s social engagement.

Kite Runner cover

“The Kite Runner” has spawned a movie, play and graphic novel.

Previous recipients include Joan Baez, Ken Burns, Dolores Huerta, Garrison Keillor, Rachel Maddow, John Mellencamp, Arthur Miller, Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Bruce Springsteen and Studs Terkel.

“Like John Steinbeck, Hosseini has created powerful portrayals of those who are disconnected and dispossessed. Amir and Hassan, Mariam and Laila, Abdullah and Pari–those characters are well drawn and deeply felt,” said Ted Cady, Steinbeck Center board member.

Hosseini is the author of three novels: “The Kite Runner” (2003), “A Thousand Splendid Suns” (2007) and “And the Mountains Echoed” (2013). Inspired by Steinbeck, Hosseini creates characters tested by political and economic turmoil of historic proportions. In Hosseini’s case, it’s the wars that have ravaged his native Afghanistan for far too long.

Ties to San Jose State

Hosseini’s ties to San Jose State run deep. He was introduced to “The Grapes of Wrath” as an Independence High School student. His teacher, Janet Sanchez, ’73 English, will be in attendance when he accepts the Steinbeck Award. She mentored student teachers at SJSU for many years.

Hosseini went on to attend Santa Clara University and the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, but SJSU’s role in providing opportunity to many first-generation college students stuck with him. The main character in “The Kite Runner” attends SJSU.

Professor of Communication Studies Matthew Spangler’s adaption of the novel for the stage won five San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards in 2009. The play is on tour in the United Kingdom. The novel was the fall 2006 selection for the SJSU Reading Program.

“This tremendously powerful book raises questions about the capacity of human beings to destroy and redeem lives, and the actions that lead to both,” Professor Elba Maldonado-Colon said.

A Line of Teachers

At a private reception before the Steinbeck Award event, President Mohammad Qayoumi’s wife, Najia Karim, will present Hosseini with her poem, “The Wrath of Grapes.” Hosseini’s mother was one of Karim’s teachers when she was growing up in Afghanistan.

President Mohammad Qayoumi will formally introduce Hosseini to the audience. Both men have been active in efforts to aid their homeland. The Khaled Hosseini Foundation provides humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan by working with the United Nations Refugee Agency to build shelters for families.

“I’ve tried through the foundation to reach those people I’ve been writing about,” Hosseini said in a video on the foundation’s website. “I’ve chronicled their sufferings and their misfortunes…Those are real people and I’ve benefited from their stories so I have found it just and fitting that I should do something for them as well.”

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Students talk with Ken Burns

The San Jose State Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre Arts sat down with award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who was on campus to accept the 2013 Steinbeck Award.

When students asked how he chooses his subjects, Burns said, “I don’t make films about things I know about; I make films about things I want to know about. If I were given one thousand years to live, I’d never run out of topics.”

While his films range from war to baseball, some common themes present themselves in each, among them race and feminism. With each film, Burns engages in what he calls “emotional archeology,” during which he excavates larger emotional truths beyond dry dates, facts and events.

And how did he get started?

“I am very fortunate, but it is good fortune born in tragedy,” said Burns of his beginnings as a filmmaker. His mother died of cancer when he was 11-years-old. When Burns was up late watching movies with his dad and saw him shed tears, he decided to become filmmaker. “I instantly understood the power of film,” he said.

Rachel Maddow Accepts Steinbeck Award

Rachel Maddow Accepts Steinbeck Award

Rachel Maddow Accepts Steinbeck Award

Rachel Maddow in conversation with KGO's Pat Thurston (Christina Olivas photo).

By Jody Ulate, Managing Editor, Public Affairs

A “humbled” Rachel Maddow accepted the Steinbeck Award following a conversation with KGO host Pat Thurston on Saturday night in Morris Dailey Auditorium.

Between bursts of thunderous applause, the MSNBC host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” discussed her career, her new book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, and, of course, politics.

After a brief presentation from Tom Steinbeck, author and son of John Steinbeck, Maddow said that she was moved to be associated with the legacy of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

“Steinbeck wrote Cannery Row, his funny book, when he returned from serving in the war,” she said. When we are faced with the worst in the world, she said, “sometimes a joke is the kindest thing we can do.”

Previous recipients include Bruce Springsteen, John Sayles, Arthur Miller, Jackson Browne, Studs Terkel, Joan Baez, Sean Penn, Garrison Keillor, Dolores Huerta and Michael Moore.  The event was a fundraiser for the Steinbeck in the Schools program.

Rachel Maddow Receives Steinbeck Award

Rachel Maddow Receives Steinbeck Award

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Rachel Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, will receive the John Steinbeck Award at an event beginning at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 in SJSU’s Morris Dailey Auditorium.

Maddow will appear in conversation with KGO host Pat Thurston. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Reserved seating is $25. General admission balcony seating is $20 ($15 for students). Tickets are available now at Ticketmaster and the SJSU Event Center box office.

The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, located within the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, is the only university research archive in the world dedicated solely to John Steinbeck’s life and work. The center promotes Steinbeck’s goals of empathy and understanding by supporting education, inquiry and the literary arts.

The Steinbeck Award: “In the Souls of the People” is given annually to honor an artist, thinker or activist who has made a significant contribution to causes that matter to the common person.

SJSU in the News: Michael Moore Sports Spartans Cap on National Television

Michael Moore on ‘The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell’

Michael Moore on ‘The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell’

The Hat Seen Around the World

Originally published in SanJose.com Feb. 4, 2011.

The photos really make this story.

By Tony Smith

Michael Moore has proudly worn his Spartans cap since receiving it along with the Steinbeck Award in San Jose last October.

Moore received the Spartans cap at a Q&A session with SJSU students.

It takes a big man to change up his favorite cap.

Last October, on the same day that Sarah Palin made a fundraising appearance at the Center for the Performing Arts and the Marriott, filmmaker Michael Moore was given a warm San Jose reception at the Morris Dailey Auditorium and received the John Steinbeck Award for his fearless work and societal contributions.
In addition to the prestigious award, Moore left with another parting gift—an SJSU Spartans cap.

Much to the delight of San Joseans, it appears as though Moore has put his Michigan loyalty on hold, sporting his San Jose Spartans cap on virtually all of his recent national television appearances including The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Real Time with Bill Maher, Anderson Cooper 360 and The Rachel Maddow Show.