Former President Obama Picks Fairfield MFA Faculty Book as a 2020 Favorite Read

Former President Obama Picks Fairfield MFA Faculty Book as a 2020 Favorite Read

Book covers

Books by creative writing professors Phil Klay and Dinty W. Moore are garnering rave literary reviews, including a shout-out from Obama for Klay's novel, Missionaries, as a 2020 favorite read.

Fall 2020 has been a headline-making semester for Fairfield's MFA in Creative Writing professors Phil Klay and Dinty W. Moore, whose latest book projects are receiving both high praise and national attention from some of the industry’s most prominent literary reviewers... and book lovers.

Released this past October by Penguin Press, Missionaries is the debut novel from Phil Klay, whose short story collection Redeployment won the 2014 National Book Award. Missionaries was chosen by former President Barack Obama as one of his favorite books of 2020, and was also named one of “The 10 Best Books of 2020” by The Wall Street Journal.

Deemed by The New York Times “an astounding novel that does not shy away from the thorny moral questions and psychological impacts of conflict,” Klay's book hones in on the ground-level consequences of American interference in Colombia’s ongoing civil war to tell a fascinating a story of terrorism, drug wars, and global conflict through the intertwined perspectives of a U.S. Army Special Forces medic, a foreign correspondent, a Colombian officer, and a militia lieutenant.

A veteran of the Iraq War, both Klay and his literary works are heavily influenced by his time serving in the U.S. Marine Corp and do not shy away from the realities of war and political conflict.

“I want people to see the way that American power functions in the world,” Klay said about Missionaries. "I want them to think about the ways in which violence can reshape our world and the ways it can tear things apart, and to think about whether those institutions that we've created over the past two decades are helping or contributing to that particular problem.” 

Klay is not the only author with connections to Fairfield's MFA program to catch Obama's attention this year. The former President also selected Natasha Trethewey's memoir, Memorial Drive, as a favorite book of 2020. Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, will be sharing her craft secrets with aspiring writers as a guest presenter at this year's weeklong virtual winter residency session.

Similar to Klay, fellow Fairfield MFA faculty member Dinty W. Moore, editor-in-chief of the popular online flash-fiction literary journal Brevity, is also receiving national attention for his latest book, The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction. Featuring a variety of nonfiction forms written by well-known and emerging writers in just 750 words or less, The Best of Brevity offers 84 of the online journal's best-loved and most memorable reader favorites, collected in print for the first time. Compressed to their essence, the essays abound with drama, grief, love, and anger, resulting in an anthology that is as varied as it is unforgettable. 

“The immersive effect of reading this anthology straight through is the opposite of a flash experience, and is also lovely, like rolling down a sidewalk of lit windows,” The New York Times raved. “So much beauty, so much grief — the whole range of experience flashing by, leaving impressions as it passes.” 

The anthology features essays from emerging writers around the world, as well as Pulitzer Prize finalists, NEA fellows, Pushcart winners, and Best American authors, and even includes an original submission by Fairfield MFA faculty member Sonya Huber. For more information, visit

Tags:  Top Stories,  College of Arts & Sciences


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