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Virtual Reading and Conversation: Jenny Offill and Ling Ma



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Georgia O’Keeffe

In her 2020 novel Weather, author Jenny Offill reckons with both everyday anxieties and the existential threat of the climate emergency. In her 2018 novel Severance, author Ling Ma depicts daily life during a growing global pandemic. Through readings and conversation, Offill and Ma reflect on art, literature, and the experience of living your life during a global crisis.

The program includes a discussion on artworks from the Art Institute’s collection, including works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Félix González-Torres, and Mary Cassatt.

About the Authors

Credit Emily Tobey 1 1

Jenny Offill is the author of the novels Last Things, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the L.A. Times First Book Award, and Dept. of Speculation, a New York Times Bestseller that was shortlisted for the Folio Prize, the Pen Faulkner Award, and the International Dublin Award and Weather. She lives in upstate New York and teaches at Syracuse University and in the low-residency program at Queens University.


Ling Ma is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Severance, described as a “meticulous, caustic description of life in big cities and what happens when a terrible pandemic slowly annihilates most of the human population.” Severance won the Kirkus Prize for Fiction, the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Named a New York Times Notable Book and an NPR Best Book of 2018, it has been translated into seven languages. Ma’s fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Granta, Playboy, Vice, Chicago Reader, Ninth Letter, Buzzfeed, and more. Her fellowships include a Whiting Award and an NEA creative writing fellowship.

Ma was born in Sanming, China, and grew up in Utah and Kansas. She received her MFA from Cornell University. Prior to graduate school she worked as a journalist and editor. She has taught creative writing and English at Cornell University and the University of Chicago. She lives in Chicago.

This program is presented as part of a series highlighting both the creative process and creative communities. Through this series, visual artists, writers, dancers, and musicians engage with works of art from the Art Institute—inspiring new ways of understanding the collection as they make connections to their own practice.

We recommend using a laptop or desktop computer, and downloading the latest version of Zoom to enjoy this program.

If you have any questions about virtual programming please reach out to

For questions related to accessibility accommodations, please email

Image credits: Jenny Offill. Photo by Emily Tobey; Ling Ma. Photo by Anjali Pinto.


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