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A Conversation with Frances de Pontes Peebles

Event Type
author talk, book discussion, brazil, conversation, fiction, history, publishing, research
International and Area Studies Library
Room 321, Main Library (1408 W. Gregory Dr.)
Apr 13, 2019   2:30 pm  
Frances de Pontes Peebles
Mariah Schaefer
Originating Calendar
International and Area Studies Library

Frances de Pontes Peebles was born in Pernambuco, Brazil, and grew up in Miami, Florida. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is the author of the novels The Seamstress (2008) and The Air You Breathe (2018).


Frances received a Fulbright Grant and a Sacatar Foundation Fellowship to spend time in Brazil conducting research for her first novel, The Seamstress. The novel is set in Northeast Brazil during the early 1930s, and it follows two sisters from the state of Pernambuco. Their lives take them on different, yet interconnected paths: Luzia is abducted by a band of outlaw cangaceiros and must fight to survive, while Emília marries into a wealthy family and must learn to navigate Recife’s high society.


The Seamstress won the Elle Grand Prix for fiction, the Friends of American Writers Award, and the James Michener-Copernicus Society of America Fellowship. It has been translated into nine languages and was adapted for film under the title Entre Irmãs. A miniseries version of the film aired on Brazil’s Globo network.


The Air You Breathe was named one of the best books of 2018 by Kirkus Reviews. It was also a Book of the Month pick and an Amazon Best Book of August 2018. The novel also starts out in 1930s Pernambuco, but most of the story takes place in Rio de Janeiro and in Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood. The Air You Breathe is about two friends, orphaned Dores and wealthy Graça, who as children bond over their love of music and become inseparable. Both dream of becoming a star — but Graça is the one who rises to fame, while Dores is left in the shadows.


Frances lives in Chicago with her family. She is serving as a Visiting Associate Professor of Fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop this spring.


“A Conversation with Frances de Pontes Peebles” was made possible by the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies, the Center for Global Studies (with the support of a U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant), and the University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


This event is free and open to the public! Refreshments will be served.

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