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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 24, 2009

Writers' Workshop alumnus Dr. Abraham Verghese reads March 4

University of Iowa Writers' Workshop alumnus Abraham Verghese will read from his first novel, "Cutting for Stone," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The "Live from Prairie Lights" series event will be streamed live and then archived on the UI Writing University Web site

Dr. Verghese is known for his acclaimed nonfiction work, including "My Own Country," which was based on his experiences as an AIDS physician in Tennessee and became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. His second book, "The Tennis Partner," was a New York Times notable book and a national bestseller. He has also published extensively in medical literature, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other periodicals.

He was born to Indian parents in Ethiopia and grew up in Addis Ababa, where he began his medical training. "Cutting for Stone" is a family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home. Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between an Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth and their father's disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Yet it will be love, not politics -- their passion for the same woman -- that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an under-funded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him -- nearly destroying him -- Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

Ann Packer called the book "A marvel of a first novel. Verghese's generosity of spirit is beautifully embodied in this gripping family saga that brings mid-century Ethiopia to vivid life. The practice of medicine is like a spiritual calling in this book, and the unforgettable people at its center bring passion and nobility -- not to mention humor and humility -- to the ancient art, while living an unforgettable story of love and betrayal and forgiveness."

Verghese is currently on the faculty at Stanford University as senior associate chair, and professor of the theory and practice of medicine in the Department of Medicine. In his writing and his work, he emphasizes the importance of bedside medicine and physical examination in a time when the use of advanced technology frequently results in the patient in the bed having less attention than the patient data in the computer.

This is one of the issues he addresses in "Cutting for Stone": "I wanted the reader to see how entering medicine was a passionate quest, a romantic pursuit, a spiritual calling, a privileged yet hazardous undertaking. It's a view of medicine I don't think too many young people see in the West because, frankly, in the sterile hallways of modern medical-industrial complexes, where physicians and nurses are hunkered down behind computer monitors, and patients are whisked off here and there for this and that test, that side of medicine gets lost."

The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jan Weissmiller,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),