Quan Barry

Quan Barry

Born in Saigon and raised on Boston’s north shore, Quan Barry is the Halls-Bascom and Vilas Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she directs the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing. Barry is the author of six books of fiction and poetry, including the recent novel WE RIDE UPON STICKS, which O: OPRAH MAGAZINE describes as, “Spellbinding, wickedly fun . . . Each...
Born in Saigon and raised on Boston’s north shore, Quan Barry is the Halls-Bascom and Vilas Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she directs the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing. Barry is the author of six books of fiction and poetry, including the recent novel WE RIDE UPON STICKS, which O: OPRAH MAGAZINE describes as, “Spellbinding, wickedly fun . . . Each sentence fizzes like a just-opened bottle of New Coke.”

Barry’s first play, THE MYTILENIAN DEBATE, was a finalist for both the Eugene O’Neill Center’s National Playwrights Conference and the Lark Play Development Center’s Playwrights’ Week in New York City. Her second play, TENEBRAE, was also a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Center’s National Playwrights Conference.

In 2012, Barry was commissioned to write a ten-minute piece for Book Wings, an arts exchange established by President Obama and then President Dmitry Medvedev and funded by the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs at the U.S. State Department. “Three Variations on a Theme” was performed and broadcast simultaneously at the University of Iowa and the Moscow Art Theatre, the same space where Chekov premiered much of his work.

She has received NEA fellowships in both poetry and fiction. In 2016, Barry was a jurist for the NEA; similarly, the following year she was a judge for the PEN Open Book Award.

Plays

  • Per Aspera
    It's the first time the US team on the International Space State has consisted of two Black astronauts. Unfortunately for them, events outside of their control are about to test everything they believe in.
  • Among the Children Who Have Not Yet Attained Knowledge of What Lies Hidden
    Gabriel is a middle-aged corporate globe trotter who is definitely not a sex tourist. When he finds himself in Istanbul with spare time on his hands, he is finally confronted by several hard truths he has fought long and hard to avoid.
  • Tenebrae
    Tao, a Vietnamese-American classics professor at a small liberal arts college, intends to spend Easter weekend trying to forget that the holiday is also the anniversary of a horrific family tragedy. But a student in her history of western civilization class has other intentions as the two of them spend the weekend grappling with issues of justice and guilt.
  • The Mytilenian Debate
    When Black sixty-something heart surgeon Latimer Ames accidentally knocks up his much younger girlfriend Nina, his grown daughter Mary must struggle with her own inability to conceive as she and her white husband Charles try to decipher the cause of their unhappy marriage, specifically if it’s baby or race related. Consequently, questions of identity and pre-conceived expectations explode throughout THE...
    When Black sixty-something heart surgeon Latimer Ames accidentally knocks up his much younger girlfriend Nina, his grown daughter Mary must struggle with her own inability to conceive as she and her white husband Charles try to decipher the cause of their unhappy marriage, specifically if it’s baby or race related. Consequently, questions of identity and pre-conceived expectations explode throughout THE MYTILENIAN DEBATE as the personal beliefs of the four characters are put to the test by circumstances beyond their control. Will Nina have Latimer’s baby, despite its testing positive for Down Syndrome? Will Mary and Charles make it to their one-year wedding anniversary in the face of their inability to talk about the impact of race on their relationship? And will Latimer stare down his own demons as a Black man who's succeeded in the white world but whose own daughter holds vastly different racial notions of what it means to be a person of color in the twenty-first century? Ultimately, THE MYTILENIAN DEBATE seeks to explore issues of self-hood and how much control we do or don’t have in the formation of our own identities.