Honors College to host a lecture by rising literary star Ayana Gray today

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Deanna smith

Best-selling author and U of A graduate Ayana Gray ’15 will discuss her work at a public lecture tonight, followed by a reception. His new book, Beasts of Prey, will be on sale before and after the conference.

Netflix Agreement. New York Times List of best sellers. Hello america appearance. U of A alumnus Ayana Gray is causing a stir with her debut novel, Beasts of prey. The first of a fantastic pan-African inspired trilogy, Beasts of prey follows two black teenagers, Koffi and Ekon, who strike a deal to enter a magical jungle and take down the monster that has threatened their town for nearly a century.

Gray, a 2015 Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences graduate with honors in political science and African and African American studies, is on campus today to discuss her work and the whirlwind of publicity accompanying her first book tour.

The multicultural center, Arkansas Union 403, will host a meeting at 11 a.m., with 25 books to distribute to the first 25 people in attendance.

Honors College will host Gray’s public lecture at 5:30 p.m. in the Gearhart Hall auditorium (GEAR 26), with a reception to follow in the Honors Student Lounge (GEAR 130). Copies of Beasts of prey will be on sale before and after the conference. Parking will be available in the parking garage on Harmon Street. The conference will also be offered online via Zoom.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate AU’s 150th than to bring in an alumnus with distinction like Ayana Gray,” said Lynda Coon, Dean of Honors College. “She’s already created a sensation on the literary scene. We can’t wait to see how her career unfolds.”

beasts of prey coverA good start

Beasts of prey was acquired by GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, a Penguin imprint, as part of a seven-figure deal. It was released in the United States on September 28 and immediately landed on the New York Times List of YA best sellers. Beasts of prey will also be released internationally on five continents and 16 countries and is being developed by Netflix as a feature film with Melody Cooper adapting the screenplay.

“When I started to write Beasts of prey, I could never have imagined that Netflix would be interested in adapting it into a feature film, “said Gray.” Partnering with them, Melody and the team at Clubhouse Pictures to bring my book to life is a dream. come true. “

Beasts of prey is a Gold Standard selection of the School Library Journal and has been hailed as “a dazzling start” by Kirkus Reviews, “Plagued by betrayal and told through poetic language that… will trap readers. ”

A recipe for literary success

Gray attended Little Rock High School and currently resides there. She said her experiences as a student at U of A “absolutely bled in Beasts of prey. “She cited one course in particular, Professor Jeff Ryan’s Course on Political Violence, in which she learned concepts like moral relativism.

“I found it really fascinating,” Gray recalls. “By the end of the course we were quite uncomfortable. We realized that the world was not as black and white as we perhaps were taught to believe when we were children.”

Months later, she had the opportunity to visit Ghana, where she studied Pan-Africanism, the transatlantic slave trade, and decolonization. Gray, still reeling from the course on political violence, was struck by how such a young country could have such a rich history.

“When I graduated a few months later, it was the first time in my life that I didn’t have a very clear plan for the future,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing with myself.… But what I did know is that I love to write and that I love books.”

She started to write stories about the things she had learned. The project that will eventually become Beasts of prey started out as something she did for fun, but it turned into a more intentional book as she deepened her research.

“I had this basic knowledge of things like Pan-Africanism and the transatlantic slave trade, but I didn’t know much about myths across the African continent,” Gray explained. “And that’s a difficult thing, because a lot of it is oral. I always find new things,” she added.


Honors College Mic features notable leaders, alumni and prominent faculty members who share their ideas and expertise on a wide range of topics. Overall, these conferences foster intellectual conversation at the University of Arkansas through dialogue between speaker and student, faculty and staff, and the public at large.

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