Naomi Benaron's award-winning novel Running in the Rift is about a Rwandan athlete whose Olympic dreams are threatened by the genocide that consumed his country in the mid-1990s.
Leah Warshawski is the producer/director of Film Festival: Rwanda, a documentary about Rwandan filmmakers who establish a traveling film festival to restore trust, truth, and pride in their country in the wake of that genocide.
In addition to their shared interests in Rwanda, both women are the descendants of Holocaust survivors, and both are currently working on Holocaust-related projects, Benaron a novel and Warshawski a documentary about her grandmother, Sonia Warshawski of Kansas City.
Benaron and Warshawski discuss their work on Wednesday, October 17, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St. Angela Elam, producer of the nationally syndicated literary radio program New Letters on the Air, will moderate the conversation.
Benaron's debut novel, Running the Rift is the winner of the 2010 Bellwether Prize, selected biennially by novelist Barbara Kingsolver to honor an unpublished novel that confronts social issues. It's the story of a young Tutsi whose extraordinary gift for distance running collides with Rwandan genocide. Out of a childhood marked by loss and overshadowed by group tensions, he draws the strength for grueling Olympic training and the courage to run his life's most crucial race - to save himself and his family.
Reviews of the book, published earlier this year, have been glowing.
"A powerful coming-of-age story that highlights the best and worst of human nature," raves the Christian Science Monitor.
"Benaron writes beautifully about the pain and exhilaration of being an Olympic-level runner," says BookPage.
Warshawski's film, meanwhile, is being readied for theatrical distribution. Phil Alden Robinson, the writer/director of Field of Dreams, has said that "Film Festival: Rwanda gives me goosebumps. "In an era of mega-budgets and special effects, here's a fascinating, compelling, and universal story about the power of story. It reminds me of why some of us became filmmakers, and why all of us became film lovers."
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Missouri-Kansas City's BkMk Press, the UMKC Communications Studies Department, History Department, and Religious Studies Program, as well as the Midwest Center on Holocaust Education, Rainy Day Books, Jewish Vocational Service, and Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407.