Charis welcomes Siobhan Phillips in conversation with E.R. Anderson for a celebration of Benefit. Benefit is a vivid debut novel of personal awakening that offers a withering critique of toxic philanthropy and the American meritocracy.
A young woman discovers what lurks beneath the system that anointed her among the best and brightest of her generation.
Laura, a student from a modest background, escapes her small town to join the ranks of the academic elite on a Weatherfield fellowship to study at Oxford University. She enthusiastically throws herself into her coursework, yet she is never able to escape a feeling of unease and dislocation among her fellow chosen "students of promise and ambition."
Years later, back in the United States with a PhD and dissertation on Henry James, she loses her job as an adjunct professor and reconnects with the Weatherfield Foundation. Commissioned to write a history for its centennial, she becomes obsessed by the Gilded Age origins of the Weatherfield fortune, rooted in the exploitation and misery of sugar production. As she is lured back into abandoned friendships within the glimmering group, she discovers hidden aspects of herself and others that point the way to a terrifying freedom.
Siobhan Phillips teaches at Dickinson College and lives in Carlisle, PA. She has published poems and essays in a variety of publications. Benefit is her first novel.
Charis Circle Executive Director, Errol "E.R." Anderson ( they/them or he/him) manages the programming, fiscal, and daily operations of Charis Circle, and is always interested in the ways our communities can share skills and resources. A native Atlantan, E.R. came to Charis as one of the founding members of the Young Writer's Group in 1997, and has enjoyed helping build connections between communities of activists, artists, and academics in this city ever since. E.R. co-facilitates the Race-Conscious Parenting Collective, the Gender Creative Parenting Collective, and Trans and Friends. When not at Charis, E.R. is working on a novel, And Let God Sort Them Out.
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A young woman discovers what lurks beneath the system that anointed her among the best and brightest of her generation
"A smart, razor-sharp exploration of the precarious island of academic life and the cold unforgiving waters that surround it." --Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather