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KNOXVILLE — Author and journalist Jeannette Walls will help lead the university’s Life of the Mind program by sharing details of her journey from a nomadic, and at times homeless, upbringing to her current success as a writer and television personality.

Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls
Walls will speak to students at 11 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 17, in the Cox Auditorium of the Alumni Memorial Building. A book signing will follow. Her memoir “The Glass Castle” is the Life of the Mind book chosen for incoming first-year students to read during the summer. The event is geared towards UT students, but her talk will be available live and in archived format online at

Life of Mind is part of UT’s Welcome Week and helps new students transition to college by giving them a shared experience through small discussion groups led by faculty members.

Wall’s compelling work spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times’ best-seller list and has sold more than 2 million copies. The novel details growing up with her three siblings in the desert American Southwest and then in a West Virginia mining town.

Her story reflects on the unorthodox parenting methods of her mother and father, who at times neglected Walls and her siblings, but also managed to show them love and teach them to face their fears. Walls tells of going without food and indoor plumbing while being encouraged to read Shakespeare and dream of the beautiful glass house the family would one day build together.

Walls left West Virginia on her own at the age of 16 to move to New York City and enroll in Barnard College, after which she went on to become a well-known columnist for New York magazine and Walls speaks at colleges, corporations and business associations about overcoming hardship and the keys to turning adversity to your advantage

“The Glass Castle” has been taught at universities in courses on literature, psychology, parenting, child development and poverty. It has won numerous awards including the Christopher Award, the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Books for Better Living Award.

Her visit kicks off a yearlong series of programming focused on “Our World in Need,” themed with a particular emphasis on the issue of poverty. Exhibits, lectures and film screenings will highlight the plight of the impoverished both across the United States and the world and link the campus community to new and existing programs that help serve others.

To learn more about UT’s Life of the Mind program, visit

C O N T A C T :

Rebekah Winkler, (865-974-8304,
Amy Blakely, (865-974-5034,