Published December 20, 2019 by Barbara Sawhill

"How to Listen: Telling Latin American Stories in Sound and Print." An evening with Daniel Alarcón

"Suddenly language transcended the margins of our discipline" — Elena Cuento Asín
Author and NPR show producer Daniel Alarcón

Author and NPR show producer Daniel Alarcón shared an evening with the Bowdoin Community.


On September 30th, Bowdoin hosted the award winning novelist and journalist Daniel Alarcón. His books have received numerous accolades: a 2005 PEN-Hemingway Award; a finalist for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award, and most recently his novel “The King is Always Above his People” was longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Fiction. As a journalist, his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Etiqueta Negra (Perú) and beyond. In October 2019, it was announced that Alarcón would become a contributing writer to The New Yorker magazine.

In addition to his writing, Alarcón is also known as the host and Executive Producer of the ground-breaking Spanish language NPR distributed podcast Radio Ambulante. Radio Ambulante uses long-form narrative radio journalism to tell uniquely Latin American stories through the voices of the people who live them. Along with his wife and Radio Ambulante CEO Carolina Guerrero, the podcast has reported stories from all over the region, and has partnered with Public Radio International, BBC Mundo and beyond to reach audiences across the US and worldwide.

Alarcón spent the day on campus meeting students in Spanish language classes as well as an English short story seminar. In the evening, Alarcón spoke to a packed audience in Kresge Hall.

His talk, entitled “How to Listen,Telling Latin American Stories in Sound and Print,” was a multimedia presentation of stories from and about Latin America, including samples from his own works.

Responses from the audience were enthusiastic. Carolyn Wolfenzon Niego, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, commented: “I enjoyed the talk because it made me think about the importance of sound along with journalistic tools and techniques and how they work together to create stories out of words. [Through the use of sound in storytelling] one can hear the accents of people, or feel the rhythm of the Caribbean through music, or feel different actions through the use of sound.”

Elena Cueto Asin, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, shared: “It was a stupendous event! It was refreshing to hear the Spanish language fill Kresge… Suddenly language transcended the margins of our discipline. Daniel's answers about writing, bilingualism and divided identity, both in class and during his talk, dispelled some of the persistent negative tropes [in the media] of Latinx victimhood.”

The Bowdoin Orient also covered Alarcón’s talk with Eliana Miller ‘20 conducting a brief interview with the speaker right after the event. A link to the article can be found here.
The event was made possible thanks to the generous funding provided by The Charles Weston Pickard Lecture Fund, the departments of Romance Languages and Literatures, Latin American Studies, and English, as well as the support of the Latinx Students Association.