English professor introduces new novel at campus event


Sacramento State’s medieval literature professor Kim Zarins’s signs copies of her new novel, Sometimes We Tell the Truth, Thursday, Sept. 8 at the Library Gallery. [Photo Marivel Guzman]

Sharlene Phou

Sacramento State English professor Kim Zarins held a book signing session Thursday at the Library Gallery for Sometimes We Tell the Truth, her latest novel that puts a modern twist on the father of the English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer.

Zarins, who teaches medieval literature, published her latest novel on Sept. 6 and debuted it on campus to an audience mostly made up of her students and colleagues. At the event, she read an excerpt from the book, signed copies and answered a few questions from attendees.

Zarins also prepared a “Chaucerian personality test” that eventgoers took to see which character they closely identify with. Each handout came with a list of 22 physical and psychological traits like “the patriarchy must die” and “you are beyond good-looking”, from which attendees then picked the one that they feel best describes themselves.

“[In Sometimes We Tell the Truth,] you can watch out for your character and see how [it] does,” Zarins said. “You can root for your character, be sad for your character, and be surprised by your character.”

Sometimes We Tell the Truth is a contemporary young adult novel that retells Chaucer’s famous 1478 work in the context of a modern high school students’ bus trip to Washington D.C. As prompted by their teacher, each student tells a story. These stories, which were meant to be fiction, soon reveal something personal about their tellers.

Zarins said that the big theme of the book is the power of storytelling.

“I hope [readers] would come away from the book with a sense that everybody has a story and that these are powerful stories that people have inside of them,” Zarins said.

Alisa Blaydes, a freshman studying business, said she attended the event because she was intrigued by the book’s synopsis. Blaydes joined a nearly full room to listen to Zarins explain her novel’s relation to Chaucer and recite the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English language.

“She’s so engaged and really wants to get involved with her audience,” Blaydes said. “I think that’s really special. I’ve never [known] an author that would go that far, at least one that I’ve personally met.”

Creative writing alumnus Randy White said he heard of the event through Facebook and decided to attend it because he wanted to see a fellow novelist and local writer showcasing her work.
“I look at it differently than just reading it, I look at how she’s constructed her tale,” said White, who also plans to compare and further analyze Sometimes We Tell the Truth to The Canterbury Tales. “I can learn [because] writers are always learning from other writers on how to construct and tell a good story.”