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Photos by Patrick Dodson / University at Albany

Clockwise from left: Novelist Paul Harding reads from his new novel This Other Eden at the University at Albany Recital Hall on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024; Associate Director Mark Koplik and Harding; Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl and Writers Institute Founder William Kennedy in attendance; guest Carl Patka poses a question to Paul Harding during the evening event.

Coverage in the Albany Student Press"Pulitzer Prize Winner Paul Harding Kicks Off for NYS Writers Institute’s Spring 2024," by Fanny Belaud, Jan. 29, 2024


Paul Harding

Thursday, January 25, 2024

4:30 p.m. Craft Talk / Q&A, Campus Center West Boardroom (1st Floor)

7:30 p.m. Reading / Conversation, Recital Hall, UAlbany Performing Arts Center

University at Albany, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany NY 12222

See map

Free and open to the public. No registration required.

Books will be for sale and a signing will follow the conversation.

Paul Harding’s new novel is This Other Eden (2023), based on the true story of a multiracial community that took refuge from intolerance on an island off the coast of Maine from 1792 to 1912. The novel presents the lives and experiences of a formerly enslaved Black man and his Irish wife, and multiple generations of their descendants and fellow islanders.


Shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize, This Other Eden was also a finalist for the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction, and an NPR 2023 "Books We Love" Pick.


A former student at the NYS Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore, Harding received the Pulitzer Prize for his 2009 first novel, Tinkers. and his most recent visit was in April 2018.

Paul Harding's "This Other Eden"
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Enon by Paul Harding

Harding's Tinkers is a father-and-son story about itinerant peddlers in the backwoods of Maine. The Pulitzer Committee described Tinkers as "a powerful celebration of life [that] offers new ways of perceiving the world and mortality."

His second novel, Enon (2013), is the story of one man’s enduring love for his daughter, and was named a best novel of the year by The Wall Street Journal and the American Library Association. The Chicago Tribune said "Enon confirms what the Pulitzer jury decided: Paul Harding--no longer a 'find' -- is a major voice in American fiction."

Harding, a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, was a fiction fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Harvard University, and Grinnell College. He was also the drummer in the band Cold Water Flat in the early 1990s. He teaches at the MFA in Creative Writing & Literature at Stony Brook University, and lives on Long Island.

Paul Harding, credit Sam Harding -400w.jpg

(Photo credit: Sam Harding)

Cosponsored by the Honors College at UAlbany, the English Department’s Creative Writing Program and Young Writers Project, and the Writing & Critical Inquiry (WCI) Program.

About This Other Eden 

In 1912, all the residents of a mixed-race fishing community on a small island called Malaga were evicted from their homes by the state of Maine. The area is said to have been settled about a century earlier when, in 1794, a formerly enslaved Black man, Benjamin Darling, bought nearby Horse Island and made a home there with his wife. In the 1860s, their descendants branched to Malaga, which, over the years, grew into a population of dozens of people.

The eviction was a catastrophe: Eight islanders were committed to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded, according to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Structures on the island were nearly all destroyed, and descendants were discouraged from coming back. One hundred years later, in 2010, the governor of Maine apologized for the eviction, but the haven that once was has never been re-established. Today, Malaga is a public preserve run by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and all that’s left of its past are graves and a schoolhouse, which have been removed from the island, and some abandoned wells.

That history is at the core of Paul Harding’s new novel, “This Other Eden,” out Jan. 24 from Norton. Instead of Malaga and the Darlings, Harding’s book tells the tale of the fictional Honey family, who, like the Darlings, are descended from a formerly enslaved man and are eventually expelled from their home, Apple Island. The novel — which closely follows a handful of Apple Islanders as well as the missionary who inadvertently brings about their downfall — is a harrowing tale of paradise lost and a lyrical examination of people in isolation just trying to get by.

That is a summary of the plot; Harding himself is reluctant to define the book. Twice during a recent interview, he artfully, playfully, steadfastly dodged requests to provide a quick pitch for the novel. “I think of my writing as interrogative,” Harding, 55, said. “You just go in there, and you just listen and look and describe. The mode can never be explanatory. There’s no thesis. There’s no argument. It’s purely descriptive, just always asking, ‘What is it like, what is it like, what is it like?’”

Combining the very best of boots-on-the-ground journalism, dishy backroom dealings, and glittery details about Gold Coast mansions and bodice-baring drag shows, The Fabulist is truly stranger than fiction.

Excerpt from "Paul Harding Captures the Quiet Side of Calamity" by MJ Franklin, published Jan. 22, 2023 in the New York Times

An excerpt from This Other Eden

On the first day of spring, 1911, Esther Honey, great-granddaughter of Benjamin and Patience, dozed in her rocking chair by the woodstove in her cabin on Apple Island. Snow poured from the sky. Wind scoured the island and smacked the windows like giant hands and kicked the door like a giant heel and banked the snow up the north side of the shack until it reached the roof. The island a granite pebble in the frigid Atlantic shallows, the clouds so low their bellies scraped on the tip of the Penobscot pine at the top of the bluff.

Esther drowsed with her granddaughter, Charlotte, in her lap, curled up against her spare body, wrapped in a pane of Hudson's Bay wool from a blanket long ago cut into quarters and shared among her freezing ancestors and a century-old quilt stitched from tatters even older. The girl took little warmth from her raw-boned grandmother and the old woman practically had no need for the heat her granddaughter gave, no place, practically, to fit it, being so slight, and so long accustomed to the minimum warmth necessary for a body to keep living, but each was still comforted by the other.

April 2018

January 2024

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