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Town Hall Seattle: Arts & Culture Series

Town Hall’s Arts & Culture series elevates the voices of local artists while bringing world-renowned cultural icons to Seattle audiences. The series celebrates music, photography, sculpture, philosophy, heritage, and traditions around the world that enrich our lives.

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Sep 2, 2020

Award-winning reporter Erica Barnett her first sip of alcohol when she was thirteen. By her late twenties, her addiction became inescapable. By the time she was in her late thirties, she had run the gauntlet of alcoholism, and volatile relationships, blackouts, and unsuccessful stints in detox defined Barnett’s life. Barnett joins us via livestream, drawing from her book Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery to share moments of her life along with essential new insights into addiction and treatment.

In conversation with author Claire Dederer, Barnett expands on her personal story to confront the dire state of addiction in America. She tackles the rise of alcoholism in American women over the last century, and highlights the lack of rehabilitation options available to addicts. With startling frankness, she questions the efficacy of mottos touted by Alcoholics Anonymous and long-standing treatment ideas like “rock bottom,” arguing that you can always go lower than your lowest point. These words and programs did not reflect her experience and indeed she found them detrimental—an experience that made her wonder if the same was true for others who are struggling with addiction. Barnett considers whether these programs do enough to discover the root causes of addiction in the course of providing treatments. In a brave example of vulnerability, Barnett invites us to an intimate recollection of her own struggles with alcoholism, and offers a hopeful story of a hard-fought path to sobriety.

Erica C. Barnett is an award-winning political reporter. She started her career at the Texas Observer, the venerable progressive magazine cofounded by Molly Ivins, and went on to work as a reporter and news editor for the Austin ChronicleSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger. She now covers addiction, housing, poverty, and drug policy at her blog, The C Is for Crank. She has written for a variety of local and national publications, including The Huffington PostSeattle Magazine, and Grist.

Claire Dederer is a Seattle native and the author of two critically acclaimed memoirs, and a forthcoming nonfiction book investigating good art made by bad people. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Paris ReviewThe Atlantic, and many other publications. She is also an educator, having taught at Hugo House, the University of Washington, Pacific University, and other universities across the country.

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