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UMPI to celebrate Zuras’ debut novel with reading, book signing

A University of Maine at Presque Isle English Professor has had his debut novel published and the University will celebrate with a reading and book signing event with the author on Monday, April 9 at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. The public is invited to attend this special event, which will include a reception featuring light refreshments, and wine available through a cash bar.

Richard Lee Zuras, UMPI Professor of English and Creative Writing, explores Zain’s final year of childhood, his father’s dismissal from the CIA, and his family’s near disintegration in this coming-of-age work The Bastard Year, published by the independent press, Brandylane Publishers.

“When Zain’s father is fired from the CIA in March of 1980, it creates a tremor that threatens to upend the family’s precarious balance,” the back cover reads. “Zain’s awakening to a world riddled with cracks and his adolescent attempts to mend them are the stuff from which young men, and great stories, are made.”

Zuras was able to bring verisimilitude to his novel due to his upbringing – he was born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where his father worked as a CIA analyst. Zuras already has received praise from his peers for the novel.

According to James Robison, author of The Illustrator, “In this spare and unsparing novel, Richard Lee Zuras breaks down the critical Iran Hostage days of 1980, the gas shortage year, the year the country pivoted from Carter’s idealism to Reagan’s patriotic pragmatism. This narrator is gallant in his restraint, jarred by the violence—both psychic and physical—of the private lives of adults, but he tells all without protest or deflecting guile, without delusions, without the gnawing irony that chews away at so many lesser works of and about those times. This novel of commencement and initiation is set at a determining intersection of histories, East and West, a moment in the life of this country mirrored in the fate of the narrator. A profoundly affecting work.”

And Cathie Pelletier, the author of Running the Bulls had this to say of the novel: “The most riveting characters in literary fiction are those young protagonists who must survive not just impending maturity (which often comes too soon) but the complicated world of dysfunctional adults who make the laws and set the rules. Zain, in The Bastard Year, is one such character. His coming of age story is told by the author with so quiet a reserve that it echoes loudly in your memory long after you’ve read.”

Zuras earned his MFA as the McNeese Fellow at McNeese State University under the auspices of Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler. He also did graduate work at the University of Colorado, George Mason University, and the University of North Dakota, where he worked under James Robison. At UMPI, Zuras serves as the advisor to the Film Studies program and he has written box-office reviews for the online site

Zuras has been published in more than 20 journals, including Passages North, South Dakota Review, Story Quarterly, and The Laurel Review. He has also garnered several prizes, including the Yemassee Fiction Award and the Bernard O’Keefe Fiction Scholarship at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and was named a Wesleyan Writers’ Conference Scholar.

All are encouraged to attend this special evening with Richard Lee Zuras. The April 9 event will include a reading and Q&A by the author, followed by a book signing. There will also be a reception featuring light refreshments, and wine available through a cash bar. Copies of the book will be on display and for sale.

The Bastard Year is currently available for sale online at and, and at the UMPI Bookstore for $10 per copy. For more information about this event or the novel, please contact the University’s Community and Media Relations Office at 768-9452 or