Amitava Kumar is a writer and journalist. His books include Lunch With a Bigot listed among the “ten best books of 2015 published by academic presses;” A Matter of Rats, which the New York Times Magazine called “a clear-eyed ode to an implausible place;” A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm A Tiny Bomb, adjudged the best nonfiction book of the year by the Page Turner Awards, and described in the New York Times as a “perceptive and soulful … meditation on the global war on terror and its cultural and human repercussions;” Husband of a Fanatic, an “Editors’ Choice” book at the New York Times; Bombay-London-New York, a literary memoir which was on the list of “Books of the Year” in the New Statesman; and Passport Photos, winner of an “Outstanding Book of the Year” award from the Myers Program for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America. Kumar’s essays and reviews have appeared in Harper’s, Bookforum, Kenyon Review, The Nation, NPR, The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Brick, Granta, and numerous other publications. He has been awarded writing residencies by Yaddo, the Norman Mailer Writing Center, and the Lannan Foundation. He is the recipient of a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship for nonfiction.
Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For Citizen, Rankine won the Forward Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (Citizen was also nominated in the criticism category, making it the first book in the award’s history to be a double nominee), the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the NAACP Image Award. A finalist for the National Book Award, Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment of the Arts. She lives in New York City and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.
TEJU COLE was born in the US in 1975 and raised in Nigeria. He is the author of two works of fiction: a novella, Every Day is for the Thief and a novel, Open City. He has received numerous recognitions for his work, including the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Internationaler Literaturpreis, the New York City Book Award, and the Windham Campbell Prize. He is Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College, where he teaches art history and literature, and Photography Critic of the New York Times Magazine. He was a guest of the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2012, gave the Kenan Distinguished Lecture in Ethics at Duke University in 2014, and delivered the inaugural Susan D. Gubar Lecture at Indiana University in 2015. In addition to his writing for the New York Times, he has written for a broad range of publications, including the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Granta, and the Paris Review. In 2016, he will publish a collection of essays, titled Known and Strange Things, as well as a book of his photographs.
Adrian Matejka was born in Nuremberg, Germany and grew up in California and Indiana. He is a graduate of Indiana University and the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His first collection of poems, The Devil’s Garden (Alice James Books, 2003), won the 2002 New York / New England Award. His second collection, Mixology (Penguin, 2009), was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series. Mixology was also a finalist for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature. His most recent collection of poems, The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), focuses on the life of the prize fighter Jack Johnson and was awarded the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. The Big Smoke was also a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award, 2014 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and 2014 Pulitzer Prize. Among Matejka’s other honors are the Julia Peterkin Award, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, two grants from the Illinois Arts Council, and fellowships from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation. He is the Lilly Professor/Poet-in-Residence at Indiana University in Bloomington and is working on a new collection of poems and a graphic novel.
Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and a white English mother, Abani was raised in Nigeria and London. The bi-cultural, bi-racial, bi-lingual nature of his upbringing is a consistent theme of his poems and novels. He has a Masters degree and a Ph.D. from USC and a master’s degree from the University of London. He has written fourteen books of prose and poetry including The Secret History of Las Vegas, GraceLand, Daphne’s Lot and Sanctificum. Abani is the recipient of the PEN Hemingway Book Prize, the PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the California Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship and a Guggenheim and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice for several of his books. He is a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.
Peter Bagge has been a professional cartoonist for 35 years working in the alternative comic and graphic novel fields. He was heavily inspired by MAD magazine and Warner Brothers cartoons. He is best known for this series HATE featuring the autobiographical character Buddy Bradley. The series ran in the nineties and was associated with the grunge movement. Recently he has shifted his practice into writing comics about history including his first full-length biographical work Woman Rebel about Margaret Sanger. He is currently working on books about Zora Neale Hurston and Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Laura Ingels Wilder. Bagge is a professor at Seattle University and the winner of the Harvey Award, the Eagle Award and the Inkpot Award.
Mohave Valley, AZ
Natalie Diaz is an up and coming poet whose first book When My Brother Was an Aztec has been critically acclaimed. Writing about her history and community, Diaz has committed herself to studying and preserving the Mojave language at Fort Mojave. For the last four years, she has been working alongside her Elders to compile a digital dictionary and encyclopedia of the Mojave language as the Director of the Mojave Language Recovery Program. A former professional basketball player, Diaz compares the rhythm of her poetry to the rhythm of the game. Diaz is the recipient of the Narrative Prize for Poetry, the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and the 2014 Holmes National Poetry Prize.
Forest Hills, NY
Rigoberto González is a multi-genre writer of poetry, prose, essays, memoirs, poetry criticism and book reviews. He is the author of fifteen books including Butterfly Boy, The Mariposa Club, Men Without Bliss, Unpeopled Eden, Autobiography of My Hungers and Black Blossoms. His work has appeared in approximately 50 anthologies and 200 literary journals. He is currently a Professor of English at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. González is invested in making visible the queer Latino experience through his writing and is interested in the connection between poetry and activism. González is the recipient of the Lenore Marshall Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, Barnes & Noble Writers Award, New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, The Poetry Center Book Award, National Endowment for the Arts Grant, the American Book Award and the Guggenheim Fellowship.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Achy Obejas has written fiction, poetry, and journalism. She is the author of five books, including three powerful novels: Days of Awe, Memory Mambo, and Ruins. Her poetry chapbook, This is What Happened in Our Other Life, was both a critical favorite and a best-seller. She is trained as a journalist and has worked in the alternative press, including In These Times, where she writes a monthly column, as well as the Chicago Tribune. As a Cuban-American, she writes about the struggle between public and private identities, the effects of power and powerlessness and finding the beating human heart of those we are taught to believe are enemies. In recent years, she has taken on complicated and challenging translation projects including the Spanish-language versions of Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her. The rare translator who can work in and out of two languages, she has translated into English such contemporary Latin American writers as Rita Indiana, F. G. Haghenbeck and Wendy Guerra. She is the recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellowship, a team Pulitzer Prize for the series “Gateway to Gridlock” while at the Tribune, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, the Studs Terkel Journalism Award, and a Cintas Foundation Fellowship. She is currently the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College in Oakland, California.
West Plains, MO
Daniel Woodrell’s earliest novels included three that depicted the criminal milieu in an invented bayou town, another set along the Kansas-Missouri border during the Civil War, and six consecutive books set in the Ozarks. Two films have been made from his novels: RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, directed by Ang Lee, based on WOE TO LIVE ON, and WINTER’S BONE, directed by Debra Granik, starring Jennifer Lawrence, won the top prize at Sundance, then received four Academy Award nominations. He has received the Pen West Award, The Clifton Fadiman Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Ozarks Heritage Award, the Prix de Mystere Critique, and most recently THE MAID’S VERSION, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Pen Center Award, won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for fiction.