Three Conversations on Contemporary Biography

Event time: 
Friday, March 29, 2019 - 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (BRBL) See map
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

Three Conversations on Contemporary
Biography: A Beinecke Symposium

Note: seating is limited.

“On Letters” with Emily Bernard & Langdon Hammer

“On Politics” with Adina Hoffman & Kai Bird

“On Life & Times” with David W. Blight & T.J. Stiles

Emily Bernard’s most recent recent book, Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine (2019), is in in its second printing and was featured on as one of “25 books we can’t wait for (so far).” Her first book, Remember Me to Harlem: the Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Can Vechten, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. In addition to several books of essays and nonfiction, she wrote a new introduction for the Penguin Classics edition of Nella Larsen’s Passing. She is currently the Julian and Lindsay Green and Gold Professor of English at the University of Vermont. (see

Kai Bird is currently the Executive Director and Distinguished Lecturer of CUNY Graduate Center’s Leon Levy Center for Biography. His most recent book, The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, was a New York Times best-seller. His memoir, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2006 for American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He is currently writing a biography of President Jimmy Carter’s White House years. (see

David W. Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale. His has been the Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale since 2004. He is the author, most recently, of Frederick Douglass:
Prophet of Freedom (2018), which was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Smithsonian Magazine and recently won the Lincoln Prize. (see

Langdon Hammer is the Niel Gray, Jr. Professor of English and Department Chair at Yale and the current poetry editor of The American Scholar. His books include Hart Crane and Allen Tate: Janus-Faced Modernism and, as editor for the Library of America, Hart Crane: Complete Poetry; Hart Crane: Selected Letters; and May Swenson: Collected Poems. His most recent biography, James Merrill: Life and Art (Knopf, 2015) was chosen by Dwight Garner as one of his ten best books of the year for The New York Times.

Adina Hoffman’s most recent book is the just-published Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures (Yale University Press, 2019). An essayist and biographer, she is also the author of Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City and House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood. Her biography of the poet Taha Muhammad Ali, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century was named one of the best twenty books of 2009 by the Barnes & Noble Review and won the UK’s 2010 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize. She also published, with Peter Cole, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Genius, which was awarded the American Library Association’s Brody Medal for the Jewish Book of the Year. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship 2012 and a Windham Campbell Prize in 2013.

T.J. Stiles is the author of Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for History, the Spur Award for Best Western Biography, and the William H. Seward Award for Excellence in Civil War Biography. He also wrote The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the 2009 National Book Award for Nonfiction and Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, winner of the 2003 Ambassador Book Award. He is currently writing a biography of Theodore Roosevelt. (see

Open To: