Jacqueline Woodson is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, the NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award. The Poetry Foundation recently named Woodson the Young People’s Poet Laureate. She is the author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award Finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
Rabih Alameddine is the author of the novels The Hakawati; I, the Divine; Koolaids; and the story collection, The Perv. He divides his time between San Francisco and Beirut.
Lillian Smith was an outspoken southern liberal whose work focused on dismantling the racist, segregationist policies of the United States at a time when it was extremely unpopular and even dangerous to do so. In 1944, she wrote Strange Fruit, a novel about a bi-racial love affair in small town Georgia. The book was banned in Boston a month after its publication and the U.S. Postal Service refused to ship Strange Fruit until Eleanor Roosevelt intervened and convinced her husband to lift the mail ban.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 11, 1884. She married Franklin Delano Roosevelt on March 17, 1905, and was the mother of six children. She became First Lady on March 4, 1933, and went on to serve as Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly and Representative to the Commission on Human Rights under Harry S. Truman, and chairwoman of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women under John F. Kennedy. She died on November 7, 1962, at the age of seventy-eight. [via HarperCollins]
Aside from being the longest-running First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt was a champion of women’s rights, the civil rights of African and Asian Americans and the rights of World War II refugees. She prompted the US to join the United Nations and became one of its first delegates where she oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Lincoln Kinnear Barnett (1909–1979) was an author and editor whose work appeared in Life Magazine over many years and who wrote popular books on a wide range of topics. He struck a chord with a little classic of popular scientific exposition in 1948, The Universe and Dr. Einstein. Praised by Einstein himself as a fine introduction to relativity for the layman, The Universe and Dr. Einstein has been published in more than 100 editions in at least thirteen languages since its original appearance. (via Dover Publications)
Ralph L. Rusk was a Ralph Waldo Emerson specialist. His complete collection of papers, including more than 14,000 note cards of Emerson’s life and letters, is housed in the archives of Columbia University where Rusk was a professor of English for almost thirty years.
One of the most neglected of American writers and also one of the best-loved, Nelson Algren (1909–1981) once wrote that “literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by conscience in touch with humanity.” His powerful voice rose out of the urban wilderness of postwar Chicago, and he returned there over and over, eventually transforming his “lower depths” into something the whole world could understand. Recipient of the first National Book Award for fiction and lauded by Hemingway as “one of the two best authors in America,” Algren remains one of our most defiant and indomitable novelists, with a body of work that includes five major novels, two short fiction collections, a book-length poem, and several collections of reportage.
Phil Klay is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. His writing has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, Newsweek,The Daily Beast, New York Daily News, Tin House, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. Klay is a 2014 National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Honoree.