Ruth J. Simmons was President of Brown University from 2001-2012, after having served as President of Smith College. She is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of Texas Instruments, Chrysler, and Mondelez as well as a number of non-profit boards.
Tom Reiss’s most recent book, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize and the 2013 PEN Award. His previous book, The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, was a finalist for the 2006 Samuel Johnson Prize. His articles have appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times. His books have been translated into over 25 languages.
Gretel Ehrlich is the author of 15 books, including The Solace of Open Spaces, Islands, The Universe, Home, A Match to the Heart, A Blizzard Year, and The Future of Ice. Her most recent book is Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami, which was Longlisted for the National Book Award in 2013. She has won many awards, including the 2010 PEN Henry David Thoreau Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and the Harold B. Vurcell Award for distinguished prose from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Robert Atwan is the series editor of The Best American Essays, the annual he launched in 1986. The editor of numerous anthologies, he has published on a wide variety of subjects, such as dreams in ancient literature, early photography, Shakespeare, poetry, literary nonfiction, and the cultural history of American advertising. His essays, criticism, humor, reviews, and poetry have appeared in many periodicals, including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The Denver Quarterly, Image, The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Creative Nonfiction, and The Los Angeles Times.
Charles Johnson is a novelist, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, cartoonist, screenwriter, and professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle. A MacArthur fellow, his fiction includes Night Hawks, Dr. King’s Refrigerator, Dreamer, Faith and the Good Thing, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Seattle.
Geraldine Brooks won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel, March. A former foreign correspondent, she has reported from more than fifteen countries and wrote two works of nonfiction before turning to novels, which include Year of Wonders, People of the Book, and Caleb’s Crossing. Born and raised in Sydney, she now lives on Martha’s Vineyard
John Darnielle is a writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. The author of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, Darnielle lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and son.
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.