2015 Oxford Conference for the Book Guest Speakers
*Subject to change
To see the times speakers will present, please visit the schedule page.
LaShonda Katrice Barnett was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1974, and grew up in Park Forest, Illinois. She is the author of the novel Jam on the Vine. She received the College Language Association’s Margaret Walker Award and New York’s Barbara Deming Foundation’s Artist Grant for her short fiction. Recent awards for writing and historical fiction research include the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities & National Endowment for the Humanities Grant; Mystic Seaport’s Munson Institute of Maritime Culture Paul Cuffe Memorial Fellowship; Sewanee Writers Conference Tennessee Williams Scholarship and a fellowship from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. A graduate of the University of Missouri, she received an MA in women’s history from Sarah Lawrence College and the PhD in American studies from the College of William and Mary. For sixteen years she taught history and literature at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College, and Brown University. She lives and writes full time at home on Manhattan’s upper west side.
Chef Sean Brock attended Johnson & Wales University and worked in acclaimed restaurants throughout the South before accepting a position as executive chef at McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2006. In 2010 Brock opened Husk, also in Charleston, and in 2011 Bon Appétit named Husk “Best New Restaurant in America.” Brock opened Husk Nashville in 2013. Only serving food that is indigenous to the South, Husk is a celebration of Southern ingredients, with an emphasis on the ingredients and the people who grow them. Brock won the James Beard Award for “Best Chef Southeast” in 2010 and was a finalist for “Outstanding Chef” in 2013 and 2014. He hosted season two of Anthony Bourdain’s The Mind of a Chef on PBS, for which he was nominated for an Emmy, and his first cookbook, Heritage, was released in October 2014.
Carolyn J. Brown is a writer, editor, and independent scholar. She attended Duke University, where she earned her BA, and then the University of North Carolina–Greensboro for her MA and PhD. A Daring Life: A Biography of Eudora Welty is her first book. The book won the Mississippi Library Association’s Award for Nonfiction in 2013 and was selected by the Mississippi Library Commission to represent the state of Mississippi at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., in 2012. She published her second biography, Song of My Life: A Biography of Margaret Walker, in November 2014. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi, with her husband and two sons.
F. Douglas Brown of Los Angeles, California, is the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize recipient for Zero to Three. Mr. Brown, an educator for twenty years, teaches English at Loyola High School, an all-boys Jesuit school. He holds an MA in literature and creative writing from San Francisco State University and is both a Cave Canem and Kundiman fellow. His poems have appeared in Toegood Poetry, The Sugar House Review, Cura, Muzzle, Transfer, and Santa Clara Review. When he is not teaching, writing, or with his two children, Isaiah and Olivia, he is busy deejaying in the greater Los Angeles area.
Geffrey Davis grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and teaches creative writing at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of Revising the Storm, winner of the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize. Other distinctions include the Anne Halley Poetry Prize, the Dogwood Prize in Poetry, the Wabash Prize for Poetry, the Leonard Steinberg Memorial/Academy of American Poets Prize, nominations for the Pushcart, and fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation and Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities. Davis’s poetry has appeared on the Academy of American Poets, the Feminist Wire, Poem-of-the-Week, and Verse Daily, and has been printed in Crazyhorse, Green Mountains Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Massachusetts Review, Mississippi Review, Nimrod International Journal, and Sycamore Review, among other places. Davis also serves on the board of directors for Toe Good Poetry.
Chiyuma Elliott is assistant professor of English and African American studies at University of Mississippi. A former Stegner Fellow, Elliott’s poems have appeared in the African American Review, Callaloo, the Notre Dame Review, the PN Review, the Langston Hughes Review, MARGIE, and other journals. She has received fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, Cave Canem, the James Irvine Foundation, and the Vermont Studio Center. In 2012, she won the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the University of Texas at Austin for “Blackness and Rural Modernity in the 1920s.” Her first book of poems, California Winter League, will be published in December of 2015.
Susan Ferber is the executive editor for American and world history at Oxford University Press USA. Her list includes titles that have won the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize, and five have become national bestsellers. In addition to teaching at the Columbia Publishing Course and giving regular talks on academic publishing, she has also written essays for a variety of publications, including the Chronicle of Higher Education, Passport, Perspectives on History, and the Digital Digest. Recently, Ferber edited and Oxford University Press published Joel Williamson’s Elvis Presley: A Southern Life.
Maryemma Graham is a professor of English and African American studies at the University of Kansas where she has taught since 1998, including one year as the Langston Hughes Visiting Professor. In 1983, she founded the Project on the History of Black Writing, which has been in the forefront of inclusion efforts in higher education for 29 years. It is the only archive of its kind dedicated to literary recovery, professional development, public outreach, and digital access. Graham is the author or editor of ten books, including The Cambridge History of African American Literature (with Jerry W. Ward, Jr.), the first comprehensive African American literary history to be published in the 21st century. Graham is perhaps best known for her public outreach in the humanities, where she has facilitated inter-institutional networks of peers nationally and globally, and coordinated large-scale public programs that extend the reach of academic scholarship. At KU, she founded the Langston Hughes National Poetry Project. While President of the Toni Morrison Society, she created Language Matters, an international teaching initiative. Most recently, Graham convened the Haiti Research Initiative reestablishing lines of communication with a country with which KU has had a longstanding relationship. Among her books are two edited collections, On Being Female, Black, and Free: Essays by Margaret Walker, 1932–1992 and “How I Wrote Jubilee” and Other Essays on Life and Literature by Margaret Walker.
Peter Guralnick has been called “a national resource” by critic Nat Hentoff for work that has argued passionately and persuasively for the vitality of this country’s intertwined black and white musical traditions. His books include the prize-winning two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love. He won a Grammy for his liner notes for Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club and wrote and coproduced the documentary Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll as well as writing the scripts for the Grammy-winning documentary Sam Cooke/Legend and Martin Scorsese’s blues documentary Feel Like Going Home. He is a recent inductee in the Blues Hall of Fame. Guralnick’s other books include an acclaimed trilogy on American roots music, Sweet Soul Music, Lost Highway, and Feel Like Going Home; the biographical inquiry Searching for Robert Johnson; and the novel, Nighthawk Blues. His latest book, Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, has been hailed as “monumental, panoramic, an epic tale told against a backdrop of brilliant, shimmering music, intense personal melodrama, and vast social changes.” He is currently working on a biography of Sam Phillips.
Jody Hill was born in Falkner, Mississippi. In the fall of 1988 he became friends with Chucky Mullins when they were both freshmen on the Ole Miss Rebels football team. In 1992 Hill graduated from the University of Mississippi. In 2000 he earned a master of divinity degree from the Memphis Theological Seminary and was ordained into Christian ministry by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Memphis, Tennessee. He is the pastor of Ripley Presbyterian Church in Ripley, Mississippi, and the author of the New York Times bestseller 38: The Chucky Mullins Effect. Hill lives in Corinth, Mississippi, with his wife, Monya, and two sons, Noah and Luke.
Tim Johnston is the author of the novel Descent, the story collection Irish Girl, and the young adult novel Never So Green. Published in 2009, the stories in Irish Girl won an O. Henry Prize, the New Letters Award for Writers, and the Gival Press Short Story Award, while the collection itself won the 2009 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. In 2005 the title story, “Irish Girl,” was included in the David Sedaris anthology of favorites, Children Playing before a Statue of Hercules. Johnston’s stories have also appeared in New England Review, New Letters, the Iowa Review, the Missouri Review, DoubleTake, Best Life Magazine, and Narrative Magazine, among others. He holds degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He currently teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Memphis.
Richard Katrovas spent his early years in cars and motels living on the highways of America while his father, a petty thief and conman, eluded state and federal authorities. His father was eventually caught, but upon being released on probation from federal prison reverted to his criminal ways and was caught and re-incarcerated. During his father’s prison terms, Katrovas and his mother and siblings lived on welfare in public housing projects. Katrovas was adopted by relatives in his early teens and lived with them for three years in Sasebo, Japan. He graduated from high school in Coronado, California, and attended San Diego State University (BA, English, 1977). He was then a Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, attended the MFA program at the University of Arkansas, and finished his graduate work in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (MFA, 1983). Katrovas is the author of seven books of poetry, Green Dragons, Snug Harbor, The Public Mirror, The Book of Complaints, Dithyrambs, Scorpio Rising: Selected Poems, and Prague Winter; a book of short stories, Prague USA; two memoirs, The Years of Smashing Bricks and The Republic of Burma Shave; and a novel, The Mystic Pig. His poems, stories, reviews, and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Antioch Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Iowa Review, Missouri Review, New England Review, Poetry, Southern Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Katrovas’s current projects are Raising Girls in Bohemia: Meditations of an American Father, a collection of essays, and Confessions of a Waiter, a novel. Katrovas and his family live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, New Orleans, and Prague. He is a professor of English at Western Michigan University.
Seo Kim was born in Seoul, Korea, and then immigrated to Toronto, Canada, just a few months later. Kim began drawing on napkins at her parents’ restaurant at two years old and hasn’t stopped since. A graduate of the acclaimed animation program at Sheridan College, Kim has focused primarily on comics and illustration. In 2012 she started uploading daily slice-of-life comics on Tumblr, often starring the artist and her adorable cat, Jimmy, which have gone on to earn a large following. She has been a member of the International Society of Caricature Artists since 2007 and has attended their annual convention ever since. Kim currently lives in Los Angeles and works as a storyboard artist for the massively successful Cartoon Network show, Adventure Time. Cat Person, her first book, was published in 2014.
Phil Klay was born in White Plains, New York. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 2005, and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group from January 2007 to February 2008. Klay left the Corps in July 2009 and received his MFA from Hunter College, where he studied with Colum McCann and Peter Carey, and worked as Richard Ford’s research assistant. His first published story, “Redeployment,” appeared in Granta’s Summer 2011 issue. That story led to the sale of his collection Redeployment, which won the 2014 National Book Award. Klay’s writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, Tin House, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.
Preston Lauterbach’s first book, The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ’n’ Roll was named a best book of the year by the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and NPR. A Curb Visiting Scholar in the Arts at Rhodes College in Memphis, Lauterbach lives near Charlottesville in Nelson County, Virginia. His next book, Beale Street Dynasty, comes out in March.
Robby Luckett received his PhD from the University of Georgia with a focus on civil rights movement history. A native Mississippian, he returned home to accept the positions of assistant professor of history and director of the Margaret Walker Center for the Study of the African American Experience at Jackson State University. His book, Joe T. Patterson and the Dilemma of the White South: Evolving Resistance to Black Advancement, which explores segregationist strategies for offsetting the advances of the civil rights movement, is due out with the University Press of Mississippi in 2015.
Kent Osborne is an Emmy-nominated writer and storyboard artist for animated television shows, including SpongeBob Squarepants, Phineas and Ferb, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, and The Amazing World of Gumball. He currently serves as head of story for Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. He has also written six issues of the popular Adventure Time comic book Banana Guard Academy and writes and draws the comic and webseries Cat Agent, which can be seen on YouTube.
Ted Ownby is the director of the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. He has a joint appointment in history and Southern Studies and is the author of American Dreams in Mississippi: Consumers, Poverty, and Culture, 1830–1998 and Subduing Satan: Religion, Recreation, and Manhood in the Rural South, 1865-1920, editor of Black and White: Cultural Interaction in the Antebellum South, and coeditor with Elizabeth Engelhardt and John T. Edge of The Larder: Food Studies Methods from the American South. Most recently, Ownby contributed the foreword to Joel Williamson’s Elvis Presley: A Southern Life.
Barbara Ras is the author of three poetry collections: Bite Every Sorrow, which won the Walt Whitman Award and was also awarded the Kate Tufts Discovery Award; One Hidden Stuff; and The Last Skin, winner of the Award for Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters. Ras has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Tin House, Granta, American Scholar, Massachusetts Review, and Orion, as well as in many other magazines and anthologies. She is the editor of a collection of short fiction in translation, Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. Ras lives in San Antonio, where she directs Trinity University Press.
John Renehan served in the Army’s Third Infantry Division as a field artillery officer in Iraq. He previously worked as an attorney in New York City. He lives with his family in Virginia. The Valley is his first novel.
Charles Ross is a native of Columbus, Ohio, and is currently the chair of the African American studies program and associate professor of history and African American studies at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League and the editor of Race and Sport: The Struggle for Equality On and Off the Field. He has appeared on ESPN’s Outside the Lines and on ESPN Radio.
Adam Rubin is the New York Times best-selling author of half a dozen children’s stories, including Dragons Love Tacos, Secret Pizza Party, Big Bad Bubble, and the Darn Squirrels Trilogy. He lives in New York City, went to school at Washington University in St. Louis and spent his “formative” years in Chicago. Adam’s interests include puzzles, camping, magic tricks, improv comedy, 3D printing, fine dining, and cartoons.
Kent Russell’s essays have appeared in the New Republic, Harper’s, GQ, n+1, the Believer, and Grantland.
David S. Shields is the Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina and chairman of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation. He is the author of several works on food studies, including Southern Provisions: On the Creation and Resuscitation of Regional Cuisine, a table-to-farm history on the formation of Lowcountry cuisine in light of the larger formation of Southern cooking during the “age of experiment” from 1820 to 1880. In Southern Provisions, Shields shows that Southern food is America’s quintessential cuisine. From creamy grits to simmering pots of beans and greens, we think we know how these classic foods should taste. Yet the Southern food we eat today tastes almost nothing like the dishes our ancestors enjoyed because the varied crops and livestock that originally defined this cuisine have largely disappeared. Now, a growing movement of chefs and farmers is seeking to change that by recovering the rich flavor and diversity of Southern food. At the center of that movement is historian David Shields, who has spent over a decade researching early American agricultural and cooking practices. Shields is also the editor and chief author of The Golden Seed: Writings on the History and Culture of Carolina Gold Rice, which explores the history of Carolina Gold rice, the legendary food crop produced in the coastal South.
David Simon is a Baltimore-based journalist, author, and television producer. A former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun, he is the creator of the celebrated HBO series The Wire, which depicts the social fissures in an American City. His other credits include the NBC drama Homicide and HBO’s The Corner and Generation Kill. His most recent project, Treme, is a drama about post-Katrina New Orleans, and his books include Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
James G. Thomas, Jr. is the director of the Oxford Conference for the Book and the Center’s associate director for publications. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy and a master’s degree in Southern Studies, both from the University of Mississippi. In 2003 he began work as managing editor of the 24-volume New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Before joining the Center staff, Thomas worked as an editor for publications in New York and Oxford, Mississippi.
Sheila Turnage is from eastern North Carolina, just like Miss Moses LoBeau, the protagonist from Three Times Lucky. Turnage’s first novel for children, Three Times Lucky, is a Newbery Honor winner, a New York Times bestseller, an E. B. White Read-Aloud Honor Book, and an Edgar Award finalist. The book has been nominated for six state awards and has been licensed in five countries. Her follow up book, New York Times best-selling The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing has received five starred reviews, is a SIBA Okra Winter 14 pick and a Junior Library Guild selection. Sheila is also the author of two nonfiction adult titles: Haunted Inns of the Southeast and Compass American Guides: North Carolina, as well as one picture book, Trout the Magnificent, illustrated by Janet Stevens. Her next children’s book, The Odds of Getting Even (a Mo & Dale mystery) will be available in October 2015.
David Vann’s previous books—A Mile Down, Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, Last Day On Earth, Dirt, and Goat Mountain—have been published in twenty languages and have won enormous critical acclaim. A former Guggenheim fellow, Wallace Stegner fellow, John L’Heureux fellow, and National Endowment for the Arts fellow, he has taught at Stanford, Cornell, Florida State University, University of Southern Florida, holds degrees from Stanford and Cornell, and is currently a professor at the University of Warwick in England and an honorary professor at the University of Franche-Comté in France.
Kyle Veazey is the sports enterprise reporter at the Commercial Appeal in Memphis. He reports features, investigative stories, sports business news and projects across a variety of subject areas, such as the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, the University of Memphis, the Big East Conference, Southeastern Conference sports, and Memphis’s professional golf and tennis tournaments. His November 2011 project on the state and future of the Memphis football program was named one of the top-ten sports projects in the nation by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE). Before joining the Commercial Appeal, he spent nearly five years covering college beats at the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi. He lived in Starkville, Mississippi, and covered Mississippi State from 2006 to 2010. He then lived in Oxford and covered Ole Miss from 2010 to 2011. His first job was covering University of Alabama sports at the Decatur (Alabama) Daily (2005–06). He has won top-ten awards from the annual APSE contest four times and was named the Clarion-Ledger’s newsroom employee of the year in 2008. A 2004 journalism graduate of the University of Mississippi and a native of Henry County, Tennessee, he and his wife live with their dachshund in downtown Memphis.
Chelsea Wagenaar is the author of Mercy Spurs the Bone, the 2013 winner of the Philip Levine Prize. She is a doctoral fellow in English literature with a concentration in creative writing at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Wagenaar received her BA from the University of Virginia. Her poems have appeared or been accepted recently in the Southeast Review, Plume, the Journal, and Mid-American Review. She lives in Denton, Texas, with her husband, fellow poet Mark Wagenaar.
Jerry Ward is a much-respected poet, scholar, and professor. He was a founding member of the Jackson (Mississippi) Writers Workshop, and in 1990 he published Redefining American Literary History, which cemented his reputation as a first-rate literary critic, archivist, and educator. In 1992 he published Black Southern Voices, which worked to widen the notions of black Southern writing. In 1993 Ward wrote the introduction to Richard Wright’s Black Boy, and in 1997 his released the seminal Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African American Poetry, which continues to be lauded as an essential text in the study of African American literature. Ward spent 32 years (1970–2002) as the Lawrence Durgin Professor of Literature at Tougaloo College, and in 2003 he became distinguished professor of English and African American world studies at Dillard University in New Orleans.
Caroline Randall Williams, an award-winning poet and Harvard graduate, is currently pursing her MFA at the University of Mississippi. She spent two years teaching public school in the Mississippi Delta as a corps member with Teach for America, during which time she coauthored The Diary of B. B. Bright, Possible Princess with her mother, Alice Randall. Her first poetry collection, Lucy Negro, Redux, comes out in April 2015.
Joel Williamson, Lineberger Professor Emeritus of the Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of a number of landmark works on Southern culture, including William Faulkner and Southern History (OUP, 1993) and The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in the American South since Emancipation (OUP, 1984), which won the Francis Parkman Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and the Ralph Emerson Award. Both books were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.
Curtis Wilkie was a reporter for the Clarksdale Press Register in his home state of Mississippi during the 1960s and then served as a national and foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe for 26 years. He is coauthor, with Jim McDougal, of Arkansas Mischief: The Birth of a National Scandal and author of Dixie: A Personal Odyssey through Events that Shaped the Modern South, The Fall of the House of Zeus: The Rise and Ruin of America’s Most Powerful Trial Lawyer, and, most recently, Assassins, Eccentrics, Politicians, and Other Persons of Interest: Fifty Pieces from the Road. Wilkie holds the Kelly Gene Cook Chair of Journalism at the University of Mississippi. In 2005 he received a special award for excellence in nonfiction from the Fellowship of Southern Writers.