2019 Oxford Conference for the Book Authors
We’ve begun listing speakers for the 2019 conference! Check back often for updates.
To see the times speakers will present, please visit the schedule page.
Jason Berry is an independent writer, documentary film producer, and journalist living in New Orleans. City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Year 300 is his tenth book and the basis for a companion film documentary he is producing, slated for release in 2019. He is also the author of Last of the Red Hot Poppas, a comic novel about Louisiana politics, and Up from the Cradle of Jazz, a history of New Orleans music. Berry is a longtime contributor to the Daily Beast and the National Catholic Reporter, among other outlets.
David W. Blight has written the definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era. In Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historians have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. Blight tells the fascinating story of Douglass’s two marriages and his complex extended family. Douglass was not only an astonishing man of words, but a thinker steeped in Biblical story and theology. There has not been a major biography of Douglass in a quarter century. David Blight’s Frederick Douglass affords this important American the distinguished biography he deserves.
Blight is professor of American history at Yale University, joining that faculty in January 2003. He previously taught at Amherst College for thirteen years. As of June 2004, he is director, succeeding David Brion Davis, of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. In 2012, Blight was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and delivered an induction address, “The Pleasure and Pain of History.”
Blight’s books include American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era; A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including their Narratives of Emancipation; Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory; Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War; and Frederick Douglass’s Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee.
William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. His debut novel, Gravesend, was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France and shortlisted for the New Blood Dagger in the UK. A new edition of Gravesend and Boyle’s follow-ups The Lonely Witness and A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself are also available from Pegasus Crime. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.
Karida L. Brown is assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia is her first book.
Michael Carroll’s debut story collection, Little Reef, won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction and the Publishing Triangle Award. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ontario Review, Boulevard, the Yale Review, the Harvard Review, the Southwest Review, Open City, and The New Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, he is married to writer Edmund White and lives in New York City.
Elizabeth Catte is the author of the What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia, a critical look Hillbilly Elegy-fication of politics that uses radical history to challenge perceptions of the region as a hub of white, working-class woe. She also recently published, as coeditor, 55 Strong: Inside the West Virginia Teachers’ Strike. Catte’s work has been featured in or on many outlets, including All Things Considered, the Guardian, the Nation, the New Yorker, Bookforum, On the Media, Guernica, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Review of Books.
Sharon M. Draper is a professional educator, as well as an accomplished writer of over thirty award-winning books for adolescents and teachers, including Copper Sun, winner the Coretta Scott King Award, the highly acclaimed Jericho and Hazelwood trilogies, and Out of my Mind. She was the National Teacher of the Year, has been honored at the White House six times, and was selected by the US State Department to be a literary ambassador to the children of Africa as well as China. In 2015 she was honored by the American Library Association as the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime literary achievement. Her newest novel is Blended.
Dennis Covington is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books. His book Salvation on Sand Mountain was a National Book Award finalist, and his articles have been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Lapham’s Quarterly, Vogue, and many other periodicals. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and earned a BA from the University of Virginia and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he studied under Raymond Carver. He currently teaches creative writing at Texas Tech University.
Author, professional speaker, decision strategist, and former professional poker player Annie Duke has leveraged her expertise in the science of smart decision making to excel at pursuits as varied as championship poker to public speaking. In her first book for general audiences, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, Duke reveals to readers the lessons she regularly shares with her corporate audiences, lessons that have been cultivated by combining her academic studies in cognitive psychology with real-life decision making experiences at the poker table.
For two decades, Duke was one of the top poker players in the world. In 2004, she bested a field of 234 players to win her first World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet. The same year, she triumphed in the $2 million winner-take-all, invitation-only WSOP Tournament of Champions. In 2010, she won the prestigious NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Prior to becoming a professional poker player, Duke was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship to study Cognitive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Duke now spends her time writing, coaching and speaking on a range of topics such as decision fitness, emotional control, productive decision groups, and embracing uncertainty. She is a regularly sought-after public speaker, addressing thousands in keynote remarks at conferences for organizations ranging from the Investment Management Consultants Association to the Big Ten Conference. She has been brought in to speak to the executive teams or sales forces of organizations like Marriott, Gaylord Resorts, and Ultimate Software, among others. She is a sought-after speaker in the financial sector, with clients such as Susqehanna International Group and CitiBank. Duke regularly shares her observations on decision making and critical thinking skills on her blog, Annie’s Analysis, and has shared her poker knowledge through a series of best-selling poker instruction and theory books, including Decide to Play Great Poker and The Middle Zone: Mastering the Most Difficult Hands in Hold ’em Poker (both co-authored with John Vorhaus). In 2015, she became a member of the NationSwell Council. In 2016 she began serving on the board of directors of The Franklin Institute, one of America’s oldest and greatest science museums.
Duke currently resides in the Philadelphia area.
Ralph Eubanks is the author of The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South and Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey into Mississippi’s Dark Past, which Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley named as one of the best nonfiction books of the year. He has contributed articles to the Washington Post “Outlook” and “Style” sections, the Wall Street Journal, WIRED, the New Yorker, and National Public Radio. He is a recipient of a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and has been a fellow at the New America Foundation. He is the former editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia and served as director of publishing at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. from 1995 to 2013.
Brain Foster I grew up in Shannon, Mississippi, a town with one flashing light, a grocery store, and tradition as deep as the red in the dirt roads—roads that led to houses and gravesites, histories and openness. I grew up a lover of music and words. My soundtrack was late-90s era Memphis rap, from Playa Fly to Three Six Mafia to La Chat. My writing was mostly poems and short stories, strange compositions about coming of age in Mississippi. Today, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they have stayed the same. I’m still growing up, though I suppose now I’m a little bit further along. I still write about being black in the South. And, I still bump old Memphis rap—yes, I’m going to do this—like it’s 1999. I earned a BA in African American studies from the University of Mississippi and an MA a PhD in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My research takes a critical, interdisciplinary, and multi-method approach to the study of race, culture, and inequality, with particular attention to post-soul (i.e. post-1970s) black cultures in the rural American South. In general, my work addresses two questions: how have rural southern communities changed in the fifty-plus years since the civil rights and Black Power movements, and what are the perspectives and experiences of black southerners living in these contexts? Geographically, much of my work is set in the Mississippi Delta.
Mark Hainds worked for two decades as the research coordinator for the Longleaf Alliance and as a research associate with Auburn University. He resigned these dual positions in November 2014 to walk the 1,000-mile Texas-Mexico border. Hainds’s walk began at International Boundary Marker 1 in El Paso and ended over a thousand miles later at Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, where the Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico. From right-wing ranchers to cowboy poets to human-rights activists to fence/wall opponents, Hainds met a myriad of people along the way who were eager to discuss the balance between border security and immigration justice.
Hainds’s trek ultimately resulted in his book Border Walk and was the subject of a feature-length film, La Frontera, filmed and produced by Rex Jones of the University of Mississippi’s Southern Documentary Project. Hainds and Jones will screen the film and discuss the book, to be followed by a Q&A.
In his spare time Mark collects, eats, and sells wild fruits, berries, and herbs at the Palafox Farmers Market in Pensacola, Florida. He also owns and manages Sweetbill’s, a small company that produces specialty wood chunks/chips for grilling and smoking enthusiasts. He is a lifelong hunter, fisherman, and trapper.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, editor, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Coyote Songs, Zero Saints, and Gutmouth. He is the book reviews editor at Pank Magazine, the TV/film editor at Entropy Magazine, and a columnist for LitReactor and Clash Media. His nonfiction has appeared in places like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Los Angeles Times, El Nuevo Día, and other venues. The stuff that’s made up has been published in places like Red Fez, Flash Fiction Offensive, Drunk Monkeys, Bizarro Central, Paragraph Line, Divergent Magazine, Cease, Cows, and many horror, crime, surrealist, and bizarro anthologies. When not writing or reading, he has worked as a dog whisperer, a witty communications professor, and a ballerina assassin. He teaches at Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA program.
Rex Jones is a documentary filmmaker who joined the Southern Documentary Project in 2011. Rex is a native of Hickory, Mississippi, and an MFA graduate in science and natural history filmmaking from Montana State University. His films have been broadcast nationally on PBS, won awards from various organizations, and been chosen as official selections of film festivals nationwide. Rex is also the coauthor, with Lecile Harris, of Lecile: This Ain’t My First Rodeo, which won the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Excellence in Western Literature (Biography and Memoir).
Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Kiese Laymon, Ottilie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi, is the author of the novel Long Division and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. He is also the author of the memoir Heavy.
Dave Lucas was born and raised in Cleveland. He studied literature and poetry at John Carroll University (BA, 2002), the University of Virginia (MFA, 2004), and the University of Michigan (PhD, 2014). His first book of poems, Weather, received the 2012 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. Named by Rita Dove as one of thirteen “young poets to watch,” he has also received a Discovery/The Nation Prize and a Cleveland Arts Prize. In 2018 he was appointed the second Poet Laureate of the State of Ohio. A cofounder of Cleveland Book Week and Brews + Prose at Market Garden Brewery, he teaches at Case Western Reserve University.
Meredith McCarroll is the director of writing and rhetoric at Bowdoin College. She was born and raised in Western North Carolina and earned her PhD at the University of Tennessee. Her recent book, Unwhite: Appalachia, Race, and Film, demonstrates how typical characterizations of Appalachian people serve as foils to set off and define the “whiteness” of the non-Appalachian southerners. In this dynamic, Appalachian characters become the racial other. Analyzing the representation of the people of Appalachia in films such as Deliverance, Cold Mountain, Medium Cool, Norma Rae, Cape Fear, The Killing Season, and Winter’s Bone through the critical lens of race and specifically whiteness, McCarroll offers a reshaping of the understanding of the relationship between racial and regional identities.
Travis McDade is curator of law rare books at the University of Illinois College of Law and the country’s foremost expert on crimes against rare books, maps, documents, and other printed cultural heritage resources. He is the author of four books on the subject. The first, The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman, highlighted the federal judicial recognition of books as cultural objects whose value cannot be adequately captured by market price. His second book is Thieves of Book Row: New York’s Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Ended it. Articles about the book appeared in publications including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Times Literary Supplement. His third book is Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the Looting of the Kenyon College Library, and his most recent book is Torn from Their Bindings: A Story of Art, Science, and the Pillaging of American University Libraries.
McDade’s articles have been published in academic journals in disciplines ranging from law to history to rare books. Still, most of his articles, like his books, are aimed at a more general audience. An article he wrote for the Oxford University Press blog called “The Difficulty of Insider Book Theft” was featured on the Atlantic’s The Week’s Best Pop Culture Writing and the New Yorker’s Page-Turner. He lectures extensively on the subject of rare book crime, and is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America.
Scott Moyers is vice president and publisher of the Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his family.
Elle Nash is the author of Animals Eat Each Other. She is a founding editor of Witch Craft Magazine and a fiction editor at Hobart Pulp. Her work has been featured in Volume 1 Brooklyn, The Fanzine, Cosmopolitan, Elle, The Offing, Enclave, and other places. She lives in the Ozarks with her husband, daughter, and their dog. Occasionally she reads tarot in exchange for money.
Salvatore Scibona’s first novel, The End, was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Young Lions Fiction Award. His work has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, and a Whiting Award; and the New Yorker named him one of its “20 Under 40” fiction writers to watch. He directs the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
Leanne Shapton is an artist and author of several books, including Swimming Studies (winner of the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography), Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, and a coauthor of the New York Times-bestselling Women in Clothes. She is also the cofounder of J&L Books, a nonprofit publisher of art and photography books. She lives in New York City.
Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN: The Magazine. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife, Sonia, and their daughter, Wallace. Prior to joining ESPN in 2006, he worked as a newspaper reporter in Kansas City and New Orleans. He is a Montana landowner, an Ole Miss Rebels football fan, and a devoted son of his birthplace, the Mississippi Delta, because of the gothic landscape and its hard, beautiful music. He loves wheated bourbons, his family’s annual Thanksgiving, and ordering a two-piece dark spicy from a certain holy fast food chicken chain. The recipient of numerous awards for journalism, Thompson is most proud of the Ernie Pyle Award and the Dan Jenkins Medal. He also knows that you know that he wrote this himself.
Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Willy Vlautin started playing guitar and writing songs as a teenager and quickly became immersed in music. It was a Paul Kelly song, based on Raymond Carver’s Too Much Water So Close to Home, that inspired him to start writing stories. Vlautin has published five novels, including The Motel Life, Northline, Lean on Pete, and The Free, and Don’t Skip out on Me.
Vlautin founded the band Richmond Fontaine in 1994. The band produced eleven studio albums, plus a handful of live recordings and EPs. Driven by Vlautin’s dark, storylike songwriting, the band, now retired, achieved critical acclaim at home and across the UK and Europe. In 2014 Vlautin formed the Delines with singer Amy Boone (Damnations) and released their first album, Colfax.
Vlautin currently resides in Scappoose, Oregon.
Ken Wells covered car wrecks and gator sightings for his hometown weekly before leaving the bayous for a journalism career that included twenty-four years on the Wall Street Journal. He’s written five novels of the Cajun bayous and lives in Chicago. His latest book is Gumbo Life: Tales from the Roux Bayou.
David Wharton is the Center for the Study of Southern Culture’s director for documentary studies and an assistant professor of Southern Studies. His first book, The Soul of a Small Texas Town: Photographs, Memories, and History from McDade, was published in 2000, and he published his second book of photographs, Small Town South, in 2013. Wharton’s most recent book is The Power of Belief: Spiritual Landscapes from the Rural South, published in 2016. His photographs record rural landscapes and townscapes from across the South.
Edmund White is the author of many novels, including A Boy’s Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, The Farewell Symphony, and, most recently, Our Young Man. His nonfiction includes City Boy, Inside a Pearl, and other memoirs, including, most recently, The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading; The Flâneur, about Paris; and literary biographies and essays. He was named the winner of the 2018 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. White lives in New York.
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 twenty-six 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 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. His latest book, with Thomas Oliphant, is The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five-Year Campaign.
Jessica Wilkerson has a joint appointment in history and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. She earned her MA in women’s history from Sarah Lawrence College and PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice is her first book. She has also written for 100 Days in Appalachia, Salon, Rewire News, and Longreads. In the spring 2017, she began a collaboration with her students on an oral history project documenting LGTBQ life and history in Mississippi. Her research interests include women’s and gender history, working-class history, US social movements, Appalachian history, and oral history.
Wilkerson’s article “The Company Owns the Mine but They Don’t Own Us: Feminist Critiques of Capitalism in the Coalfields of Kentucky,” was published in April 2016 in Gender & History and received the A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize for the best article in women’s history from the Southern Association for Women Historians. She has also published in Southern Cultures and Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society, and she contributed to North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times—Volume 2 (University of Georgia Press). She has contributed to oral history projects at the Southern Oral History Program, including the “Long Women’s Movement in the American South.”
Wilkerson teaches classes in southern history, women’s history, contemporary US history, and oral history.
David Zurick earned his PhD in geography from the University of Hawaii and the East-West Center, Honolulu. His books and photography have won numerous awards, including the National Outdoor Book Award and Kentucky Arts Council Al Smith Visual Artist Fellowship Award (twice). In 2009 he received the Mount Everest Award for his lifetime achievement in Himalaya studies. He is a fellow of the Explorers Club. During the Twenty-Sixth Oxford Conference for the Book, photographer-filmmaker-geographer David Zurick will present an illustrated talk based on his new book A Fantastic State of Ruin: The Painted Towns of Rajasthan. In 2006 Zurick produced the acclaimed Illustrated Atlas of the Himalaya. In 2011 his ten-year photographic study of the American South was published in the book Southern Crossings: Where Geography and Photography Meet. And in 2014 he completed a ten-year series of photographs about sacred places in Tibet and the Himalaya, which are published in his book Land of Pure Vision. For several years he lived in Polynesia, where he made images for his project Oceanic Coordinates: Rising Seas, Losing Paradise. In 2014 he began A Fantastic State of Ruin, a series of color photographs in India, which was published in 2018. His documentary film Crossing Sacred Ground was completed in 2017 and was screened in multiple film festivals.