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We're pleased to welcome Jenn Shapland in support of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers. She'll be in conversation with Melissa Febos.
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About the book:
How do you tell the real story of someone misremembered--an icon and idol--alongside your own? Jenn Shapland's celebrated debut is both question and answer: an immersive, surprising exploration of one of America's most beloved writers, alongside a genre-defying examination of identity, queerness, memory, obsession, and love.
Shapland is a graduate student when she first uncovers letters written to Carson McCullers by a woman named Annemarie. Though Shapland recognizes herself in the letters, which are intimate and unabashed in their feelings, she does not see McCullers as history has portrayed her. Her curiosity gives way to fixation, not just with this newly discovered side of McCullers's life, but with how we tell queer love stories. Why, Shapland asks, are the stories of women paved over by others' narratives? What happens when constant revision is required of queer women trying to navigate and self-actualize in straight spaces? And what might the tracing of McCullers's life--her history, her secrets, her legacy--reveal to Shapland about herself?
In smart, illuminating prose, Shapland interweaves her own story with McCullers's to create a vital new portrait of one of our nation's greatest literary treasures, and shows us how the writers we love and the stories we tell about ourselves make us who we are.
Jenn Shapland is a writer living in New Mexico. She won the 2019 Rabkin Foundation Award for art journalism, her essay “Finders, Keepers” won a 2017 Pushcart Prize, and she has a PhD in English from the University of Texas at Austin. My Autobiography of Carson McCullers was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in Nonfiction, and was longlisted for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.
Melissa Febos is the author of the memoirs Whip Smart and Abandon Me. Her essays have appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, Lenny Letter, and elsewhere. Portions from Abandon Me have won prizes from Prairie Schooner, StoryQuarterly, and twice earned notice in the 2015 Best American Essays anthology. The recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Ragdale, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Febos serves on the directorial board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and is an assistant professor of creative writing at Monmouth University. She lives in Brooklyn.