Books released prior to 2017

Biofiction, defined as literature that names its protagonist after an actual historical figure, first became popular in the 1930s, but over the last forty years it has become a dominant literary form. Prominent writers such as J.M. Coetzee, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks, Julia Alvarez, Peter Carey, Hilary Mantel, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, Colum McCann, and MichLackey coverael Cunningham have authored spectacular biographical novels which have won some of the world’s most prestigious awards for fiction. However, in spite of the prominence of these authors, works, and awards, there has been considerable confusion about the nature of biofiction. This collection of process pieces and academic essays from authors and scholars of biofiction defines the nature of the aesthetic form, clarifies why it has come into being, specifies what it is uniquely capable of signifying, illustrates how it pictures the historical and critiques the political, and suggests potential directions for future studies. This book builds upon Lackey’s essay cluster on biofictions in a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 31.1.

Chansky coverAuto/Biography across the Americas: Transnational Themes in Life Writing. Ed. Ricia Anne Chansky. Routledge, 2016.

Auto/biographical narratives of the Americas are marked by the underlying themes of movement and belonging. This collection proposes that the impact of the historic or contemporary movement of peoples to, in, and from the Americas―whether chosen or forced―motivates the ways in which identities are constructed in this contested space. Such movement results in a cyclical quest to belong, and to understand belonging, that reverberates through narratives of the Americas. The volume brings together essays written from diverse national, cultural, linguistic, and disciplinary perspectives to trace these transnational motifs in life writing across the Americas. This book grows from the 2013 symposium, “Auto/Biography across the Americas: Reading beyond Geographic and Cultural Divides,” convened by the editors of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Auto/Biography in the Americas: Relational Lives. Ed. Ricia A. Chansky. Routledge, 2016.

Auto/Biography in the Americas: Relational Lives brings together scholars from disparate geographic regions, cultural perspectives, linguistic frameworks, and disciplinary backgrounds to explore what connects narrated lives in the Americas. By interweaving scholarship on Afro-diasporic subjectivities, gendered narratives, lives in translation, celebrity auto/biographies, and pedagogical approaches to teaching auto/biographical narratives, this volume argues that connections between the contrasting locations of the Americas may be found in a shared history of diasporic movement that causes a heightened awareness of the need to belong and to thereby define the self in relation to others. This book grows from the special issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, “Auto/Biography across the Americas” (30.1).

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 10.31.33 PMInvented Lives, Imagined Communities: The Biopic and American National Identity. Ed. William H. Epstein, R. Barton Palmer. SUNY, 2016.

How Hollywood biopics both showcase and modify various notions of what it means to be an American. Biopics—biographical films that focus on the lives of famous and notorious figures from our national history—have long been one of Hollywood’s most popular and important genres, offering viewers various understandings of American national identity. Invented Lives, Imagined Communities offers the first full-length examination of US biopics, focusing on key releases in American cinema while treating recent developments in three fields: cinema studies, particularly the history of Hollywood; national identity studies dealing with the American experience; and scholarship devoted to modernity and postmodernity. This book grows from the special issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, “Biopics and American National Identity,” 26.1 (2011).

In Memoriam: Barbara Harlow

We are sad at the news that Barbara Harlow has died. A link to The New York Times obituary appears below; a more extensive tribute will appear in a future issue of Biography.

Barbara was a major influence for many in our field. To quote Julia Watson, “Resistance Literature (1987) was one of the earliest and most important interventions in autobiographical studies, as it brought to attention testimonies and manifestos of people struggling under oppressive regimes around the world. She did similar work on behalf of incarcerated women in Barred, her book on women’s prison writings. And her numerous co-edited collections on the work of colonial and postcolonial writers around the world engaged in political struggle is an archive of work awaiting further study.”

Barbara was also a mentor, friend, co-worker, and conscience for many at the Center for Biographical Research in Honolulu. She published on a number of occasions in Biography, was a participant in the symposium that led to the Baleful Postcoloniality special issue, and was one of the keynotes at the 2008 IABA conference here.  We will miss her warmth and her fire.

Craig Howes

List Manager, IABA-L

In Memoriam: Georgia Johnson, 1959-2017

In Memoriam: Georgia Johnston, 1959 – 2017

In her 2007 book, The Formation of 20th-Century Queer Autobiography: Reading Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, Hilda Doolittle, and Gertrude Stein, Georgia Johnston undermines persistent gender binaries to explore a Modernist lesbian aesthetic of life writing, a scholarly act that served and still serves to open doors to innovative conversations on gender and sexuality. Georgia reads “autobiography as a critical tool—as a meta-tropic genre, as a genre that can critique assumptions about the formation of sexual memory, sexual consciousness, sexual roles, sexual subjectivity.” As we in the autobiography studies community know, the study of narrated lives actively changes lives and our perceptions of the lives of others. And, this transformative possibility is the real meat of Georgia’s scholarship. She describes her book as one “that reads early-twentieth-century lesbian autobiographies as they contest the generic conventions in order to rewrite early twentieth-century assumptions about human sexuality and sexual identity.” This work, however, demonstrates in a larger scope that autobiographical narratives encourage us to contest single stories that seek to press individuals into reductive singularities. Her scholarship stresses the need to read for multiplicity in lives and in life narratives. 2017 needs more Georgia Johnstons, that is, more scholars whose ideas transition from the pages of their books into the realities of our lived experiences. We’ll miss Georgia, but, hopefully, we’ll find ways to follow her lead.

Ricia Anne Chansky

For more information about Georgia, see the following tribute.

The Routledge Auto|Biography Studies Reader Released

ab readerWe are pleased to announce the release of The Routledge Auto|Biography Studies Reader, available here.

We are proud that Routledge has chosen the reader as a featured book. Read an interview with the editors here.

The Routledge Auto/Biography Studies Reader collects together key theoretical essays in the field, creating a solid base for any critical study of autobiography, biography, or life writing.

Beginning with a foreword by Sidonie Smith and a general introduction to the collection, the book is then divided into three sections—Foundations, Transformations, and Futures—each with its own introduction. Significant themes weave throughout the sections, including canonicity; genre, modality, and interdisciplinarity; reclamation of texts; disability and the contested body; trauma; agency, silence, and voicing; celebrity culture; digital lives; subjects in the margins; postcolonialism; posthumanism; and, ecocriticism. Attention has also been given to a variety of methodological approaches, such as archival research, genealogical study, DNA testing, autoethnography, testimonio, and oral history, among others.”

2014 IABA Support

The Autobiography Society sponsored a reading by Sharron Proulx-Turner, at the 2014 International AutoΙBiography Association conference in Banff, Alberta, CA, “AutoΙBiography in Transit.” Proulx-Turner, a poet and memoirist, read from her memoir, Where the Rivers Join, and from her many volumes of poetry, including: she is reading her blanket with her hands and she walks for days inside a thousand eyes: a two-spirit story. She contributed an essay to a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 30.2, “Ice Tsunami: A Process of Writing Where the Rivers Join.” This is a special issue, “Broken Dialogues,” which grows from the 2014 IABA Conference.


Ed. Ricia Chansky, Sharron Proulx-Turner, and Ed. Emily Hipchen at IABA in Banff, Alberta, CA in 2014.
Ed. Ricia Chansky, Sharron Proulx-Turner, and Ed. Emily Hipchen at IABA 2014.