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.

Reviews of a/b 27.1 (African American Life Writing, ed. Eric D. Lamore)

We are delighted to feature two recent reviews of our special issue on African American life writing. Congratulations, Eric D. Lamore and all of the issue’s contributors.





Read the review of 27.1 in Miscelanea  here

Read the review of 27.1 in American Studies in Scandanavia here