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Brenda Wineapple

Brenda Wineapple is author of a pair of innovative books that each explores the impact of an otherwise-forgotten figure on the life and work of a great American writer. Sister Brother Gertrude and Leo Stein is a dual biography that reveals the relationship of two of the 20th century’s most unusual and influential figures—who collaborated in one of the great art and literary adventures of the century. White Heat explores the friendship of Emily Dickinson and the abolitionist activist and writer Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who provided Dickinson with an audience in life and, after her death, brought her stunning poetry to the world. Selected one of the best nonfiction books of 2008 by such magazines as the Economist, England’s Times Literary Supplement (TLS), and the Christian Science Monitor, White Heat was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, was a New York Times Notable Book, and won the Washington Arts Club national award for arts writing. “A tour de force,” said the Washington Post.

Wineapple has also written biographies of Nathaniel Hawthorne, winner of the Ambassador Award for best biography of 2003, and of Janet Flanner, who wrote under the pseudonym Genêt as Paris correspondent for the New Yorker for 50 years. “I hated to finish it,” said May Sarton of Wineapple’s book. “How Brenda Wineapple understood Genêt and her times is almost uncanny,” said Kay Boyle.

Wineapple’s awards and honors include a 2009 Pushcart Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. Her new book, Ecstatic Nation: To Save the Union, America 1848-1877, a narrative history about America during the period when the country faced the crime of slavery and redefined the meaning of nation, will be published next summer. She is also completing a book on biography, to be published by Knopf, about why biography matters and why it is, as Lytton Strachey said, “the most delicate and humane of all the branches of the art of writing.”

Online Resources

NEA interview re: Dickinson and ‘White Heat’
‘Voices of a Nation’: on writers in 19th-c. America
‘White Heat’ reviewed in NYT
On Sybille Bedford for the Paris Review

Selected Bibliography

Nineteenth Century American Writers on Writing (2010)
White Heat (2008)
Hawthorne: A Life (2003)
Sister Brother Gertrude & Leo Stein (1996)
Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner (1989)