2018 Board Candidates

Online voting for the BIO Board of Directors for the 2018-2020 term opens March 15. You will receive an email with a link to the voting site, where you can cast your ballot for up to eight candidates. The voting period closes on May 1, and results will be announced on May 5.

Here are the biographies of the candidates:

* Cathy Curtis, Candidate for President
In my biographies, I look backward (to the post-war era), but as a candidate for BIO President, I am looking forward. With a growing membership that is increasingly diverse, a need to address our “international” aspect more concretely, and market forces that favor only the most likely-to-be-popular books, we must figure out how to adapt our outlook and methods to best meet these challenges. We will have plenty to deal with during the next two years, and I hope to be able to help lead us boldly, but wisely, into the future. However, I do want to state that, in this endangered climate for serious books, I want BIO to continue to focus its efforts solely on the written word, rather than trying to branch out to documentaries or other non-book forms.

You may know me from my “Biographer’s Diary” columns in the BIO newsletter, The Biographer’s Craft. I joined BIO in 2011, became a member of the Board of Trustees in 2013, was elected Vice President in 2015, and returned to the Board last year. I have chaired the Conference Program Committee and the BIO Award Committee, and have served on the Rowley Prize, Plutarch Nomination, and Coaching committees—on the latter, a special delight, I intend to continue my tenure. I have also moderated and served on several panels at our conferences. I have published two biographies of women artists with Oxford University Press, with a third one forthcoming in 2019.

* Deirdre David, Candidate for Vice President
Deirdre David has been an active member of the Board for six years, during the last two serving as vice-president. Her multiple assignments have included work on the program committee, the Plutarch committee, the site committee (as chair), organizing a collaborative conference between BIO and the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, and overseeing submissions for the Caro Travel Fellowship. As a literary scholar, she published three books dealing with Victorian literature and society and edited two volumes covering the Victorian novel. She has also published three biographies dealing with women’s lives: on Fanny Kemble, Olivia Manning, and Pamela Hansford Johnson. She is delighted at the prospect of serving another term as vice-president, under the leadership of Cathy Curtis , and to contributing to the further growth of BIO.

Kai Bird
Kai Bird is the Executive Director and Distinguished Lecturer of CUNY Graduate Center’s Leon Levy Center for Biography. With co-author Martin J. Sherwin he won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has also written biographies of John J. McCloy and McGeorge Bundy and a memoir, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis. His most recent book is The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. He is currently working on a biography of President Jimmy Carter. He hopes to create new synergies between BIO and the Leon Levy Center for Biography.

Carla Kaplan
Carla Kaplan is the Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University and the Founding Director of its Humanities Center. She is the author of the epistolary biographyZora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters (Doubleday), and the group biography Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance(Harper); both prize-winning,New York TimesNotable Books. Her biography of Jessica Mitford is forthcoming (Harper). A long-time BIO member, Chair of the Editorial Board ofSigns, and active on various boards, she hopes to help BIO strengthen its organizational structure and extend its reach by making its resources available to the widest and most diverse spectrum of its members, including those creating new biographical forms.

* Dean King
Dean King is the author of nine non-fiction books. His national bestseller Skeletons on the Zahara was translated into ten languages, made into a History Channel doc, and optioned by Spielberg. The WSJ calls his most recent book, The Feud, “popular history the way it ought to be written.” His biography Patrick O’Brian: A Life Revealed was serialized in the Daily Telegraph, which named it a book of the year. Dean is the chief story-teller in two History Channel docs and is a producer of its series Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning. His writing has appeared in Outside, Garden & Gun, Granta, and the New York Times. A fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, he is a founder and advisory board member of James River Writers and currently serves as the secretary of the board of BIO. As a return BIO board member, he would like to continue advancing BIO’s mission to raise the art and profile of biography.

Lucy Knight
Lucy Knight is the author of two biographies: Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (2005) and Jane Addams: Spirit in Action (2010). She is currently writing a biography of the Grimké sisters, under contract with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Knight has served on three nonprofit boards, and chaired two of them. In her work as a consultant, she has worked with numerous nonprofit boards on board development. A member of BIO since its founding, she would bring her devotion to BIO as well as her previous board experiences to the BIO board, if she is elected to serve.

Hampton Sides
Narrative historian Hampton Sides is the New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers, Blood and Thunder, Hellhound On His Trail, In the Kingdom of Ice, and most recently, On Desperate Ground. A native of Memphis, he lives in Santa Fe, where he is editor-at-large at Outside magazine. He frequently writes for Smithsonian, National Geographic, and other publications and teaches narrative non-fiction at Colorado College. As a new member of the BIO board, Hampton hopes to develop more cross-pollinations with the genres of narrative history and long-form narrative journalism, bringing these kindred disciplines into the BIO fold.

Justin Spring
Justin Spring is the author of many books, monographs, and museum catalogues, among them three biographies: Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art (Yale University Press, 1999);  Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward (FSG, 2011) and the group biography The Gourmands’ Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy (FSG, 2017). Secret Historian was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award. Spring has received numerous prizes, fellowships and awards for his writing and curating on American Art and culture, including an International Asssociation of Art Critics (AICA) award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Leon Levy Fellowship.

We are living through a period in American culture in which substantial works of critical biography are greatly undervalued. I see my work with BIO board as fostering an awareness of the importance of such innovative, responsibly researched, and culturally engaged biographies.

Billy Tooma
Billy Tooma is the award-nominated filmmaker of the documentaries Clarence Chamberlin: Fly First & Fight Afterward (2011), Poetry of Witness (2015), and The Black Eagle of Harlem (2017). He holds a BA and MA in literature and writing from The William Paterson University of New Jersey and just recently earned his doctorate in Literary Studies from Drew University. Tooma, who has been teaching for almost a decade and a half, is a tenured faculty member at Essex County College, where he has taught honors-level biography-themed courses for the past two fall semesters. He holds the position of Deputy Director within the Community College Humanities Association and serves as a board trustee in the New Jersey College English Association. His current project isGeorge Washington: The Farewell Address, scheduled to be released this year.

Tooma views biography as the ultimate interdisciplinary genre. His push for biography in the classroom has ranged from his undergraduate honors courses to the graduate-level course he is scheduled to teach this fall at Drew University. “I want biography, in all the forms it takes, to be viewed by the whole of academia as a serious form of scholarship worth including on syllabi and worth having courses built around.”