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Feb. 16: Writer and Poet Eula Biss 95F

On Immunity: An Inoculation represents a hybrid genre of award-winning author Eula Biss’s own making — personal essay/cultural criticism/journalism.

On Immunity

Award-winning writer Eula Biss read from her new book, On Immunity: An Inoculation, on Monday, Feb. 16.

A question-and-answer session and book signing followed the reading. Biss 95F is a graduate of Hampshire College.

Recently nominated for the 2014 National Book Critics Circle award in criticism and named one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times and other major publications, On Immunity: An Inoculation investigates recent controversies about vaccination and is garnering reviews that compare Biss to Joan Didion and Susan Sontag.

Exhaustively researched, the book casts a wide net, drawing from cultural studies, history, public health, medicine, science, politics, mythology, literature, and Biss’s own personal experiences, to explore the often-polarizing subject of inoculation.

On Immunity: An Inoculation represents a hybrid genre of Biss’s own making — personal essay/cultural criticism/journalism — one that, for her, must necessarily reflect her personal investment in the issue at hand.

In a recent interview, she explains, “There is cultural critique happening in this book but it is emerging out of self-scrutiny. I'm not a journalist looking at it from the outside, but an essayist looking from the inside. I had something at stake.” Indeed, she is, in the words of her editor, Jeff Shotts, at Gray Wolf Press, “a citizen thinker.”

Biss's second book, Notes from No Man's Land, which explores race relations in the U.S., won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism in 2009. Her essays have appeared in Harper’s, The Believer, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and The Best Creative Nonfiction.

Her first book, The Balloonists, a collection of prose poems about marriage and divorce that was largely based on her Hampshire College Division III thesis, was published in 2002 soon after she graduated.

A Guggenheim recipient, Biss has received fellowships from the Howard Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and she won the 21st Century Award from the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

With an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa, Biss is currently a professor at Northwestern University.  

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