Nell Irvin Painter

Nell Irvin Painter, a leading historian of the United States, is the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, Princeton University. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Nell Painter has served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the Southern Historical Association. A prolific and award-winning scholar, her most recent books are The History of White PeopleCreating Black Americans, and Southern History Across the Color Line. As a public intellectual, Professor Painter is frequently called upon for lectures and interviews on television and film. In January 2008 she appeared live for a three-hour “In Depth” program on C-SPAN Book TV. To see the program on the internet, go to the web page for “In Depth.”She has also appeared on Bill Moyers’s “Progressive America.” New Jersey Network’s “State of the Arts” documented her work as both a scholar and an art student.


Joan Acocella

Joan Acocella has written for The New Yorker, mostly on books and dance, since 1992, and became the magazine’s dance critic in 1998. She is the author of “Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism”; and “Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder.” Her most recent book is “Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints,” a collection of essays. She is now working on a biography of Mikhail Baryshnikov. She has written on dance, literature, and other arts for The New York Review of Books, the Times Book ReviewArt in America, and the Times Literary Supplement. She has been a Guggenheim fellow and a fellow of the American Academy in Berlin, and has received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Book Critics Circle, the Congress on Research in Dance, and the American Psychoanalytic Association.


Tracy K Smith

 is an American poet and educator. She has published three collections of poetry, winning the Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 volume Life on Mars. About this collection, Joel Brouwer wrote in 2011: "Smith shows herself to be a poet of extraordinary range and ambition...As all the best poetry does, Life on Mars first sends us out into the magnificent chill of the imagination and then returns us to ourselves, both changed and consoled." In September 2017, she began her term as United States Poet Laureate.


Margo Jefferson

is a former theatre critic at The New York Times and a professor at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts. Author of the book Negroland. She has taught at the Columbia University School of the Arts, where she is now Professor of Professional Practice in Writing. She joined the Times in 1993, initially as a book reviewer, then went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for CriticismPublishers Weekly called her 2006 book, On Michael Jackson, a "slim, smart volume of cultural analysis." Jefferson appeared in Ken Burns's Jazz as jazz is a subject that interests her. She is also working on two books concerning race and culture in America.


Claudia Rankine

is a poet, essayist, playwright and the editor of several anthologies. She is the author of five volumes of poetry, two plays and various essays. Her most recent work, the book-length poem, Citizen: An American Lyric, won the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Award, the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry (the first book in the award’s history to be nominated in both poetry and criticism), the 2015 Forward Prizefor Best Collection, the 2015 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, and many others. Citizen holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category.  She is a 2016 United States Artist Zell Fellow and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. Rankine has recently held a position at Pomona College. She is presently the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.


Young Jean Lee

is a Korean-American playwright, director, and filmmaker. She is the Artistic Director of Young Jean Lee's Theater Company, a not-for-profit theater company dedicated to producing her work. She has written and directed ten shows for Young Jean Lee's Theater Company and toured her work to over thirty cities around the world. Lee was called "the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation" by Charles Isherwood in The New York Times and "one of the best experimental playwrights in America" by David Cote in Time Out New York.


Rebecca Solnit

 is an American writer. She has written on a variety of subjects, including the environment, politics, place, and art. Solnit is a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine, where bi-monthly she writes the magazine's "Easy Chair" essay. Solnit is the author of seventeen books as well as essays in numerous museum catalogs and anthologies. Solnit has received two NEA fellowships for Literature, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Creative Capital Award, a Lannan literary fellowship, and a 2004 Wired Rave Award for writing on the effects of technology on the arts and humanities. In 2010 Utne Reader magazine named Solnit as one of the "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World". Her The Faraway Nearby(2013) was nominated for a National Book Award, and shortlisted for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award.


Erika L. Sanchez

 is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. A poet, novelist, and essayist living in Chicago, her debut poetry collection, Lessons on Expulsion, is forthcoming from Graywolf in July 2017, and her debut young adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, scheduled for fall 2017. She was recently named a 2017-2019 Princeton Arts Fellow.

Jenna Wortham

is a technology reporter and staff writer for The New York Times MagazineShe co-hosts The New York Times podcast Still Processing. In addition to praise for her technology reporting, Wortham has been recognized for her commentary on a range of cultural topics. At The Village Voice, Mallika Rao described Wortham as "skirt[ing] the edges of tech, culture, and identity in her writing — carving out her own corner of the internet wherein she is a rightful star. (A shimmering Lemonade essay prompted a thank-you note from the Queen herself, signed "Love, Beyoncé" and 'grammed by Wortham.)" Other topics in Wortham's writing have included queer identity and race and gender on television. At Rookie, Diamond Sharp praised Wortham's "incisive writing, and the generous way she moves within the world. She is, with no hyperbole, one of the most important minds working in media."

Diane Cook

 is the author of the story collection Man V. Nature, and was formerly a producer for the radio show, This American LifeMan V. Nature was a finalist for the Believer Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, received Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway award, and was recently longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. Her stories have appeared in Harper’sTin HouseGranta, and elsewhere and anthologized in Best American Short Stories.