Writers Series

2023-2024 Writers Series 2023-2024 Writers Series

Sweet Briar College has hosted a Writers Series for more than thirty years, welcoming distinguished authors from across the country — and throughout the world — to our campus. Students interact with these writers at readings, in small group discussions, and at informal dinners.

Among the writers who have visited the SBC campus through the years are Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners, including Maya Angelou, Salman Rushdie, Natasha Trethewey, Ha Jin, Derek Walcott, Alice Walker, Naomi Shihab Nye, Nuruddin Farah, Rebecca Skloot, Hanna al-Shaykh, Philip Levine, Donald Justice, and Yiyiun Li.

Sweet Briar College is pleased to welcome Chloé Cooper Jones to campus on March 27, 2023. Cooper Jones is the author of the memoir Easy Beauty which was selected as the Sweet Briar College Common Read for 2023-24.

Cooper Jones, a philosophy professor, was born with sacral agenesis, a rare congenital condition that affects her mobility. She is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and a feature writer published in leading newspapers and journals. In 2020, “Fearing for His Life,” her profile of Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the killing of Eric Garner, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in Feature Writing. Cooper Jones received the 2020 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant and the 2021 Howard Foundation Grant from Brown University. Both grants were in support of her 2022 memoir Easy Beauty which describes the author’s experiences—after unexpectedly becoming a mother—as she embarked on a journey across the globe to reclaim the spaces, both physical and emotional, that she’d been denied and denied herself.

Easy Beauty is a powerful, candid, moving account of the author’s journey through life in a body that is different, taking her from memories of childhood to discussions of the aesthetics of beauty, sexuality, body image, motherhood, meditations on how she is seen (or not seen), and on travels ranging from art galleries in Rome, to a Beyoncé concert in Milan, to sites of genocide in Cambodia, and more. Easy Beauty has received laudatory reviews: The New York Times named it a Notable Book of 2022; Vulture called it the “#1 Memoir of 2022;” and it made the Best Books of 2022 lists of the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, BuzzFeed, Publishers Weekly, BookList, and the New York Public Library.

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The annual Common Read provides the students, faculty, and staff of Sweet Briar with a shared experience, fosters discussion on a wide range of issues, and introduces us all to new perspectives through literature. Recent Common Read selections include Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s My Monticello, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey by Homer, Madeline Miller’s Circe, and Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work The Sixth Extinction. Copies of Easy Beauty are available to members of the Sweet Briar community. Please contact the Dean’s Office if you still need a copy.

Sweet Briar College is pleased to welcome Chloé Cooper Jones to campus on March 27, 2023. Cooper Jones is the author of the memoir Easy Beauty which was selected as the Sweet Briar College Common Read for 2023-24.

Cooper Jones, a philosophy professor, was born with sacral agenesis, a rare congenital condition that affects her mobility.

She is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and a feature writer published in leading newspapers and journals. In 2020, “Fearing for His Life,” her profile of Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the killing of Eric Garner, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in Feature Writing.

Cooper Jones received the 2020 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant and the 2021 Howard Foundation Grant from Brown University. Both grants were in support of her 2022 memoir Easy Beauty which describes the author’s experiences—after unexpectedly becoming a mother—as she embarked on a journey across the globe to reclaim the spaces, both physical and emotional, that she’d been denied and denied herself. Easy Beauty is a powerful, candid, moving account of the author’s journey through life in a body that is different, taking her from memories of childhood to discussions of the aesthetics of beauty, sexuality, body image, motherhood, meditations on how she is seen (or not seen), and on travels ranging from art galleries in Rome, to a Beyoncé concert in Milan, to sites of genocide in Cambodia, and more.

Easy Beauty has received laudatory reviews: The New York Times named it a Notable Book of 2022; Vulture called it the “#1 Memoir of 2022;” and it made the Best Books of 2022 lists of the Washington PostLos Angeles TimesUSA TodayTimeBuzzFeedPublishers WeeklyBookList, and the New York Public Library.

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The annual Common Read provides the students, faculty, and staff of Sweet Briar with a shared experience, fosters discussion on a wide range of issues, and introduces us all to new perspectives through literature. Recent Common Read selections include Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s My Monticello, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey by Homer, Madeline Miller’s Circe, and Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work The Sixth Extinction.

Copies of Easy Beauty are available to members of the Sweet Briar community. Please contact the Dean’s Office if you still need a copy. 

A reading by poet and novelist Lisa Russ Spaar.

Lisa Russ Spaar is the author of a novel, Paradise Close (Persea, 2022); six acclaimed collections of poetry, including Madrigalia: New & Selected Poems (Persea, 2021), Orexia (Persea, 2017), Vanitas, Rough (Persea, 2013), Satin Cash (Persea, 2008), Blue Venus (Persea, 2004), and Glass Town (Red Hen Press, 1999); and two poetry chapbooks, Blind Boy on Skates (1986) and Cellar (1983). She is also the author of The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry (Drunken Boat Media, 2013), a collection of poetry history and criticism, and she was a 2014 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

She has edited four poetry anthologies, including More Truly and More Strange: 100 Contemporary American Self-Portrait Poems (Persea, 2020), Monticello in Mind: Fifty Contemporary Poets on Jefferson (University of Virginia Press, 2016), All That Might Heart: London Poems (University of Virginia Press, 2008), and Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems (Columbia University Press, 1999). Spaar has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Library of Virginia Award for Poetry, and a Rona Jaffe Award, among other honors and awards. She is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, where for many years she directed the MFA program.