Thursday, September 14, 2017
Leslie Jamison, novelist and essayist, wonders about the moral complexities of writing other peoples’ lives. She will discuss her experiences writing about a variety of subjects, including long distance runners, prison inmates, whale fanatics, and medical patients—and the various ways she has purposefully and explicitly introduced subjectivity into these accounts of others’ lives.
Born in Washington DC, Leslie Jamison grew up in Los Angeles. Since then, she has lived in Iowa, Nicaragua, New Haven, and New York. And she has worked as a baker, an office temp, an innkeeper, a tutor, and a medical actor. Worlds that are still in her and inform her writings.
She ponders: What does it mean to confess the self—in all its quandaries and questions—inside a piece of reportage? How does a piece work differently when it includes reported material alongside deeply personal reflections—when we sense the reporter as a deeply emotional presence with a story. And what obligations might a writer might feel towards her subjects—the interplay between guilt and the affection, between care and skepticism.
Author of the novel, The Gin Closet, and a collection of essays, The Empathy Exams, her work has appeared in Harper's, Oxford American, A Public Space, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Believer. She is a columnist for the New York Times Book Review, and an assistant professor at Columbia University.
Ms. Jamison’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Center for Writing and Public Discourse (CWPD) at CMC.
Photo credit: Michael Stenerson