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Brenda Wineapple is an American nonfiction writer, literary critic, and essayist. Her books include Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877; White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson; Hawthorne: A Life; Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein; and Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner. A regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review, The Nation and other national publications, she is also the editor of The Selected Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier (a volume in the Library of America's American Poets Project) and Nineteenth-Century American Writers on Writing (a volume in The Writers’ World, ed. Edward Hirsch).
Born in Boston and educated at Brandeis University, she received a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In 2014, Wineapple received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In addition, she has received a Pushcart Prize (2009), a Guggenheim fellowship, a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and two National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. Elected a Fellow of the Society of American Historians (2014) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2012), she is also an elected Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU and was the Donald C. Gallup Fellow at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, as well as a fellow of the Indiana Institute of Arts and Letters. She serves as literary advisor for the Guggenheim Foundation and the Library of America, and she is on the advisor board of Lapham's Quarterly and The American Scholar.
Wineapple was formerly the Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at The Graduate School, CUNY. She teaches in the MFA programs at The New School University and Columbia University's School of the Arts and has taught at Sarah Lawrence College and Union College, where she was Washington Irving Professor of Modern Literary and Historical Studies. She is married to the composer Michael Dellaira.
In 1989, Wineapple published her first book Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner with Ticknor and Fields (paperback, University of Nebraska Press, 1992.) May Sarton called it "wonderfully perceptive and moving," and Kay Boyle wrote, "how Brenda Wineapple understood Genêt and her times is almost uncanny. She writes of them with clarity and accuracy in a style that is almost startling in its simplicity."Genêt is the first and only biography of the woman who wrote "The Paris Letter" for The New Yorker for fifty years, since its founding in 1925.
- Sister Brother
"A dramatically compelling story," according to the Washington Post, Sister Brother Gertrude and Leo Stein (Putnam's, 1996, Univ. of Nebraska 1997) is a dual biography of the complex, doomed relationship between Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo Stein, whose collection of modern art was unparalleled and whose salon in Paris was the celebrated gathering place of writers and artists. This book was an Editor’s Choice of the Los Angeles Times and hailed by poet Richard Howard as "a luminous, harrowing achievement for which all students of literature and art, as well as of families are in Brenda Wineapple’s debt."
Hawthorne: A Life (Knopf, 2003, Random House 2004) won the Ambassador Award of the English-speaking Union for the Best Biography of 2003, the Julia Ward Howe Prize from the Boston Book Club, and was listed as one of the Best Books of 2003 by The Providence Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Newsday, among other publications. Robert D. Richardson called it “a brilliant, powerful, nervy, unsettling, and riveting book. With the possible exception of Herman Melville, no one has ever understood the grand, tragic Shakespearian nature of Hawthorne's life and work as well as Brenda Wineapple.”
- White Heat
Called "trenchant" in The New Yorker, "a tour de force" in The Washington Post, and "captivating" by Time Magazine, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Knopf 2008/Anchor Vintage 2009) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a winner of the Marfield Prize for Arts Writing, and a New York Times "Notable Book.” It was named one of the Best Books of 2008 by The Times Literary Supplement, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Christian Science Monitor, The Providence Journal, and The Kansas City Star, among other publications. White Heat explores for the first time “the quiet drama and elusive tempos of one of the most improbable and fateful authorial friendships in all of American writing.”
- Ecstatic Nation
Praised in The New York Times Book Review as a "splendid new history of the Civil War period..." in which "Wineapple brings alive the vibrant, imperfect people behind the issues," and "a masterly, deeply moving record of a crucial period in American history," Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877 (Harper, 2013) was named a New York Times "Notable Book". It was also listed as one of the best nonfiction books in 2013 by Kirkus Reviews and Bookpage. "Illuminat[ing] one of the most dramatic and momentous chapters in America's past, when the country dreamed big, craved new lands and new freedom, and bitterly divided over its great moral wrong: slavery," Ecstatic Nation was also hailed by The Wall Street Journal as "magnificent." "Brilliantly balanc[ing] cultural and political history: [Ecstatic Nation] is a riveting account of the sectional conflict that preceded the Civil War, and it astutely chronicles the complex aftermath of that war, Reconstruction, including the promise that women would share in a new definition of American citizenship." "Beautifully written, artfully constructed, and passionately argued on every page, Ecstatic Nation stands forth as a model of narrative history," said the Pulitzer Prize-winner Ron Chernow. "A marvelous survey of both familiar and unsung American stories, contextualized and framed within one sweeping canvas," wrote Publishers Weekly in a starred "Review of the Week".
- The Website of Brenda Wineapple
- Press Release from Leon Levy Center for Biography
- Genêt on University of Nebraska Press website
- Wineapple, Brenda. Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner with Ticknor and Fields (1992, University of Nebraska Press).
- Sister Brother on University of Nebraska Press website
- White Heat reviews on RandomHouse.ca
- Jane Ciabattari, "2008 Biography Finalist White Heat, by Brenda Wineapple," National Book Critics Circle blog
- Reynolds, David (8-9-13)."Patriotic Roar," New York Times Book Review
- New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2013
- Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction of 2013
- Amazon Review
- WSJ Review
- Amazon Review
- Publishers Weekly Starred Pick of the Week
- "The Scarlet Letter and Nathaniel Hawthorne's America" by Brenda Wineapple
- "Up Front: Brenda Wineapple," The New York Times Book Review
- Booknotes interview with Wineapple on Hawthorne: A Life, January 4, 2004.
- "Emily's Tryst," Review of White Heat by Miranda Seymour, New York Times, August 22, 2008.
- Interview on White Heat at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library on February 20, 2009
- "Eccentric Nation: PW Talks with Brenda Wineapple", Publishers Weekly, June 14, 2013