Stacy Schiff

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Stacy Schiff
Photographic portrait
Schiff in 2016
BornStacy Madeleine Schiff
(1961-10-26) October 26, 1961 (age 62)
Adams, Massachusetts
OccupationWriter and editor
EducationPhillips Academy (Andover)
Alma materWilliams College
GenreBiography, essay, non-fiction
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize

Stacy Madeleine Schiff (born October 26, 1961)[1] is an American former editor, essayist, and author of five biographies. Her biography of Véra Nabokov won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in biography. Schiff has also written biographies of French aviator and author of The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, colonial American-era polymath and prime mover of America's founding, Benjamin Franklin, Franklin's fellow Founding Father Samuel Adams, ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra, and the important figures and events of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692–93 in colonial Massachusetts.

Early life and career[edit]

Schiff was born in Adams, Massachusetts, to Morton Schiff, the president of Schiff Clothing, a store founded by Schiff's great-grandfather in 1897, and Ellen, a professor of French literature at North Adams State college (now called Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts).[2] Schiff graduated from Phillips Academy (Andover) preparatory school, and subsequently earned her B.A. degree from Williams College in 1982. She was a senior editor at Simon & Schuster until 1990.

Career as author[edit]

Schiff won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Véra, a biography of Véra Nabokov, the wife and muse of the Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov. She was also a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Saint-Exupéry: A Biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.[1]

Schiff's A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005) won the George Washington Book Prize.[3] It was made into Franklin, a 2024 miniseries starring Michael Douglas.

Her fourth book, Cleopatra: A Life, was published in 2010. As The Wall Street Journal's reviewer put it, "Schiff does a rare thing: She gives us a book we'd miss if it didn't exist."[4] The New Yorker termed the book "a work of literature";[5] Simon Winchester predicted "it will become a classic".[6] Cleopatra appeared on The New York Times's Top Ten Books of 2010,[7] and won the 2011 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.[8]

Schiff's The Witches: Salem, 1692 was published in 2015. The New York Times described it as "an almost novelistic, thriller-like narrative".[9] David McCullough declared the book "brilliant from start to finish".[10] Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Jane Kamensky found it to be “curiously flat,” offering “banalities” and a “tenuous grip on the period.” Kamensky concluded, “For all her talents in sketching the who, what, where and when of the Salem trials, [the] vexed question of why is one that Schiff simply cannot manage.” [11] Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Felipe Fernández-Armesto found that Schiff offered "a trial narrative unsurpassed for detail and impressive for her mastery of the fragmentary and frustrating sources." He found the overall result, however, to be "unsatisfying" because "she uncovers no new clues to understanding" the context of the trials.[12]

Her essays and articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Washington Post.[13][14][15] A former guest columnist at The New York Times, Schiff resides in New York City and is a trustee of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.[16]

Awards and honors[edit]



  • Saint-Exupéry: A Biography. New York: A. A. Knopf. 1994. ISBN 0-679-40310-8.; nominated for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize[25]
  • Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov). Pan Books. 1999. ISBN 0-330-37674-8.; winner of 2000 Pulitzer Prize[26]
  • A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. New York: Henry Holt. 2005. ISBN 0-8050-6633-0.; published in the UK as Dr Franklin Goes to France
  • Cleopatra: A Life. Little, Brown and Company. 2010. ISBN 978-0-316-00192-2.
  • The Witches: Salem, 1692. Little, Brown and Company. 2015. ISBN 978-0-316-20061-5.
  • The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams. Little, Brown and Company. 2022. ISBN 9780316441117.

Columns and reviews[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Barnes&Noble Meet the Writers: Stacy Schiff". Archived from the original on February 2, 2007.
  2. ^ "Stacy M. Schiff, An Editor, Weds". The New York Times. May 14, 1989.
  3. ^ Thompson, Bob (May 24, 2006). "Schiff Wins Washington Book Prize For Work On Franklin". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ Ruden, Sarah (November 2010). "Book Review: Cleopatra". The Wall Street Journal.
  5. ^ Thurman, Judith. "The Cleopatriad". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  6. ^ "Cleopatra - Stacy Schiff - Author Biography". Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  7. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2010". The New York Times. December 1, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  8. ^ "2011 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award". PEN America. November 15, 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  9. ^ Alter, Alexandra (October 25, 2015). "Stacy Schiff's The Witches Shines a Torch on Salem Trials". The New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  10. ^ "Amazon Book Review". Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  11. ^ Kamensky, Jane (October 27, 2015). "'The Witches: Salem, 1692,' by Stacy Schiff". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Fernández-Armesto, Felipe. "American Witches—and Their Hunters". WSJ.
  13. ^ Suellen Stringer-Hye (1999). "An interview with Stacy Schiff". Pennsylvania State University. Archived from the original on August 14, 2009. Retrieved August 9, 2006.
  14. ^ "Book reviews by Stacy Schiff in the New York Review of Books". The New York Review of Books., The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post, among many other publications.
  15. ^ "Stacy Schiff details biographer's triumphs, tribulations, obsessions". iBerkshires. June 13, 2001.
  16. ^ "Board of Trustees". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on April 10, 2020. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  17. ^ a b "ALOUD: Lectures, Readings, Performances, & Discussions". Los Angeles Central Library. Archived from the original on December 27, 2005.
  18. ^ "Stacy Schiff". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  19. ^ "Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), by Stacy Schiff (Random House)". The Pulitzer Prizes – Columbia University. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
  20. ^ "George Washington Book Prize Past Winners". Archived from the original on May 31, 2019. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  21. ^ "The Decades Ball – June 1, 2015". Lapham's Quarterly. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  22. ^ "2017 Annual Dinner". Archived from the original on June 24, 2018. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  23. ^ "Nomination dans l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres". Summer 2018.
  24. ^ Fedor, Ashley. "2019 Newly Elected Members". American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  25. ^ "1995 Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes – Columbia University.
  26. ^ "2000 Winners". The Pulitzer Prizes – Columbia University.

External links[edit]