Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet, essayist, and national spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice. He is the author of three collections of poetry, Felon, Bastards of the Reagan Era, and Shahid Reads His Own Palm, as well as a memoir, A Question of Freedom. A graduate of Yale Law School, he writes and lectures about the impact of mass incarceration on American society. Felon (W. W. Norton & Company) tells the story of the effects of incarceration in fierce, dazzling poems. It explores a wide range of emotions and experiences through homelessness, underemployment, love, drug abuse, domestic violence, fatherhood, and grace, and in doing so, it creates a travelogue for an imagined life. Drawing inspiration from lawsuits filed on behalf of the incarcerated, the redaction poems focus on the ways we exploit and erase the poor and imprisoned from public consciousness. He also confronts the funk of post-incarceration existence and examines prison not as a static space, but as a force that enacts pressure throughout a person’s life. Dan Chiasson wrote for The New Yorker that Felon “ shows how poems can be enlisted to radically disrupt narrative... The black bars of redacted text [in the redaction poems], which usually suggest narrative withheld, here reveal its true contours... For Betts, the way to expression passes through such troubled silences.”
Kai Bird is the Executive Director of CUNY Graduate Center’s Leon Levy Center for Biography. He co-authored with Martin J. Sherwin the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has also written biographies of John J. McCloy and McGeorge Bundy—and a memoir, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis. His most recent book is The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. He is currently working on a biography of President Jimmy Carter.
Lisa Birnbach is an award-winning journalist, cultural commentator and bestselling author. Best known as the author of The Official Preppy Handbook and True Prep, she’s published 20 other books, which have been translated into a dozen languages. She’s written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, Parade, Rolling Stone, New York, and other magazines in addition to Yahoo! She was a correspondent on CBS’s The Early Show for three years, and hosted The Lisa Birnbach Show, a daily syndicated radio show which received the Gracie Awards in 2007 for Outstanding Talk Show, and Outstanding Humor Show.
In 2008, Jamaican-born Gail Chang Bohr was elected Ramsey County’s first Asian American judge. She served as an international consultant with the National Center for State Courts’ Trinidad and Tobago Juvenile Court Project. With degrees from Wellesley College and Simmons School of Social Work, Bohr had a 19+ year career as a clinical social worker in the U.S. and Hong Kong before entering law school, graduating magna cum laude from William Mitchell College of Law. She clerked for the Minnesota Supreme Court and was an associate at Faegre Baker Daniels. In 1995, she became founding executive director of Children’s Law Center of Minnesota where she trained 270+ volunteer lawyers to represent children in foster care, initiated award-winning programs and systemic reform for children in foster care.
Botero, Juan Carlos is a writer and journalist. He studied literature at the Javeriana and Los Andes universities in Colombia ,and Harvard University. He is a columnist at El Espectador, and has previously worked at La Prensa and El Tiempo, and for his short stories, he won the Juan Rulfo Prize and the award at the Concurso Latinoamericano de Cuento. His books include Las semillas del tiempo: epífanos, Las ventanas y las voces, La sentencia, El arrecife, El idioma de las nubes and El arte de Fernando Botero. He will appear in conversation with author Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
Jericho Brown is the author of The New Testament (2014), which received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; and Please (2008), which received the 2009 American Book Award. His most recent book, The Tradition is a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award in Poetry. Brown worked as a speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans before earning his Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston. He also holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Orleans and graduated with a BA from Dillard University in 1998. The Tradition (Copper Canyon Press) details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate and at their very core a distillation of the human. With clarity and a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues, he makes poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma, questioning the terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and celebrating how we survive. U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith noted that “These astounding poems by Jericho Brown don't merely hold a lens up to the world and watch from a safe distance; they run or roll or stomp their way into what matters―loss, desire, rage, becoming―and stay there until something necessary begins to make sense.”