Alumnae Biography

Senior Journalist: Herawati Diah

Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Herawati Diah ’41. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!

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Siti Latifah Herawati Diah was born on April 3, 1917 in Tanjung Pandan, Belitung. She was born into an upper-class priyayi family, granting her the opportunity of enjoying a high education and privileged, western lifestyle. Diah attended the Europeesche Lagere School in Salemba, Central Jakarta for primary school and later attended high school at the American High School in Tokyo. Influenced by her mother, Diah decided to further her studies in America while other intellectuals had their eyes set on either the Netherlands or Western Europe. Prior to attending Barnard, where “the seeds of her Journalism career take root, ” Diah studied English with a host family for two years. In 1941, Diah graduated from Barnard and became the first Indonesian woman to be academically trained abroad in a respected American university. She also completed a journalism course at Stanford University in the midst of her principal studies of sociology at Barnard and UC Berkley.


Diah finally returned home to Indonesia in 1942, which was on the brink of war, and became a freelance reporter for the United Press International (UPI) newswire before taking on a position as announcer for Hosokyoku radio. She later married the legendary journalist Burhanuddin Mohammad “BM” Diah, who was working for the Asia Raya newspaper at the time, in that same year and had three children in 1945.

In 1968, BM Diah gained the role of minister of information, for which Diah quit journalism to pursue the new role by his side and represent Indonesia to the world. In pursuit of guarding her homeland’s culture, Diah led Borobudur Temple to being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also established foundations, such as Indonesian Cultural Partners to protect treasures and textiles, Indonesian Women’s Association and others, which raised political awareness in women. She persistently continued to shed light on women’s concerns in the 1990s.


Diah and her husband were known as the giants of Indonesian journalism of the 1945 Generation, otherwise believe to be the nation’s “Greatest Generation,” along with Rosihan Anwar and Mochtar Lubis. Diah also founded The Indonesian Observer, Indonesia’s only English newspaper (until the 1960s) providing her people with a means to report their struggles, and launched it on the eve of the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference which was held in Bandung. Furthermore, Diah founded the Movement toward Education of Women Voters (Gerakan Perempuan Sadar Pemilu), now the Women’s Voice Empowerment Movement (Gerakan Pemberdayaan Swara Perempuan)–a movement to empower the voice of women,–aiming to provide political education for women to promote the use of their rights to vote according to their consciousness. Diah also earned recognition from then education minister Anies Baswedan for her contribution to promoting United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization programs in Indonesia.

Siti Latifah Herawati Diah passed away on September 30, 2016, at the humble age of 99.


An Endless Journey: Reflections of an Indonesian Journalist (2005)


“Journalism is a profession which is not only exciting, adventurous and sometimes even dangerous, but most of all satisfying because a journalist not only informs the public what is happening on the national or international level on a daily basis, but also she or he can influence the reader to choose what is best for them.”

“Be strong, eat healthy—but not too much—live well and sleep well with no worries.” – secrets to longevity.

“At most, please regard this book as a record of events in which I was involved.”

Aziza Rahman ’20


Collins, Gale G. “An Endless Journey: Reflections of an Indonesian Journalist.” Indonesiaexpat,, May 20, 2014, accessed July 9, 2018,

Firmanto, Danang. “Senior Journalist Herawati Diah Passes Away at 99.”, Tempo Inti Media Tbk, September 30, 2016, accessed July 9, 2018,

News Desk. “Senior journo Herawati Diah passes away.” The Jakarta Post, PT. Niskala Media Tenggara, September 30, 2016, accessed July 9,2018,

Sumayku, Jeannifer Filly. “A Journey of an Inspiring Woman: Herawati Diah.” The President Post,, June 21, 2010, accessed July 9, 2018,

Alumnae Biography

Pulitzer Prize-winning Science Columnist: Natalie Angier

Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Natalie Angier ’78. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!

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Natalie Angier was born on February 16, 1958 in New York City, and was raised in the Bronx and New Buffalo, Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan for two years before transferring to Barnard, where she graduated with high honors in 1978. As an undergrad, Angier studied English, physics, and astronomy.


At the age of 22, Angier was hired as a founding staff member for Time Inc.’s science magazine, Discover which was first launched in 1980. For four years, she wrote articles about biology. She had also been a senior science columnist for the Time magazine, an editor at Savvy, and a professor at the New York University’s Graduate Program in Science and Environmental Reporting. In 1990, she landed a position working for The New York Times. She later became a columnist for Science Times in January 2007.

Angier’s publications include her first book Natural Obsessions (1988), The Beauty of the Beastly (1995), Woman: An Intimate Geography (1999) and The Canon: A Whirligig Tour through the Beautiful Basics of Science (2007).


Angier’s first book, Natural Obsessions (1988) was named a notable book of the year by The New York Times and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In addition, her third book, Woman: An Intimate Geography (1999) was a National Book Award finalist and her most recent book, “The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science” (2007), won the Robert P. Balles prize for critical thinking. Her books have been translated from eight to over 24 different languages.

Angier also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for beat reporting. The submission consisted of ten features she wrote on topics ranging from scorpions to sexual infidelity in the animal kingdom among others. Her numerous other awards include the AAAS award for excellence in journalism, the Lewis Thomas Award for distinguished writing in the life sciences, the General Motors International award for writing about cancer, the Barnard Distinguished Alumna award and membership in the American Philosophical Society. She had also been awarded a top rating of four stars among seven other journalists by The Forbes MediaGuide, an appraisal of 500 U.S. journalists. Her writing has also made its way into The Atlantic, Smithsonian, National Geographic, The American Scholar, Parade, O magazine, Washington Monthly, Geo, Slate and many other print and online magazines. Moreover, her essays have been published in a number of anthologies, including “The Bitch in the House,” “Sisterhood Is Forever,” “The New Science Journalists” and “The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing.” She was also the editor of the 2002 edition of “The Best American Science and Nature Writing” and the 2009 edition of “The Best American Science Writing.”

In September of 2017, Angier interviewed Barnard’s new president, Sian Beilock, published in a Barnard news article called, “Beilock Unlocked: Pulitzer Prize-Winner Natalie Angier ’78 Interviews Barnard President.”

Angier now lives in Maryland, with her husband, Rick Weiss, a science writer for the Washington Post.


Angier, Natalie. “But What About the Tooth Fairy, Mom? Raising a Healthy God-free Child in a Hopelessly God-struck Nation.” Freethought Today 20, no. 9 (2003) – Emperor Has No Clothes Award Winner

Aziza Rahman ’20


Edge Foundation. “Natalie Angier: Pulitzer prize winning science writer for The New York Times.” Edge, Edge Foundation, July 9, 2018, accessed July 9, 2018,

The New York Times Company. “Natalie Angier.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, accessed July 9, 2018,

World Science Foundation. “Natalie Angier.” World Science Festival, World Science Foundation, accessed July 9, 2018,

Alumnae Biography

“A HEART for HARLEM”: Elizabeth Bishop Davis

Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Elizabeth Bishop Davis ’41. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!



Elizabeth Bishop Davis was born on April 26, 1920 in New York City, where her dad, Rev. Shelton Hale Bishop, an Episcopal clergyman, was Rector of St. Philip’s
Church in Harlem. She graduated from Barnard College in 1941 and received her M.D. from the College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University, in 1949.


As a first-year medical student in 1946, Davis launched Harlem’s first mental health facility, the LaFargue Clinic. The clinic was housed in the basement of the church and was conceived by novelist Richard Wright and psychotherapist Fredric Wertham.The clinic operated two evenings a week, during which volunteer psychiatrists and social workers counseled the predominantly African American patients. Service was free unless patients were able to cover the 25 cent fee per session.


After graduating from P&S with “glowing assessments from the faculty,” Dr. Davis interned at Harlem Hospital, gaining early practical experience, and completed her residency at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia’s Psychoanalytic Clinic.” She was then hired as a therapist by the Harlem’s Northside Center for Child Development in 1953. No later, in 1955, she became a certified psychoanalyst from Columbia’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. Davis also maintained a private practice alongside her association with an outpatient clinic at Harlem Hospital throughout the 1950s. She later joined Columbia’s Clinical Faculty in 1957 and was appointed founding director of Harlem Hospital’s new Department of Psychiatry and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry in 1962. Moreover, she was considered for tenure a decade later. The director of Bellevue’s psychiatric division, Alexander Thomas, MD wrote:

“Under her initiative and guidance this service has become one of the outstanding service, teaching, and training centers in the city, able to recruit and retain high caliber staff and to develop innovative service and training programs,”

She also became a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in 1971 and a Professor Emerita later in 1978 after retiring from work at the hospital. By then, the Harlem’s Hospital Department of Psychiatry expanded to encompass an adult inpatient unit, a day hospital, a greatly expanded outpatient clinic with specialty clinics for alcohol and substance abuse, a geriatric clinic, a large social and vocational rehabilitation service, a children’s service with inpatient beds, a children’s day hospital with a public school and recreation program, and a fully accredited psychiatric residency training program.

Alongside her contributions to the field of medicine, she was also an honorary member of the Beth Israel Board of Trustees.

Dr. Davis died in New York City on February 1 of 2010 at the humble age of 89. She died a widow of former head of Beth Israel, Ray E. Trussell, MD.


In her more than 30-year psychiatry career, Davis pursued research in the use of psychoanalysis, addressing racial and income disparities in caring for the mentally ill, and community-based care, among other topics. Her papers include “Mental Health Services for the Inner City” and “Blacks as Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists as Blacks: Options for the Future,” and footage exists of a television segment that she participated in, “Can Psychiatry Help Reduce Racial Tensions?”


To learn more about Elizabeth Bishop Davis Trussell, MD., visit The New York Public Library Archives at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division and Archives and Special collections at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). A collection of her work, which she donated to the University, are also in the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library at Columbia University Medical Center.

Aziza Rahman ’20


Anne, Leslie. “Bishop/Carey Family Photo Album – Featuring Dr. Elizabeth Bishop Davis.” Lost Family Treasures, Blogger, May 26, 2011, accessed July 9, 2018,

Davis, Elizabeth Bishop M.D. “Elizabeth Davis Papers.” Archives & Special Collections, Columbia University Health Sciences Library, accessed July 9, 2018,

Shapiro, Gary. “Ask Alma’s Owl: Community Mental Health.” Columbia News, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, November 15, 2017, accessed July 9, 2018,

Tregaskies, Sharon. “A Heart for Harlem: Elizabeth Bishop Davis, MD, 1920-2010.” Columbia Medicine, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Spring/Summer 2016, accessed July 9, 2018,


Alumnae Biography

Novelist, Poet, Translator and Editor: Babette Deutsch

Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Babette Deutsch (1917). To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!

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Deutsch’s Beginnings

Deutsch was born in New York City on September 22, 1895 to German-Jewish parents Michael and Melanie (Fisher) Deutsch. After completing high school at the Ethical Culture School, Deutsch obtained her B.A. from Barnard College in 1917 and received an honorary D. Litt. from Columbia University. As an undergrad, Deutsch began publishing her poetry in magazines and journals, such as the New Republic. For a short period of time, Deutsch worked with the Political Science Quarterly, after graduation, and also wrote several critical essays, including one on Thorstein Veblen for Reedy’s Mirror, Marion Reedy’s one-man journal of opinion. This led to her landing a position as Veblen’s secretary while he taught at the New School for Social Research in New York City. She also published her first volume of poetry, entitled Banners, shortly thereafter, in 1919. She then published a second work of verse, Honey Out of a Rock, in 1925, dealing with many biblical themes and reflecting a Jewish cultural influence. It also incorporated imagism and pieces of Japanese haiku. In 1921, Deutsch married Avraham Yarmolinsky, a Russian-Jewish writer and chief of the Slavonic Division of The New York Public Library. He was also a translator himself, as well, much like Deutsch. The two had sons named Adam and Michael.

Together, the couple published translations of several Russian works in English. Futhermore, Deutsch, fluent in German also produced an English translation of the works of Rilke.

Success Story

Until 1962, Deutsch published 9 volumes of poetry, in addition to Banners (1919) and Honey Out of a Rock (1925), four novels, six volumes of children’s literature, five criticisms, four books of prose on poetry, and numerous translations, and edited Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1967). Her volumes include Epistle to Prometheus(1931)Take Them, Stranger (1944)Coming of Age (1959), and Collected Poems, 1919-1962 1963. Among her novels are A Brittle Heaven (1926), In Such a Night (1927), Mask of Silenus (1933), and Rogue’s Legacy (1942), and criticisms are Potable Gold (1929), This Modern Poetry (1935), Poetry In Our Time (1952, 1956, 1963), and Poetry Handbook (1957, 1962, 1974). Her children’s literature consists of I Often Wish (1966) and Tales of Faraway Folk (1963).

With her husband, Deutsch also critiqued and translated three other works, Modern Russian Poetry (1921)Contemporary German Poetry (1923), and Two Centuries of Russian Verse (1966).

Aside from writing, editing, and translating, Deutsch was an active member of and contributor to her committee. She served the National Book Committee as a member of the advisory board, worked as a secretary for the PEN National Institute of Arts and Letters, and was chancellor for the Academy of American Poets. From 1960 to 1966, Deutsch was also a consultant at the Library of Congress. She also used her poetry as a means to pay homage to the Jewish community. She wrote verse about war to deal with her rage against the destruction and horror of World War II and make some sense out of the evils of humankind. In one of her poems, she wrote: “A sage once said the mind of God forgets/Evil that men remember having done, as it remembers/The good that men do and forget.”

Honors and Awards

In 1962, Babette Deustch was awarded a Poetry Prize by The Nation for her poem, Thoughts at the Year’s Endpublished in her book Five for the Night (1930), and a Julia Ellsworth Ford Foundation Prize for her critical work on Walt Whitman. She later received an honorary doctorate in literature from Columbia University in 1946. Furthermore, in 1977, she was recognized as a distinguished alumna by her alma mater. Deutsch had also been Phi Beta Kappa poet at Columbia University in 1929.

Babette Deutsch died on November 13, 1982.


To learn more about Babette Deutsch, scroll through her available published pieces on The New Yorker.

Aziza Rahman ’20


Friedman, Natalie. “Babette Deutsch: 1895-1982.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Jewish Women’s Archives, March 1 2009, accessed July 2, 2018,

New York Times. “Babette Deutsch, 87, Novelist, Poet, Translator and Editor.” New York Times Archives, NYT, November 15, 1982, accessed July 2, 2018,

Poetry Foundation. “Babbette Deutsch: 1895-1982.” Poetry Magazine, Poetry Foundation, accessed July 2, 2018,

The New York Public Library. “Babette Deutsch papers.” The New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts, The New York Public Library, accessed July 2, 2018,

Alumnae Student Publications

Award-winning Writer, Professor, and Activist: June Jordan

Meet the face of our newest pin, alum June Jordan. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!


Jordan’s Beginnings

June Millicent Jordan (1936-2002) was born in Harlem to Granville Ivanhoe Jordan and Mildred Maud Jordan, two West Indian immigrants. The Jordan family moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn when June was five. As we learn in Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood, Jordan had a complicated family life growing up, in which her father encouraged her to embrace literature and to be strong, but also subjected her to physical abuse. Jordan started writing poetry as young as age seven. Throughout her educational experiences, she had to face overwhelmingly white institutions. Jordan was the only black student at Midwood High School in Brooklyn before she transferred, having received a scholarship to Northfield School For Girls. Northfield (now co-ed and called Northfield-Mount Hermon School), was a predominantly white prep school in Massachusetts. Jordan went on to study English at Barnard as a commuter student. While at Barnard, Jordan was featured in Focus, the college’s literary magazine. She was one of four black students during her time at Barnard (1953-1957), and was frustrated with the curriculum and competitive environment at the school. In her essay, “Notes of a Barnard Dropout,” which Jordan delivered as a talk at the BCRW‘s (then the Women’s Center) first Reid Lecture in 1975 (alongside Alice Walker), and which was later published in her 1981 book Civil Wars, Jordan states:

No one ever presented me with a single Black author, poet, historian, personage, or idea for that matter. Nor was I ever assigned a single woman to study as a thinker, or writer, or poet, or life force. Nothing that I learned, here, lessened my feeling of pain or confusion and bitterness as related to my origins: my street, my family, my friends. Nothing showed me how I might try to alter the political and economic realities underlying our Black condition in white America.

Because of her disappointment at the college, Jordan left and returned to Barnard a couple of times. One of the reasons she left was to marry Michael Meyer, who was a white student at Columbia University. After they married in 1955, she attended the University of Chicago for a year and studied anthropology before returning to Barnard again. Jordan ultimately left Barnard for good in 1957. Facing difficulties as an interracial couple, Meyer and Jordan divorced in 1966, and Jordan took care of their son Christopher Meyer.

Career and Activism

Jordan’s early career was largely influenced by the political climate of the 1960’s, as she wrote about the 1964 Harlem Riots and was concerned and involved with both the Black Power and Black Arts Movements. She worked in film, as a journalist, as a researcher and writer for Mobilization for Youth in New York, and also collaborated with the architect Buckminster Fuller on aesthetic housing for low-income members of the Harlem community. She was deeply concerned with racial, spatial, economic, gender, and sexuality justice. She also had a strong focus on children. Her first book, Who Look At Me was intended for young readers, and she taught many workshops for students of color.

Jordan soon became a college professor, first teaching English and literature at City College in 1967, and going on to work at Connecticut College, Sarah Lawrence College, Yale, and SUNY Stony Brook. She became a full professor at Stony Brook in 1982, directing the poetry center and creative writing program during her time there. In 1989 Jordan started at the University of California, Berkeley in the African-American Studies department. At Berkeley, she also started Poetry for the People, a group that brought poetry to community groups in the surrounding area as a tool for political empowerment.


Over the course of her life, Jordan wrote or edited 28 books, essays, and children’s novels, as well as the libretto for “I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky.” Some of Jordan’s works of poetry include Some Changes (1971), Living Room (1985) and Kissing God Goodbye: Poems 1991-1997 (1997). She incorporates themes such as bisexuality, blackness, and family to make her poetry personal and political. She often wrote in and advocated for the use of Black English. In addition to poetry, Jordan is well-known for her political writing. She was a columnist for the Progressive, and also wrote essays on topics ranging from education, to sexism, to terrorism. Adrienne Rich, in the foreward to Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan, writes of Jordan: “In a sense unusual among twentieth-century poets of the United States, she believed in and lived the urgency of the word—along with action—to resist abuses of power and violations of dignity in—and beyond—her country.” Thus, for Jordan, writing was a tool of political expression and action, as well as an autobiographical and personal outlet.

In an interview with Alternative Radio, Jordan states that the role of the poet in society:

is to deserve the trust of people who know that what you do is work with words… Always to be as honest as possible and to be as careful about the trust invested in you as you possibly can. Then the task of a poet of color, a black poet, as a people hated and despised, is to rally the spirit of your folks…I have to get myself together and figure out an angle, a perspective, that is an offering, that other folks can use to pick themselves up, to rally and to continue or, even better, to jump higher, to reach more extensively in solidarity with even more varieties of people to accomplish something. I feel that it’s a spirit task.

Jordan was honored for this task, as she earned many awards for her writing. She won the 1991 PEN Center USA West Freedom to Write Award, the 1994 Ground Breakers-Dream Makers Award from The Woman’s Foundation, and the 1995-1998 Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Writers Award. She also received a 1969-1970 Rockefeller grant for creative writing, a 1979 Yaddo residency, a 1982 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and 1984 Achievement Award for International Reporting from the National Association of Black Journalists, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Lectureship from the University of California at Berkeley, and a congressional citation for her writing and activism.

-Sarah Barlow-Ochshorn ’20


“About June.” Accessed June 28, 2018.

“Bio.” Accessed June 28, 2018.

Halasz, Piri. “‘Focus’ Keeps High Quality But Falls Short In Execution.” Barnard Bulletin (New York), March 24, 1955.

“Jordan, June 1936-2002.” Contemporary Black Biography,, accessed June 28, 2018.

Jordan, June. Civil Wars. Beacon Press, 1981.

Poetry Foundation. “June Jordan.” Accessed June 28, 2018.

Rosser, Felice. “June Jordan: Black, Woman, Poet.” Barnard Bulletin (New York), March 22, 1976.

Smith, Dinita. “June Jordan, 65, Poet and Political Activist.” The New York Times, June 18, 2002.


Alumnae Biography

Pulitzer Prize-winning Investigative Journalist: Katherine Boo

Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Katherine Boo ’88. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!


Katherine “Kate J.” Boo is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist recognized for documenting the lives of people in poverty.

Early Life

Boo grew up in and around Washington with her two Minnesotan parents who originally moved to Washington when her father became an aid to Representative Eugene McCarthy. Her family name is actually Swedish and pronounced, “Bö,” by use the American version, hence her last name, “Boo.” Growing up, Boo was a late bloomer and prodigy. Unlike her peers, she never received the elite education they did. After high school, she became a clerk typist for the General Services Administration upon taking the civil service exam on her own account. She also worked as a secretary for two years and attended three different colleges prior to attending Barnard.

Unfortunately, a degenerative illness left her spending more of her time reading at home and taking night classes instead. Throughout her years at Barnard, Boo typed for The Columbia Daily Spectator and graduated in 1988.


From writing editorials for The Columbia Daily Spectator, Boo was hired by Jack Shafer, former editor of the Washington City Paper, now a columnist for Reuters. He described her to have the “soul of a poet but the arm strength of an investigative reporter.” Boo soon began editing the work of others, and moved up the ladder to The Washington Monthly from there. Moreover, she became recognized for combining her “investigative digging, on-the-street reporting and brilliant writing” while working at The Post. Yet for some reason, Boo could never settle, so she returned to her vocation: “writing about the lives of the poorest people in America.” For months, spanning to even years, she followed people and documented, mostly, “how this or that social policy played out in the lives of ordinary people, most often women.” She wrote “The Marriage Cure”, for the New Yorker in 2003, detailing “the humiliating difficulties faced by two African-American women taking part in a government-sponsored marriage programme.”

In 2004, marrying Sunnil Khilnani, former employee in Washington and director of the India Institute at King’s College London provided her with the opportunity and privilege of traveling to India and learning about the lives of the poor. That’s not to say it was an easy task. At times, it almost felt pointless because of the many stakes against her. Nevertheless, like the fighter she is, Boo didn’t let anything bring her down or hold her back. She explained :

 If you don’t write about it, then there’s no chance [of changing anything]. If you write about it, there’s a small chance. I try to be optimistic that if you present some of these conundrums, then policy-makers will take notice. I do think there are smart people thinking about these things, and I don’t think I’m the only person who cares.

Boo also described her visits as:

I wasn’t trying to gather people around a table and talk to them,” Boo tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies. “I was just going where they went. I was doing what they did, whether it was teaching kindergarten or stealing scrap metal at the airport or sorting garbage. And I would sit and listen and talk to them intermittently as they did their work.

Her book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, focuses on Mumbai as she cleverly brings the residents of Annawadi to life. She strongly believes that:

readers will [not] get invested in what potential is being squandered if they don’t engage with the people in the story as individuals. When you have a kid who is killed, I want the reader to feel what I felt and what the people of Annawadi felt, and because of that, get involved in the problems of criminal or social justice.

This is the heart and soul of her book. She wants other people to share and understand her vision and perspective.

Honors and Awards

Boo’s “reporting from disadvantaged communities in the United States and abroad has earned her a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Genius Grant, and a National Magazine Award for Feature Writing.” Behind the Beautiful Forevers was also a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize and adapted for the stage by the National Theatre. Furthermore, it was one of the 10 books President Obama recommended for future world leaders.

Future Work

Boo is currently in the process of writing her next book, “an exploration of social mobility in low-income families that draws on years of intimate reporting in African-American neighborhoods in Washington, DC.”


Read and listen in on an NPR interview with Boo, a Q&A with her editor, Kate Medina, and another interview with Guernica magazine.

Aziza Rahman ’20


Behind the Beautiful Forevers. ” Q&A with Katherine.” Interview by Kate Medina. Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Summary article,

Brennan, Emily. “Reporting Poverty.” Guernica, Guernica, Sep. 4 2012, accessed June 22, 2018,

McGrath, Charles. “An Outsider Gives Voice to Slumdogs: Katherine Boo on Her Book ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, Feb. 8, 2012, accessed June 22, 2018,

NPR books. “Finding ‘Life, Death And Hope’ In A Mumbai Slum.” Interview by Fresh Air. NPR, Feb. 8, 2012. Audio and summary article (Nov. 16, 2012),

Rustin, Susanna. “Katherine Boo: Slum dweller.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies, June 8, 2012, accessed June 22, 2018,

“Katherine Boo.” Lyceum Agency, Lyceum Agency, 2018, accessed June 22, 2018,

Alumnae Biography

American Author: Sigrid Nunez

Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Sigrid Nunez ’72. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!


Sigrid Nunez is a published author of seven novels: A Feather on the Breath of God (1995), Naked Sleeper (1996), Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury (1998), For Rouenna (2001), The Last of Her Kind: A Novel (2005), Salvation City (2010), and The Friend (2018).

Brief Backstory 

Nunez is the daughter of a Chinese-Panamanian father and a German mother. As a child, Nunez desired to become a dancer. She started off with a drive to write and, wrote stories about animals and children among others. As she grew older, that passion still stuck. However, around the age of 12, Nunez dove into studying ballet, and began pursuing it in high school. Throughout her study, she realized that not only did ballet pose to be really difficult, but it was also physically painful. Having started late in the game also significantly affected her confidence in pursuing it as a full-fledged career. Moreover, coming to Barnard took another unexpected toll. Nunez chose Barnard because “it was in Manhattan” and because she didn’t intend to go to college: “no dancer goes to college.” Nevertheless, she still chose Barnard. But throughout her first academic year (1968), she was a complete wreck; she didn’t even attend her academic classes, let alone her dance (ballet) classes. It’s not to say they weren’t great; Barnard has an amazing dance department. Rather, it was the realization of losing a childhood dream that she so desperately wanted to pursue that turned Nunez’s world upside-down.

Nunez eventually returned to attending all of her classes. She describes her experience with dancing, however, as:

I still have that in me. I know I know what it is to dance and to be a dancer. But what I feel is probably close to other kinds of loss. Like say you’re young and you fall in love with someone, and then you lose that person. And you go on and love other people and have a life and so on, but you know that that person was the one you loved the most, and that you’ll never love like that again. And though you move on you don’t ever completely get over it. That loss is part of your life and who you are forever.

She studied creative writing with Elizabeth Hardwick, an American literary critic, novelist, and short story writer, who also happen to be her professor, and later graduated from Barnard in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree (B.A.) in English.

Beyond Barnard

After Barnard, Nunez went onto obtain her Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) from Columbia University alongside working for Robert Silver as an assistant at the New York Review of Books. She soon switched and began working as an assistant for Susan Sontag, a formidable critic, essayist, and novelist in 1976 instead, an arrangement suggested by the editors. With Sontag battling stage IV breast cancer, such an arrangement was much needed.

Nunez recounts her rocky relationship with Sontag in her memoir for Sontag, Sempre Susan. While working for Sontag, Nunez became romantically involved with her son, David Rieff, which was a majorly complicated aspect of their relationship. In the memoir, Nunez writes how Sontag referred to herself, Nunez and Rieff as, “‘the duke and duchess and duckling of Riverside drive,'” which, to Nunez, raised a red flag. Aside from Sontag’s intimate relationship with Rieff that Nunez felt to be rather invasive, Sontag was actually “generous in her comments” and she encouraged Nunez to remain optimistic about her potential of becoming a successful writer. However, because Nunez didn’t find Sontag’s fiction in any ways appealing, and she was at that stage where most 25 year-old unpublished writers desire encouragement over criticism, she didn’t respect any of Sontag’s critiques about her writing.

Sontag passed away in 2004.

Post Sontag

Nunez has also taught at Columbia, Princeton, Boston University, and the New School. Additionally, she has recently been a visiting writer (writer in residence) at several institutions including Amherst, Smith, Baruch, Vassar, and the University of California, Irvine. She plans to visit Syracuse University in the spring of 2019. Nunez has also been “on the faculty of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and of several other writers’ conferences across the country.” Her honors and awards include “a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Berlin Prize Fellowship, and two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters: the Rosenthal Foundation Award and the Rome Prize in Literature.


Read Sigrid Nunez’s interviews with The Morning NewsThe Paris Review, and Signature to learn more about her life and career. In addition, her novel, The Friend (2018) and Sempre Susan (2014) each alone provide an opportunity to obtain an in-depth insight of Nunez as a person and the parts of her life that don’t meet the public eye.

Aziza Rahman ’20


Birnbaum, Robert. “Sigrid Nunez.” Interview by TMN, The Morning News LLC, March 29, 2007. Summary article,

Camp, James. “‘Sempre Susan’: Sigrid Nunez Studies Sontag While Smooching Her Son.” Observer,, March 22, 2011, accessed June 18, 2018,

La Force, Thessaly. “Sigrid Nunez on Susan Sontag.” The Paris Review, The Paris Review, April 4, 2011. Summary article, .

Muscolino, Joe. “Behind the Books with Sigrid Nunez, Author of Sempre Susan.” Interview by Signature. Signature, October 6, 2014. Summary article,

Nunez, Sigrid. “Bio.” Sigrid Nunez, Chloe Art and Design, accessed June 14, 2018,

Smith, Wendy. “Sigrid Nunez’s Love of a Dog,” Publishers Weekly, PWxyz, LLC, November 17, 2017, accessed June 18, 2018,

Alumnae Biography

Poet, Playwright, and Astrologer of a Generation: Ariana Reines

Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Ariana Reines (’03). To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!

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Ariana Reines lives a life full of language and interpretation, crafting a path out of the diverse but interconnected fields of writing, translation, performance, and astrology. Reines has written a variety of poetry, plays, and prose, all the while teaching workshops and astrologizing (her term). Her writing immerses itself in themes of love, the body, eroticism, abjection, spirituality, technology, and the occult, among others.

Her Life

Reines, originally from Salem, MA, studied French and English when she came to Barnard. While she was here, Reines won creative writing awards, worked in the writing center, and was a selected to be a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society before graduating Summa Cum Laude. She went on to get a masters in Media & Communication from the European Graduate School (2006), and spent two years as a doctoral fellow in French and Romance Philiology at Columbia (2004-2006). After the earthquake in 2010, Reines traveled to Haiti several times to help with relief efforts in a naturopathy clinic there. Now, she continues to write, teach workshops around the word, and provide astrology readings.

A Bit on Her Craft

In a conversation with fellow writer Ben Lerner, Reines characterizes her performance art as distinct from the public nature of her writing, but goes on to draw connections between the two art forms in terms of the “hospitality” required for both:

Performance is not something to professionalize, or to aspire to. But I do receive these invitations. In a way my job is to receive and respond to invitations. My intentions with performance are much more private than with writing. But the hospitality necessitated by writing with care taught me to try to be hospitable with performance also.

Such a mindset reflects the care with which Reines approaches the multifaceted forms of creativity in her work. It also indicates the open vulnerability of Reines’s writing, as well as the complex ways in which she goes about addressing the reader. In the same piece, Lerner and Reines discuss the use of first and second person in their writing. Reines’s comments about her use of the pronouns “you” and “I” also speak to the issues of media, politics, and technology that her writing takes up:

The earlier “you,” the one in the first two books [The Cow and Coeur de Lion], was the Bush-era “you.” It’s the “you” of YouTube and advertising. It’s really brutalized. It’s what the impoverished “I” is made of. The “I” is just the object of the address of advertising, of George W. Bush, of ATMs. And the weird thing is that “you,” like the “thou,” the divine “thou,” isn’t expected to respond, only to buy in. You’re not expected to answer, just to ante-up or pay in. Even if there’s a comment box.

Reines’s concern for the “I” comes up again in her episode of NPR’s Bookworm. In the podcast, Reines articulates the importance of the “I” to the ethics of poetry, and advocates for its return to American writing. Host Michael Silverblatt identifies Reines as, “one of the crucial voices of her generation.” This label is quite fitting, as Reines’s work addresses many current issues in a complex, yet oftentimes emotionally clarifying, way.

Her Work

Reines has written a number of books of poetry and chapbooks. Her full collections of poetry include Alberta Prize winner The Cow (2006), Coeur de Lion (2007), Mercury (2011), and A Sand Book (forthcoming 2019). Other publications include The Origin of the World (2014), Thursday (2012), Beyond Relief (with Celina Su, Belladonna*, 2013), as well as Tiffany’s Poems and Ramayana (a set of chapbooks from 2015). She also judged the 2013 National Poetry Series. Her 2009 play “Telephone” won two Obie awards, and was published this year by Wonder Books.

Reines has completed several works of translation, including Charles Baudelaire’s My Heart Laid Bare (2009), Jean-Luc Hennig’s The Little Black Book of Grisélidis Réal: Days and Nights of an Anarchist Whore (2009), and Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials Toward a Theory of the Young-Girl (2012).

She has performed at the Whitney Museum of American ArtSolomon R, Guggenheim MuseumThe HammerThe Swiss InstituteRenaissance Society, and has taught at UC Berkeley, Columbia University, The New School, Tufts, Poets HouseThe Poetry ProjectThe Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, the Fine Arts Work Center, ANCIENT EVENINGS, and more.

To read more… 

In addition to Reines’s books, you can read more of her writing on her website. Also, check out her current column on Artforum!

-Sarah Barlow-Ochshorn ’20


Lerner, Ben and Ariana Reines. “Ben Lerner & Ariana Reines.” BOMB Magazine. October 1, 2014.

Poetry Foundation. “Ariana Reines.” Accessed June 4, 2018.

Reines, Ariana. “About.” Accessed June 4, 2018,

Reines, Ariana. “Ariana Reines” Interview by Michael Silverblatt. Bookworm, NPR. April 24, 2008. Audio,

Tea, Michelle. “Coming Up @ Radar: Ariana Reines!” Radar Productions. June 4, 2012.


Alumnae Biography

Poet, Independent Scholar, and Activist: Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Alexis Pauline Gumbs ’04. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!


Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a “queer Black troublemaker, Black feminist evangelist, prayer poet priestess,” and “widely published author.” She is also the founder of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind educational program, co-creator of the Mobile Homecoming experiential archive, and a “21st century cyber-enabled schoolteacher running the Indigo Afterschool program” for “creative black girl geniuses in 6th grade” at the Indigo Night School.

Brief Scope of the Past

Gumbs grew up in “tokenizing spaces” where she found herself to be the only Black or queer person. As a result of her unique identity and peculiar set of oppressions compared to others, Gumbs has always been on edge, prepared to be “misunderstood” and “disrespected.” She expected people to “tolerate her at best” and “to have to fight for dignity that isn’t so freely granted to people of color and/or members of the LGBTQ community. However, Gumbs’ father always managed to channel his daughter’s expectations into “transformative love,” embracing how difference challenges people to “question and re-write who we are and how we love each other.” He was her greatest support system.

At the age of 19, in 2002, Gumbs founded BrokenBeautiful Press, a grassroots publishing initiative that was inspired by Kitchen Table Press and Redbone Press. The press has published “several poetry collections, educational zines, transformative workbooks and online projects.”

Working alongside her mother, Pauline McKenzie-Day, the two created the Dynamic Duo Doula Team to provide people giving birth with holistic support as an integral healing project. They also collaboratively launched transformative mother/daughter workshops such as Thicker Than Whatever: Unstoppable Mother Daughter Relationships and Love Overflow: A Workshop for Newly Menstruating Young People and the Supportive Adults in Their Lives.

Gumbs graduated from Barnard in 2004.

Beyond Barnard

After Barnard, Alexis Pauline Gumbs obtained a PhD from Duke University in English, African and African American Studies and Women and Gender Studies in 2010. Her research was heavily devoted to Black Feminism, which entailed studying about Black women, motherhood, Caribbean women’s literature, diaspora, activism and queer theory. “She was also the first scholar to research the Audre Lorde Papers at Spelman College, the June Jordan Papers at Harvard University, and the Lucille Clifton Papers at Emory University during her dissertation research.” She then went on to found her two current organizations. She also edited Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines (2016), “a comparative analysis of her archival research on black feminist ideas of mothering from the 1970s and 80s together with the ways marginalized mothers are recreating the world today.” She later published Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (shortlisted for a LAMBDA Literary Award) in the fall of that same year, and M Archive: After the End of the World in March of 2018.

Gumbs has been selected for Best Experimental Writing 2015, Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize Honoree Award, named one of UTNE Reader’s 50 Visionaries Transforming the World in 2009, was a Reproductive Health Heroine and a Black Women Rising Finalist in 2010, and was awarded a Too Sexy for 501-C3 trophy in 2011. In addition, she was also one of the Advocate’s top 40 under 40 features and one of Colorlines 10 LGBTQ Leaders building a new politics in 2012, one of Go Magazine’s 100 Women We Love and Afropunk’s Afro of the Day in 2013, and was honored to appear on PBS’s American Masters series in 2014 alongside Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez, Gloria Steinem and Danny Glover in Pratibha Parmar’s film Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth. Her poetic work has also been published in many of the most cutting-edge poetry journals including Kweli, Vinyl, Backbone, Everyday Genius, Turning Wheel, UNFold, Makeshift, Proud Flesh, Sinister Wisdom and ElevenEleven.

Gumbs has traveled all over the U.S., as an itinerant speaker, sharing her social media skills, intimate rituals and educational expertise, and her work alongside legends including Ntozake Shange, Angela Davis, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Mandy Carter, Sonia Sanchez, Gloria Steinem and Julian Bond. Moreover, her Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind curricula, podcasts and videos have reached organizations in over 143 countries, from Chennai, India to Nairobi, Kenya.


Read her interview with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore featured in BOMB Magazine and Joy KMT featured in Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB)to learn more about Alexis Pauline Gumbs ’04 and her work.

Aziza Rahman ’20


Brilliance Remastered. “Bio.”, accessed June 1, 2018,

Duke University. “Alexis Pauline Gumbs.” Duke University, accessed June 1, 2018,

Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. “#ThisIsLuv: How My Dad Became a Queer Black Feminist.” Ebony, Ebony Media Operations, LLC, February 17, 2015, accessed June 1, 2018,

KMT, Joy. “We Stay in Love with Our Freedom: A Conversation with Alexis Pauline Gumbs.” Interview by Joy KMT. Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), February 4, 2018. Summary article,!.

Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein. “We Are Always Crossing: Alexis Pauline Gumbs by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore.” Interview by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. BOMB Magazine, March 22, 2018. Summary article,


Alumnae Biography

Ninth-grade English Language Arts Teacher Fired for Central Park Five: Jeena Lee-Walker

Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Jeena Lee-Walker ‘00. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!


Former English Teacher, Jeena Lee-Walker is notorious for being fired from teaching at the High School for Arts for composing a curriculum with lessons about the Central Park jogger case, which administrators feared would “rile up” black students, in November 2013.

Brief scope of the Past

Jeena Lee-Walker graduated from Barnard in 2000 and earned post-grad degrees from Harvard and Fordham. She began working for New York City Department of
Education (“DOE”), beginning in 2011, as a 9th-grade English at the “High School for
Arts, Imagination and Inquiry” in Manhattan.

“Central Park Five Case, Explained” 

The Central Park jogger case was a major news story that circulated throughout numerous news industries in the late 90’s. The story revolved around five boys of color, Antron McCray (15), Kevin Richardson (14), Yusef Salaam (15), Raymond Santana (14), and Korey Wise (16), and a 28-year-old white woman named Trisha Meili.

According to the recollections Ken Burns received for his documentary The Central Park Five, on the night of April 19, 1989, a group of about 30 young teenagers (mostly black and Latinx boys) met up in Central Park around 9-10 p.m. and engaged in various acts of mischief, like throwing rocks at cars. They even went as far as assaulting random joggers, leading to the arrest of two of the young boys by the police, Kevin and Raymond. They were held for hours in the Central Park precinct before officers contacted their parents to notify them of their arrest for “unlawful assembly.” They also reported that the boys would eventually be sent home with a ticket to family court. However, at 1:30 a. m., a 28-year-old white woman named Trisha Meili was discovered in Central park, beaten badly, raped, and barely alive. Hence, the boys were held longer than promised due to suspicions that they may be possible perpetrators involved the incident regarding Meili.

The boys were still detained the next morning and ushered into separate rooms where cops questioned them individually about Meili. Several more teenagers, including Antron, Yusef, and Korey, were brought in for questioning later that day. The boys were detained and endured non-stop interrogation for over  14-30 hours. Moreover, detectives threatened and coached them into providing the answers they wanted to hear. Teen Vogue author, Lincoln Anthony Blades also reported that:

Days later, the five boys were indicted for attempted murder, rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, sexual abuse in the first degree, two counts of assault in the first degree, and riot in the first degree. Once the boys left the interrogation room, each and every one of them reversed course on the lies they were goaded into telling when speaking with legal counsel.

A trial in August, 1990 acquitted Yusef, Antron, and Raymond of attempted murder, but convicted them of rape, assault, robbery, and riot. A second trial ending in December 1990, convicted Kevin of attempted murder, rape, assault, and robbery, and Korey of sexual abuse, assault, and riot. All of the boys faced charges of five to 15 years in prison, four of whom resulted in serving seven years, while Korey, charged as an adult, was sent to Rikers Island.

It wasn’t until 12 years later that Meili’s true attacker steps into the spotlight.  Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist already serving a 33-years-to-life sentence confessed to attack. Tied with new DNA evidence, New York County district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau vacated the convictions of the five boys and cleared all charges, after having already served their time in prison. Kevin, Raymond, and Antron took this opportunity to sue New York City for $250 million, citing malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress, and eventually reached a settlement for $40 million.

Film makers Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon released a documentary examining the case on November 23, 2012, called The Central Park Five.

Why Fired?

Lee-Walker argued, in response to administrators, “that students in general, and black students in particular, should be riled up,” despite agreeing to dial down her approach. She believed her lessons to be captivating and the topic to be important. She also found it to be a perfect application of the Miranda v. Arizona court case

Administrators still accused Lee-Walker of insubordination and given poor evaluations, more so because she pushed back.

Feeling abandoned and mistreated, Lee-Walker filed a suit in Manhattan Federal Court, and named the Department of Education and several school administrators as defendants. She claimed that:

retaliation against her violated her First Amendment right to discuss the Central Park Five case, and that the firing violated the city’s contract with the teacher’s union because she was not given a required 60 days notice.

In her favor, her lawyer, Ambrose Wotorson, told The News, “We’re not looking to turn our students into automatons. We’re looking to turn out independent thinkers — and she got fired for that, and that’s just wrong.”

On November 23, 2016, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed Lee-Walker’ case, reasoning that “her termination was not a violation of her rights” because school districts can regulate the content of school-sponsored speech as long as they are “reasonably related to pedagogical concerns.” Furthermore, Lee-Walker’s lesson plans, were not entitled to First Amendment protections.

As of February 27, 2018, Husch Blackwell LLP and Theresa Mullineaux report in an article for JD Supra:

If the Supreme Court decides to hear Lee-Walker v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ., the Court will address two issues: (1) do state-employed pedagogues enjoy the protections of free speech in academia, especially given the Garcetti case and (2) if not, does the First Amendment protect a teacher or professor in a public school or university?


Learn more about Lee-Walker v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ. by reading the legal brief for the case.

Aziza Rahman ’20


Bekiempis, Victoria and Greene, Leonard. “EXCLUSIVE: NYC high school teacher claims she was fired for Central Park Five lessons that administrators feared would create ‘riots’.” New York Daily News, New York Daily News, January 8, 2016, accessed May 30, 2018,

Blackwell, Husch, LLP and Mullineaux, Theresa. “Jeena Lee-Walker V. N.Y.C. Dep’t Of Educ. Et Al.: Book Banning And The First Amendment.” JD Supra, JD Supra, LLC, February 27, 2018, accessed May 30, 2018,

Blades, Lincoln A. “Central Park Five Case, Explained.” Teen Vogue, Condé Nast, July 18, 2017, accessed May 30, 2018,

Jeena Lee-Walker v. City of New York Department of Education of the City of New York, et al., 42 U.S.C. 1983 (2018).