About Brenda

Photo © 2018 by Elena Seibert

Brenda began her newest book, The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation, six years ago — deep into Obama presidency — when impeachment wasn’t on anyone’s mind.  But fascinated by the first-ever impeachment of a U.S. president, she learned what happened and now dramatically recounts the story of the period shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, when Vice-President Andrew Johnson, now “the Accidental President,”   ignored Congress, pardoned rebel leaders, promoted white supremacy, opposed civil rights, and called Reconstruction unnecessary. Congress had to stop the American president who acted like a king.

“A landmark study,” says Ron Chernow of The Impeachers; “An elegant story stuffed with alluring character sketches and dramatic moments, both legal and political,” Michael Kazan writes in The New Republic.  “Riveting and absorbing,” Jennifer Szalai says in the New York Times.

This book follows Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877, a New York Times “Notable Book,” that Daniel Walker Howe called “magnificent” in The Wall Street Journal— “written in the style of Van Wyck Brooks, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Carl Sandburg, with a dash of David McCullough,” said the Boston Globe.

Her other books include White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award; Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner; Sister Brother Gertrude and Leo Stein; and Hawthorne: A Life, which received the Ambassador Award. She is the also editor of The Selected Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier for the Library of America’s American Poets Project and the anthology, Nineteenth-Century American Writers on Writing.

The volume, Whitman Speaks, Wineapple’s selection of some of Walt Whitman’s observations about writing, literature, and America will soon be published by the Library of America in celebration of the bicentennial of the poet’s birth.

She’s received such numerous honors as a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, two National Endowment Fellowships in the Humanities, and most recently an NEH Public Scholars Award for The Impeachers.

She’s also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Society of American Historians and regularly contributes to major publications such as the New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, and The Nation.

And she’s taught at Sarah Lawrence College, in the MFA program at Johns Hopkins University, at New York University, and at Union College as Doris Zemurray Stone Professor of Modern Literary and Historical Studies.  Formerly Distinguished Writer-in-Residence and Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at The Graduate School, CUNY, where she’s a Visiting Professor in the MA Program in Biography and Memoir; she also teaches in the MFA programs at The New School and Columbia University’s School of the Arts,

Born in Boston, raised in northern Massachusetts (on the New Hampshire border), she’s lived in New York City for many years with her husband, the composer Michael Dellaira.