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Lackey's Latest Books Released

Posted by Jenna Ray on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014

Michael Lackey, associate professor of English, has recently come out with two new books, The Haverford Discussions: A Black Integrationist Manifesto for Racial Justice and Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists. The Haverford Discussions contains previously unpublished writings from members of the Haverford Group, which included some of the mid-twentieth century’s most prominent African American intellectuals, as well as Lackey’s history of the manuscript and the group. Truthful Fictions, which includes his interviews with 16 of the country’s most famous biographical novelists, clarifies for the first time why many contemporary writers author biographical novels and defines what only this aesthetic form can do. With two new books on the market, the prolific scholar plans to keep publishing at breakneck speed.

“Somebody has to explain why biographical novels have become so popular,” says Lackey. “This new genre of fiction is just enormous, and nobody has written about it.”

Lackey defines the biographical novel as a fictionalized account of a historical figure’s life, one that creates scenes and characters to illuminate that figure. Given the genre’s scope and increasing popularity, he likely will be focused on it for some time yet. Lackey currently is finishing a collection of interviews with novelist Jay Parini and is writing a scholarly monograph on the biographical novel, which he aims to finish in 2015. He also will guest-edit a forthcoming issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies (with assistance from Kelsey Butler ’15, Bowlus) and has received an all-University 2014 Imagine Fund award for his project “Mental Illness and the Biographical Novel.”

Lackey believes it would be impossible to publish this frequently at many other universities. He credits Morris’s commitment to research and the caliber of his student research assistants (Butler, Rachel Balzar ’14, North Branch, and Adrienne Haataja ’14, Cokato) with enabling him to be so productive.

“You have to have a university that is really committed to research to make this kind of thing possible,” he says. “You also have to have really smart, capable, motivated, disciplined students, because they’re interacting with major scholars and writers, and I need to trust them to be on top of things.”

Lackey’s research has contributed to the University of Minnesota system, as he teaches many biographical novels and has used his connections to bring prominent authors—Parini, Lance Olsen, Bruce Duffy, Anita Diamant, Rebecca Kanner, Sherry Jones, and Joanna Scott—to the Morris and Twin Cities campuses.

The Haverford Discussions was released by the University of Virginia Press in November 2013. Truthful Fictions was released by Bloomsbury in February 2014. A reception to mark the publication of both books will be held on March 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the LaFave House. This activity is sponsored by Briggs Library, the English Discipline, and the Division of the Humanities.

Lackey’s research was supported by generous funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Minnesota, Morris’s Faculty Research Enhancement Fund, the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Provost Imagine Fund Award Program, and the Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship Program.