Jenn Shapland

Jenn Shapland is a writer living in New Mexico. She won the 2019 Rabkin Foundation Award for art journalism, her essay “Finders, Keepers” won a 2017 Pushcart Prize, and she has a PhD in English from the University of Texas at Austin. My Autobiography of Carson McCullers was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in Nonfiction, and was longlisted for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.


  • “A moving record of love at the margins.”

    The New Yorker

  • “The kind of state-of-the-form reckoning that makes one wish there were more like it.”

    The New York Times Book Review

  • “Positively breathtaking.”


  • “Revelatory.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “Stimulating . . . part fan letter, part detective story, and part steely corrective.”

    The New York Review of Books

  • My Autobiography Of Carson McCullers asks sharp questions not just about the details of McCullers’ life but, more broadly, how we understand historical figures who confound the social expectations of their time (and our own) and how, in turn, they can help us understand ourselves.”


  • “A beautiful consideration of the nature of proof, and of self and identity and queerness and history and progress.”


  • “A fascinating and intimate examination of the work of archives, research and historic preservation as well as the arc of identity and social construction. . . . [an] idiosyncratic and entirely winning book.”


  • “A succinct, thought-provoking exploration of women’s sexuality and the language that has been used to describe and limit our desires throughout history.”


  • “Gorgeous, symphonic, tender, and brilliant.”

    —Carmen Maria Machado, author of In The Dream House

  • “Lucid, distilled, and honest.”

    —Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts

  • “Remarkable. . . . A biography that’s also a memoir, a story of obsession and longing.”

    —R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries

  • “A gorgeous, brilliant book.”

    Electric Literature

  • “A personal, powerful, genre-bending account of literary discovery.”

    Book Riot

  • “Following along with Shapland-as-detective is a delight, and the mystery she sets out to solve is one of those wicked unsolvables: how do we account for the apertures in language, history, and identity?”

    The Los Angeles Review of Books

  • “An intriguing, genre-blending debut.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Mind-bending!”

    —Emma Straub, Books Are Magic

  • “A beautifully written and hard-to-categorize meditation on Carson McCullers and the hidden literary history of queer women.”

    —Lit Hub

  • “A mystery, a love story, a biography, several hearts on the page—I so loved this generous offering.”

    —Molly Moore, BookPeople

  • “A treatise on seeing yourself in someone else.”


  • “An exquisitely rendered map of discovery—of an icon, and of a self.”

    —Lambda Literary

  • “This book will change the way you think about the truth.”


  • “Shapland brings a sharp modern lens to her reading of McCullers’ (and her own) life.”

    The A.V. Club

  • “Two books in one: an examination of a famous author whose narrative has been posthumously taken away from her, but also a vital memoir of Shapland’s own experience as a queer woman looking for stories about people like her.”

    Harper’s BAZAAR

  • “Sensational.”

    Star Tribune

  • “You do not need to be a queer woman, a lover of Carson McCullers’s fiction, or interested in the mysterious junctures between our own lives and those of our favorite artists to love this book, but for those of us who are those things, Jenn Shapland’s memoir is a particular trove of delights. My favorite biographies are full of historical literary gossip and interested in the shadow selves of public persons. My favorite memoirs are those that scrutinize the self as an unreliable source of narrative truth and the one we must nonetheless rely upon. My Autobiography of Carson McCullers manages to do all of this in earnest and honest and riveting vignettes. It is a detective story and a dissection of selfhood, a puzzle every piece of which pleased me as it clicked into place.”

    —Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood