Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writer Series Writer Calvin Baker

Calvin Baker photo 2 - Carol Dragon credit

Calvin Baker is an American novelist, essayist, and editor who has chronicled the African American experience from the Colonial era to the present, centering the Black voice and perspective within the context of trans-Atlantic history. Among his concerns are constructions of American identity, cosmopolitanism, post-colonialism, modernity, geography, and science. He has taught in the English Department at Yale, Columbia University’s Master of Fine Arts Program, and the American Studies Department at the University of Leipzig, Germany.

His first novel, Naming the New World, was sold to A Wyatt Books for St. Martin's Press when he was 23. The novel begins in Africa before contact with Europe and ends in recent America. The narrative employs postmodern techniques to unify a single consciousness across time.

His second novel, Once Two Heroes, employs a dual narrative structure, one white, one black, to explore the mid-century connection between America and Europe and 20th century violence through the prism of World War II and the American phenomenon of racial lynching. His third novel, Dominion, is concerned with the promise and potentialities of pre-Revolutionary America, the birth of a racial caste system, and the ghost of loss that haunted the early settlers, both black and white. Dominion was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Award and was selected as one of the New York Newsday Best Books of the Year. Grace, published in 2015, is concerned with the intersection of interior identity and geography, the interplay of logical and emotional systems, and the tension between public and private selves.

Early in his career, Baker worked as a journalist at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Time Inc., and The Village Voice. More recently, his nonfiction has appeared in Harper's Magazine and The New York Times Magazine.

Baker’s work has been widely acclaimed by critics and writers diverse as Joseph O'Neill, Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Renard Allen, Francisco Goldman, Dale Peck, Maud Newton, and Hannah Tinti. Peck, widely known for his critical takedowns, called Baker one of his favorite living writers, saying of Grace, "He works in a rarefied strain of literature whose practitioners include Faulkner, Morrison, Calvino and Cormac McCarthy." Newton praised Baker's Dominion for "richness of language that recalls the King James." 

Baker was born in Chicago, attended the University of Chicago Lab Schools, and graduated from Amherst College, where he received his degree in English with highest honors in the major. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

(Photo credit: Carol Dragon).

(Calvin Baker VWS pdf flyer)

Thursday, March 29
7:30 p.m.
Table Rock Room
Plemmons Student Union

Craft Talk:
2-3:15 p.m.
Table Rock Room

(faculty host: Carolyn Edy, Communications)

Book sales and signing will follow each event. Admission is free.

PARKING is free on campus after 5 p.m. We recommend the Library Parking Deck on College Street (from King Street, turn down College Street at the First Baptist Church). To reach the Student Union, cross College Street and follow the walkway between the chiller plant and the University Bookstore, passing the Post Office and entering the Student Union on the second floor. For further parking information or a map, please see

For further information on the Spring 2018 season, please email weinbergsc@ Facebook: appstatevisitingwriters. Website:

 THE VISITING WRITERS SERIES is named in honor of Hughlene Bostian Frank (class of 1968), a 2013 Appalachian Alumni Association Outstanding Service award recipient, past member of Appalachian’s Board of Trustees, current board member of the ASU Foundation, and generous supporter of Appalachian State University.

Appalachian State University Foundation, Inc.
Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of English
Office of Multicultural Student Development
University Bookstore
Belk Library
Appalachian Journal

The Gideon Ridge Inn
The Red Onion Restaurant
The New Public House & Hotel

John and the late Margie Idol
Paul and Judy Tobin
Alice Naylor
Thomas McLaughlin

In Partnership with the Black Mountain College Semester:

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