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National Book Award winner


Andrea Barrett, major American fiction writer, won the National Book Award for the short story collection, Ship Fever (1996), and was a Pulitzer finalist for Servants of the Map: Stories (2002).


One of Lit Hub’s “Most Anticipated Books of 2022,” her newest collection is Natural History (Sept. 2022), featuring six stories set in a small community in central New York, and spanning the decades between the Civil War to the present day. Writing in advance praise, author Karen Russell called Barrett “A genius-enchantress,” and Kirkus called the book, “More superb work from an American master.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2022
4:30 p.m. — Craft Talk
7:30 p.m. — Conversation and reading
Both events in the Multi-Purpose Room, Campus Center West Addition
University at Albany, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany NY 12222
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Free and open to the public.

Andrea Barrett

Andrea Barrett was born in Boston in 1954, grew up on Cape Cod, and later attended Union College, where she graduated with a degree in biology. She began writing fiction seriously in her thirties and published her first novel, Lucid Stars, in 1988. She’s particularly well known as a writer of historical fiction and her books reflect her lifelong interest in science and natural history.


More about Andrea Barrett's new book

In Natural History, Andrea Barrett completes the beautiful arc of intertwined lives of a family of scientists, teachers, and innovators that she has been weaving through multiple books since her National Book Award–winning collection, Ship Fever.


The six exquisite stories in Natural History are set largely in a small community in central New York state and portray some of her most beloved characters, spanning the decades between the Civil War to the present day. In “Henrietta and Her Moths,” a woman tends to an insect nursery as her sister’s life follows a different path. In “Open House,” a young man grapples with a choice between a thrilling life spent discovering fossils and a desire to remain close to home. And in the magnificent title novella, “Natural History,” Barrett deepens the connection between her characters, bringing us through to the present day and providing an unforgettable capstone.

Told with Barrett’s characteristic elegance, passion for science, and wonderful eye for the natural world, the psychologically astute and moving stories gathered in this collection evoke the ways women’s lives and expectations―in families, in work, and in love―have shifted across a century and more. Building upon one another, these tales brilliantly culminate to reveal how the smallest events of the past can have large reverberations across the generations, and how potent, wondrous, and strange the relationship between history and memory can be.

From the archives

In 2007, Andrea Barrett visited the Writers Institute to discuss her novel The Air We Breathe, the story of an isolated Adirondack community of tuberculosis patients as they experience the outbreak of World War I. The novel is set in a village called Tamarack Lake in the Adirondacks, a fictionalized Saranac Lake, NY, which was a world-renowned center for the treatment of TB.

In June 2020, during the height of COVID, we published a Q&A with Andrea Barrett. An excerpt:

Q: What do you do to keep sane?

A: Read, write, walk, repeat. Re-reading older work I’m already familiar with has been a great way to concentrate, even if only for an hour a day, on what writing really is for, what it can do. And it helps me write (which is probably the most important thing I can do to stay sane). 

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