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Margaret Vandenburg headshot

Photo by Alison Sheehy

Margaret Vandenburg was born and raised in Boise, Idaho, the rattlesnake capital of the western world. She lived abroad for a couple of years, first in South Africa and then in France, before settling in New York, which has been her home for the last thirty years. Having completed her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, Vandenburg spent her academic career as a Senior Lecturer at Barnard College, specializing in modernism, postmodernism, and gender studies. She lives in the Hudson Valley, a stone’s throw from New York City.

Margaret is a novelist, playwright, and essayist whose books include The Home Front, a portrait of a family facing autism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, an Iraq War requiem, and An American in Paris, a historical romp through the sapphic salons in the Roaring Twenties. Her plays include Belly of the Beast, a finalist for the Drama League Award for Outstanding Digital Theater, and Roe v. Wade 2.0, the centerpiece of a theater-based reproductive rights coalition. She also wrote the libretto for Ada, an opera underscoring Lord Byron’s influence on his daughter Ada's invention of the first computer language, first presented by the Center for Contemporary Opera.

To the extent that biography influences a writer’s work, life in the mountains has inspired Margaret as much as the life of the mind.  Summers in the Catskills open up creative spaces unimaginable in New York City, for all of its cultural treasures.  Though her novels often seem dystopian, if not apocalyptic, Margaret’s muse is ultimately transcendental. Writing is an act of faith, a belief that art can redeem our alienation from ourselves and the world.  If she were to write an aesthetic manifesto, it would mirror the sublimity of the following Emily Dickinson poem:

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any
other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary hills
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes, and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content,
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament —

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