August 29, 2022

Award-winning biographer to discuss courage and defiance during times of crisis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Rebecca Donner, this year’s winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography and one of the nation’s most respected writers, will join Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute for a virtual conversation on Sept. 7 at 10 a.m.

Donner and John Shaw, institute director, will discuss via Zoom her award-winning book, “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler.” They will also talk about Donner’s writing and teaching career. The conversation is part of the institute’s series, “Understanding Our New World.”

Donner, who is from Vancouver, Canada, has an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a graduate degree from Columbia University. She has taught writing at Wesleyan University, Columbia University and Barnard College, and has written two novels and published essays in The New York Times and other publications.

“All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days” chronicles the extraordinary life of her great-great aunt, Mildred Harnack, a native of Milwaukee who pursued her doctorate in Germany just as the Nazi Party was coming to power. Harnack participated in a secret resistance movement to oppose the Hitler government and risked her life as a spy for the Allies during World War II.  The book has been described by critics as a “stunning literary achievement,” a “tour de force of investigation” and a combination of “meticulous scholarship and sparkling narrative brio.”

“Rebecca’s writing is unforgettable,” Shaw said. “She blends rigorous scholarship with a remarkably innovative narrative technique. She has created a new way to write biography. And her account of one woman’s bravery and defiance in Hitler’s Germany will remain with you for a very long time.”

Understanding Our New World is a virtual conversation series with government and private sector leaders, policy experts, political analysts, authors and journalists. Attendees are encouraged to submit questions for Donner on their registration form or email questions to