The NBCC Announces New Board Members

By Members Of The National Book Critics Circle Board


July 15, 2020

The National Book Critics Circle Announces New Board Members 

The Board of Directors of the National Book Critics Circle appointed fifteen board members on Tuesday, July 14,  in accordance with the NBCC bylaws. These new board members were nominated through email by themselves or others and were recruited by the NBCC board.  Five of the board members who resigned their positions earlier in the year were willing to rejoin the board given the changes that are planned. The end result is the most diverse board in NBCC history and one of the most experienced. In the fall, eight board slots will be up for election.

In a message to its members, the board will be sharing a draft of the amendments to the bylaws in order to solicit comments from members before voting on structural changes to the organization. Proposed changes include declaring the NBCC anti-racist/anti-bias organization, giving additional voting powers to members, and more. 

In yesterday’s meeting, the board also received advice from legal counsel on best practices to proceed in facilitating a special membership meeting, which has been called by a group of more than 30 regular members for the purpose of voting on the removal of Carlin Romano. The board will have an update for the members on this soon, and will outline details in a subsequent release. 

The new board members:

Diego Baez is a poet and critic based in Chicago. He is a recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo, the Surge Institute, and the Poetry Foundation’s Incubator for Emerging Poets, and recently completed the Emerging Critics fellowship with NBCC. His reviews have appeared in The Georgia Review and Spoon River Poetry Review, among others. 

Stephanie Burt served on the NBCC board from 2010-2012, on the poetry and criticism committees, and as chair of criticism. She has been a working critic for national and international venues (NYTimes Book Review, London Review of Books, the Guardian, etc) as well as for alternative and academic journals (LA Review of Books, Rain Taxi, Metre, Michigan Quarterly Review, Xavier Files, etc) since the 1990s. Her first collection of critical essays, Close Calls with Nonsense, was an NBCC finalist in criticism; since then she has published several more books about poems, poets and poetry with Harvard UP and with Basic Books, as well as several more books of my own poems, including Advice from the Lights (2017), an NEA Big Read Selection. She is a Professor English at Harvard University.

Rod Davis has worked in every kind of media—radio, television, wire service, newspapers, magazines, and books, in positions ranging from on-air reporter to senior writer to editor. He spent nine years teaching English, at UT-Austin and SMU, and was one of the first hires for the Texas Film Commission. He has written two novels and one nonfiction book. He began reviewing books in the seventies with the AP and The Texas Observer and continues most recently with The Baffler. 

Charles Finch is the author of several bestselling novels, including The Last Enchantments and The Woman in the Water. He is a regular critic for the New York Times, Slate, USA Today, and the Washington Post, and received the 2017 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle. He lives in Los Angeles. 

Rigoberto Gonzalez served on the NBCC board between 2007-2015. His roles included being VP/Treasurer for 6 years and VP/Awards for 2, and chairing the Poetry Committee once and the Autobiography Committee twice. Returning to the board he brings additional skills acquired as board member for AWP, Poetry Society of America, and Zoeglossia: A Community for Writers with Disabilities. 

Megan Labrise is editor-at-large of Kirkus Reviews. She hosts Kirkus’ weekly podcast, Fully Booked, and interviews writers of all genres.

Chelsea Leu has written for the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Believer, and others. She is book reviews editor at the Rumpus, and was an NBCC Emerging Critic in 2018-2019. 

Tara Wanda Merrigan is a Philadelphia-based essayist and a class of 2019 Emerging Critics Fellow. Her literary criticism and reportage, which often examines the intersection of literature and politics, has appeared online at The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Hyperallergic, Literary Hub, The Millions, etc., etc. 

Ismail Muhammad is a writer and critic based in Oakland, California, where he’s a staff writer for the Millions, contributing editor at ZYZZYVA Literary Magazine, and Ph.D. candidate in English at U.C. Berkeley. His writing has appeared in Slate, the Paris Review, the New Republic, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other publications. 

Ben Olguín is primarily a poet, but also just completed the first installment of a trilogy of non-fiction prose travel writing.His day job is as a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he teaches a range of courses and workshops. He received an NEA grant to inaugurate the Voces Nuevas: New Latinx Authors Series, which will commence in 2021. 

J. Howard Rosier’s writing has appeared in The New Criterion, Bookforum, 4Columns, Art in America, and elsewhere. He received an MFA in creative writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where his thesis work was awarded the James Nelson Raymond Fellowship. A former fellow in the National Book Critics Circle’s Emerging Critics program, Rosier also edits Critics’ Union, a publication serving as an ombudsman for critical topics.  

Elizabeth Taylor is co-editor of The National Book Review and Literary Editor at Large of the Chicago Tribune, has served as President of the NBCC. The co-author of “American Pharaoh,” she edited both the Books and Sunday Magazine sections of the Chicago Tribune, and was a national correspondent for Time magazine, based in New York and then Chicago. Elizabeth has served as Biography Chair and the coordinator of our Emerging Critics program. 

David Varno is the fiction reviews editor at Publishers Weekly and a freelance critic. He received an M.F.A. in Fiction from Columbia University and his writing has appeared in BOMB, the Brooklyn Rail, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Electric Literature, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Newsday, On the Seawall, Paste, Tin House, Words Without Borders, and other publications. David has served as Fiction Chair and VP/Technology. 

Oscar Villalon is the managing editor of ZYZZYVA, which features author Q&As and book reviews on its website, as well as author interviews in the print journal. As part of ZYZZYVA’s slate of public events each year, Villalon has also conducted on-stage interviews with authors as well as emceeing ZYZZYVA readings and moderating panels. A former NBCC board member, he recently served on the jury for the Los Angeles Times Christopher Isherwood Prize and the jury for Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Born and raised in Southern California, he lives with his family in San Francisco. 

Harriet Washington is the author of Medical Apartheid, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, the 2007 PEN Oakland Award, and the 2007 American Library Association Black Caucus Nonfiction Award. She has been a fellow in medical ethics at the Harvard Medical School, a senior research scholar at the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University, a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, and the recipient of a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University. 

Richard Santos, VP/Membership, serves as official spokesperson for the NBCC board. He can be reached at