About Karen Christensen

Karen Christensen is an entrepreneur, environmentalist, and scholar who writes about the many ways women have gained and wielded power. She is the owner and CEO of Berkshire Publishing Group, a former trustee of the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Press, a member of the National Committee on US-China Relations, and the founder of the Train Campaign. Subscribe to Karen’s Letter @Substack https://karenchristensen.substack.com or try her Home Ecology newsletter. She can also be found on Twitter @karenchristenze.

Shanghai Book Review interview by QIU Xiaolong

This article appeared in Chinese in the Shanghai Book Review on 25 September, but I didn't see it until I woke up on the 26th, my birthday as well as T. S. Eliot's. It's wonderful to have it in Chinese, of course, because I've already heard from colleagues in China who saw it, but for those who don't read Chinese and would prefer something other than the Google Translate version, here's our original English exchange, which Qiu Xialong then translated. The Chinese version includes photographs I provided. QIU Xiaolong: It's [...]

September 26th, 2021|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Male potency in biography, autobiography, & other writing

A few novels I've read of late* are full of details about male sexuality, which led me to ask why there is so little sexual detail in biographies. Even when it comes to extramarital affairs, there is rarely anything about the frustrations or needs or entitlements that led to relationships that were often life-changing for all involved. I knew of one biography, Carl Rollyson, who writes about such issues, and I had a fresh appreciation for Lewis Mumford's candor about his difficulties with premature ejaculation as a young husband and [...]

June 27th, 2021|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Sylvia Plath’s ghostly presence

I don’t know if Ted Hughes thanked his wife, Sylvia Plath, for typing in any of his acknowledgements, but he should have. She typed, and typed, and typed. She typed submissions for the poetry competitions that gave him early success. She typed the sets of poems he submitted to Fabers, which garnered the attention of T. S. Eliot, poet and publisher. But Plath herself was not published by Fabers until after her death in 1963, when Hughes, who had left her, negotiated a contract with Faber & Faber because he [...]

September 30th, 2020|Categories: Books, Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: |

Cooking through a crisis

After I published the post "To Cook A Wolf - Baking with M F K Fisher," the cookbook platform ckbk suggested we collaborate in promoting an idea we both clearly believe: that home cooking can help us get through the COVID-19 crisis. I had picked up How to Cook a Wolf because it’s about eating during an emergency era, dealing with strained budgets and scarce provisions. M. F. K. Fisher tackled the challenge of hearing the wolf at the door with panache. It is true that, when the wolf first [...]

May 26th, 2020|Categories: Food|

Foraging & fiddleheads

Long before lockdown began in Massachusetts, I’d been laying in supplies at the urging of my son in Beijing, who’d already been through it. I started planning a vegetable garden, but was a little concerned about getting enough fresh vegetables. It would be ages until there was anything from the garden, I thought, until I realized that the rather annoying ferns that are endlessly trying to dominate the beds around my house are in fact the variety that produce edible fiddleheads. Then I learned that hostas, another plant I have [...]

May 13th, 2020|Categories: Food, Garden|

The Social Life of Reading

I was involved in a forum conversation about print and digital books last week, which inspired me to take this photo of some of the books I was given by the family of a British biographer. The biographer herself, Carole Seymour-Jones, had died before we could meet, but she'd been very positive on the phone and her family offered me her books to help with my related project. They are full of her notes, occasional letters and receipts, and even a pencil marking a place. Another biographer, the late Deirdre Bair, [...]

April 18th, 2020|Categories: Books, Writing a Woman's Life|