Hitchcock, Susan Tyler 1950-

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Hitchcock, Susan Tyler 1950-


Born March 30, 1950, in Ann Arbor, MI; daughter of Hugh Wiley (a musicologist) and Helene (a research administrator) Hitchcock; married David W. Watkins III (a mechanical engineer), May 24, 1980; children: John, Alison. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1970, M.A., 1971; University of Virginia, Ph.D., 1978.


Home—Covesville, VA. Agent—Dystel Goderich Literary Management, New York, NY.


Writer, editor, biographer, memoirist, and educator. Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, editorial assistant, 1973; Media Projects, Inc., New York, NY, editor and writer, 1973; freelance writer, 1978—; National Geographic Society, book editor, 2007—. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, assistant professor of humanities, 1981-91.


Gather Ye Wild Things: A Forager's Year, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1980.

Monticello and Beyond, Papercraft, 1982.

Wildflowers on the Windowsill, Crown (New York, NY), 1984.

(Text) Eldridge Bagley: Son of the Soil, Soul of an Artist, Rand McNally Book Services Group/Custom Products (Richmond, VA), 1997.

Coming About: A Family Passage at Sea (memoir), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The University of Virginia: A Pictorial History, University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), 1999.

(Editor) Listen, My Children: Poems for Kindergarteners, Core Knowledge Foundation (Charlottesville, VA), 2001.

Sylvia Earle: Deep-sea Explorer, Chelsea House (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

(Editor, with John L. Esposito) Geography of Religion: Where God Lives, Where Pilgrims Walk, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2004.

Rita Levi-Montalcini, Chelsea House (Philadelphia, PA), 2005.

Mad Mary Lamb: Lunacy and Murder in Literary London, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2005.

Karen Horney: Pioneer of Feminine Psychology, Chelsea House (Philadelphia, PA), 2005.

Roe v. Wade: Protecting a Woman's Right to Choose, Chelsea House (New York, NY), 2006.

Frankenstein: A Cultural History, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Uncommon Wealth, Virginia Nature Conservancy (Arlington, VA), 2000, and From Here to There, Virginia Museum of Transportation (Roanoke, VA), 1998.

Contributor to newspapers and periodicals, including Washington Post, Americana, and Country.


Susan Tyler Hitchcock is an author whose works comprise a diverse collection of biography, memoir, and political and cultural exploration. A native of Michigan, Hitchcock holds a B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia. For some ten years, she served as an assistant professor in the Division of Humanities of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia, where she taught humanities classes specifically geared to the needs of engineering undergraduates. She has worked in publishing since 1973. In 2002, she began freelancing for the National Geographic Society, and in 2007, she became a full-time book editor for the society.

In Coming About: A Family Passage at Sea, Hitchcock recounts the personal story of how her family revived and reinvented itself during a nine-month, 3,500-mile Caribbean excursion in a thirty-four-foot sailboat. After a year of planning, Hitchcock, her husband David, eight-year-old son John, and six-year-old daughter Alison set sail in the Hei Tiki. Their route takes them from Florida to the many lush islands of the Caribbean, including the Bahamas, Martinique, Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Along the way, they deal with the challenges of maneuvering and maintaining their watercraft, providing home schooling for the children, and learning to cope with the enforced physical and emotional closeness experienced on the small sailboat. In the end, the family learns more about itself and becomes even more tightly knit. "This is a well-written story" that describes vividly but in nontechnical detail "how a family adjusts to life aboard a small boat," observed John Kenny, writing in Library Journal.

Hitchcock served as editor, with John L. Esposito, of Geography of Religion: Where God Lives, Where Pilgrims Walk. This volume presents "explorations of each major world religion" as assessed "by a practitioner of the faith," reported Christopher Brennan in Library Journal. The contributors look at the history, doctrine, and expansion of Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs. An introduction by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho, an Anglican priest, and an epilogue by the Dalai Lama reinforce the volume's overall message that "knowledge of other religions and their practitioners need not undermine our own faith," noted a Christian Century reviewer, but can lead to greater understanding of one's own religion as well as better relations with members of other faiths. A Bookwatch reviewer found Geography of Religion to be a "gorgeous blend of history, culture, and religious insight."

With Mad Mary Lamb: Lunacy and Murder in Literary London, Hitchcock presents a "deft portrait … of the woman who murdered her mother and later joined with better-known brother Charles to write Tales from Shakespeare," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. Hitchcock describes Mary's troubled psychological background, plagued by what was most likely bipolar disorder. She notes how "one afternoon in 1796, Mary Lamb, aged thirty-one, killed her mother with a carving knife at the dinner table," reported a Publishers Weekly contributor. Hitchcock explores Lamb's experiences in England's asylums of the time, and how she later rose to literary prominence via her collaborations with her brother, noted essayist Charles Lamb. In this "vibrant literary biography," Hitchcock "vividly evokes the changing times the Lambs lived in," noted Booklist reviewer Kristine Huntley. "This book adds an important dimension to our understanding of an era dominated by men," highlighting not only Mary's contributions to the works of Charles Lamb, but also exploring how her psychological afflictions affected her personally and creatively, reported Nancy R. Ives in a Library Journal review. The Kirkus Reviews contributor found Hitchcock's biography of Lamb to be an "informed and sympathetic portrait of a troubled mind and humble heart."

During her years of teaching at the University of Virginia, Hitchcock developed a deep interest in the "history of the myth of Frankenstein," she stated on her home page. This fascination with the literary and cultural aspects of Mary Shelly's patchwork creature culminated in Frankenstein: A Cultural History, which a Kirkus Reviews writer called "a thoroughly entertaining look at the iconic monster." Hitchcock looks at the origins of the novel during a summer in Geneva, when Mary Shelly, husband (and poet) Percy Bysshe Shelly, poet Lord Byron, and Byron's doctor (and novelist) John Polidori undertook a challenge to write an effective ghost story. She explains the realities of publishing in the nineteenth century, and then undertakes a thorough explication of the character of Frankenstein's monster as it developed and evolved in literature, film, and popular culture. Throughout the book, Hitchcock "reveals how the universal themes of the novel have been embedded into our modern consciousness," observed Library Journal contributor Shedrick Pittman-Hassett. Booklist critic Ray Olson called the book "lively, mind-expanding extra-credit reading for studious monster mavens." The Kirkus Reviews contributor named it a "cogent vivisection of a literary legend animated by the universal human fascination with the dark side."

Hitchcock once told CA: "I began writing Gather Ye Wild Things as an antidote to the discouraging job market for college teachers of English. And now I find myself embarking on an adventure—challenging, sometimes scary, all my own." She added on another occasion: "I am currently moving beyond my early writing interests in plants to new possibilities, and frankly find the change more difficult than the initial startup. More rewarding, too, I trust, in the long run."



Coming About: A Family Passage at Sea, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1998.


Booklist, November 15, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of Mad Mary Lamb: Lunacy and Murder in Literary London, p. 546; October 1, 2007, Ray Olson, review of Frankenstein: A Cultural History, p. 16.

Bookwatch, March 1, 2006, review of Geography of Religion: Where God Lives, Where Pilgrims Walk.

Christian Century, December 14, 2004, review of Geography of Religion, p. 23; October 3, 2006, review of Geography of Religion, p. 48.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2004, review of Mad Mary Lamb, p. 949; August 1, 2007, review of Frankenstein.

Library Journal, May 1, 1998, John Kenny, review of Coming About, p. 126; February 1, 2005, Nancy R. Ives, review of Mad Mary Lamb, p. 79; March 1, 2005, Christopher Brennan, review of Geography of Religion, p. 90; September 1, 2007, Shedrick Pittman-Hassett, review of Frankenstein, p. 136.

Publishers Weekly, April 13, 1998, review of Coming About, p. 66; November 8, 2004, review of Geography of Religion, p. 53; January 10, 2005, review of Mad Mary Lamb, p. 53; August 6, 2007, review of Frankenstein, p. 179.

Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2006, review of Geography of Religion.

School Library Journal, June 1, 2005, Marilyn Fairbanks, review of Karen Horney: Pioneer of Feminine Psychology, p. 178.


Susan Tyler Hitchcock Home Page,http://www.susantylerhitchcock.com (July 25, 2008).