British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds with Olivia Wright

The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association. 

Olivia Wright is an AHRC Midlands3Cities funded PhD Student at Nottingham. Her research is on Women’s Prison Zines in America. Olivia is the new BAAS Postgraduate Rep. 

Where are you right now?

Sitting at my desk at the University of Nottingham, gazing longingly at the sunshine outside.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?

Back to 1968 to see Johnny Cash perform with June Carter, Carl Perkins and the Tennessee Three at Folsom Prison – what a gig.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

For a party of six (including myself), I’d say Louis Theroux, Angela Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda, RuPaul and Chloe Ferry. Good to have a mix of talents and personalities, plus I think together we would be unstoppable. Like the Avengers, only more bookish.

You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?

I don’t think anything could bring me more comfort than Harry Potter (all 7 books rolled into one though)

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

I’d say winning the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association essay prize was a definite highpoint.

What advice would you give to your younger self (or younger scholars)?

Write notes on everything you’ve ever read and store it somewhere helpful and organised – future Olivia will thank you.

What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?

I’m off to San Francisco next week for a conference and research trip. I get to speak to some amazing women doing amazing work so I think it’ll be a great trip. Plus it’s my first time on the West Coast so I’m pretty pumped for that.

How did you come to your current area of research?

Almost by accident. I wrote about the theme of confinement in three African American women’s autobiographies for my undergraduate dissertation (Assata Shakur, Patrice Gaines and Maya Angelou), two of whom had spent time in prison. When researching around these themes for my MRes I found a prison zine written by women in the 1970s and once I started digging around I found there were lots more. The rest, as they say, is history!

What’s your favourite archive or library?

I’d say it’s a toss up between the Sallie Bingham Centre at Duke University and the special collections at DePaul. Both great collections with lovely, helpful archivists. It could all change by next week though!

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

When I was little I told my teachers I wanted to be the presenter of Blind Date (AKA Cilla Black), but since then my horizons have expanded and I’d be keen to try my hand at documentary film-making.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

The Dry by Jane Harper, because I love a crime thriller; I’d Die For You: And Other Lost Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, given to me by my sister; and The Straight State by Margot Canaday for a upcoming workshop at Nottingham.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Varies, but probably the longest has been there since Christmas.