Eula Biss

Eula Biss is the author of On Immunity: An Inoculation, Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays, and The Balloonists. Her work has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Howard Foundation Fellowship, an NEA Literature Fellowship, and a Jaffe Writers' Award. She holds a B.A. in nonfiction writing from Hampshire College and a M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. Her essays have recently appeared in The Believer, Harper's, and The New York Times Magazine.


“While I was writing this book, I was noticing all the places where we celebrate fear culturally.” [Link]


“What I want to offer male readers is what I want to offer female readers, and readers who fall between genders—a meditation on vulnerability, the story of a quest for knowledge, an exploration of our interdependence, and a feminism.” [Link]

MAKE Literary Magazine

“One essential element of the personal essay tradition is self-scrutiny. There is cultural critique happening in this book, but the cultural critique is emerging out of self-scrutiny. All of the fears that I’m looking at and critiquing are fears that I myself inhabited at one point or another.” [Link]

Barnes & Noble Review

“Fear alone is not a justification for any action we choose to take. This extends to all kinds of things, like: should you be allowed to shoot an unarmed teenager if you are scared of him? I think not.” [Link]

The Brooklyn Quarterly

“Yes, we may be consumers, of health care as well as many other things, but that doesn’t mean that it always serves us best to think like consumers. Health care is one of those areas, like art-making or community-building or education, where the consumerist approach of trying to get as much as you can for as little as possible can be counterproductive.” [Link]


“Part of how this book became so interested in metaphor is that I began to discover that some of the metaphors were masking either really important realities or really important concepts. Issues of race and class, for instance, I felt were getting completely erased or masked by the metaphors that were in use around vaccination.” [Link]

The Rumpus

“I got interested in the use of the vampire as a tool for talking about social power. It was fascinating to me: the ways that the vampire invites us to think about what we ask of each other, and what we ask of each other’s bodies. The image of one person sucking another person’s blood remains compelling and terrifying in part because it invites us to think about how the needs of one person’s health can draw on the well-being of another person, and more broadly, the ways in which the individual draws on the social body.” [Link]


“I drew some inspiration for On Immunity from Candide by Voltaire, which is also written in thirty short sections. I was interested in Candide in part because Voltaire was writing against a certain kind of optimism, and I saw myself as writing for a certain kind of optimism.” [Link]

Late Night Library

“My work as an essayist is heavily influenced by poetry, and I was lucky to be reading Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath as I was finding my way as a young writer. I count that as one of the reasons why I tend to think of personal narrative—particularly when it concerns the body or domesticity—as a perfectly viable space for intellectual exploration.” [Link]

Numero Cinq

“It is useful to me when I find the form the work is going to take—that is extremely useful—but I rarely decide before I write what it's going to look like formally. I find that through the process.” [Link]

Hot Metal Bridge

“Yes, a certain unstaved vulnerability is characteristic of who I am as a person, but in my writing I consider vulnerability a tool. A vulnerable persona can be instrumental in an essay, particularly an essay that is working to avoid the pitfalls of righteousness.” [Link]

Gulf Coast

“The problem with the term ‘organic,’ just as with the term ‘lyric essay,’ is that a genre, or category, or term doesn’t determine what’s good and what’s not good….” [Link]


“Writing about race is a place that I found myself mostly because that’s a place where I wanted to clarify my own thinking.” [Link]

The Ithacan


“Neither of us knew what the words meant at the time, and both of us were utterly horrified when we looked them up. ‘Meretricious’ means ‘of, or relating to, a prostitute’—to which I’ve learned to say, bring it on!” [Link]