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Kathryn “Kitsi” Watterson


Office Hours

580 O'Neill Hall

By Appointment - call or email for appointment

Kathryn "Kitsi" Watterson, an award-winning journalist, is the author of ten books, three of which are New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Her works include the ground-breaking Women in Prison, which led to an ABC “Close Up” documentary, the founding of prisoner support organizations across the country, and ongoing scholarly study. Her nonfiction books include Not by the Sword: How a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman, which "povides a rare investigation into American hate mongering and the white supremacy movement, as well as a unique view of the power of love," won a 1996 Christopher Award and inspired a play and an opera. You Must Be Dreaming (co-author), exposes a world-famous psychiatrist who systemically drugged and sexually assaulted his patients. This Notable Book was the basis of the NBC movie “Betrayal of Trust” and is still being studied and excerpted. Watterson’s short stories and essays have appeared in TriQuarterly, Writers’ Forum, Northeast Corridor, Santa Monica Review, and Fourth Genre.  Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, and The International Herald Tribune.

Her newest book, I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African-American Princeton, recently published by Princeton University Press (2017), is a microcosm of American history. We live with a myth that slavery was in the South. This eye-opening book takes us into human bondage, segregation, and racial injustice in the North. It grew out of an oral history project that began in 1999, when Watterson enlisted her Princeton University students to help her and her neighborhood partners save the stories of a generation who had grown up in the Jim-Crow town of Princeton, New Jersey, where segregation was a way of life in the schools, restaurants, stores, and on campus. Their words, excerpted from fifty-five interviews, provide a living account that intimately connects the residents of the Witherspoon-Jackson community to the lives lived by their enslaved grandparents, great-grandparents and great-greats before them. Their stories shine light into the inner spirit and ingenuity of a people, who for the past three and a half centuries, against the constant tyranny of discrimination, actively worked to bring down the barriers and assumptions erected to bar their progress. They built institutions and strategies and organizations to protect, heal, and enrich the lives of their children and each other. The introduction to the book and to each chapter contextualizes the historical background, while the power of the residents’ personal stories connect us through time. The strength shown in this small black neighborhood defies anti-black stereotypes, and affirms the beauty, resilience, and dignity of Black lives. As one reader wrote: “Reading this book is not justt an intellectual exercise. It takes us into the human experience. The power of the individual opens our eyes and hearts to other people’s lives and becomes woven into our own.”

At Penn, Kitsi Watterson has hosted events at Kelly Writers’ House that include One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change, a film project of PEN and the ACLU called Reckoning with Torture, and an event honoring the friendship of James Baldwin and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She sings, drums, and facilitates diversity workshops with TheUnity, a popular improvisational musical trio. Currently she is at work on a memoir and a collection of short stories.








Courses Taught

fall 2024

fall 2023

ENGL 9013.640 Memoir Writing  

spring 2023

fall 2022

ENGL 9000.640 The Archeology of Fiction  

spring 2022

spring 2021

fall 2020

spring 2020

fall 2019

spring 2019

fall 2018

ENGL 481.640 Learning from James Baldwin  

spring 2018

fall 2017

ENGL 410.641 Storytelling in Fiction and Nonfiction canceled  
ENGL 457.640 The Art of the Interview  

summer 2017

spring 2017

fall 2016

spring 2016

fall 2015

ENGL 145.601 Art of Personal Essay  

summer 2015

spring 2015

ENGL 412.640 Archaeology of Fiction  

fall 2014

ENGL 457.640 The Art of the Interview  

summer 2014

spring 2014

fall 2013

summer 2013

spring 2013

fall 2012

spring 2012

fall 2011

ENGL 412.640 Archaeology of Fiction  

summer 2011

spring 2011

fall 2010

ENGL 412.640 Archaeology of Fiction  

summer 2010

spring 2010

fall 2009

ENGL 115.601 Advanced Fiction Writing  

spring 2009

ENGL 115.601 Advanced Fiction Writing  

fall 2008

ENGL 115.601 Advanced Fiction Writing  

spring 2008

ENGL 115.601 Advanced Fiction Writing  

fall 2007

ENGL 115.601 Creative Writing: Fiction  

spring 2007

ENGL 115.601 Advanced Fiction Writing  

fall 2006

ENGL 412.640 Archaeology of Fiction  

spring 2006

fall 2005

ENGL 412.640 The Archeology of Fiction  

summer 2005

ENGL 412.940 Archaeology of Fiction canceled  

spring 2005

ENGL 412.640 Archaeology of Fiction  

fall 2004

summer 2004

spring 2004

ENGL 412.640 Archaeology of Fiction  

fall 2003

summer 2003

ENGL 412.940 Fiction Writing Workshop  

spring 2003