Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Papers of Lis Harris

A staff writer at The New Yorker for 25 years – from 1970 to 1995 –  Harris has authored three major books on postwar American society, religion, and politics: Holy Days: The World of the Hasidic Family (Touchstone, 1985), Rules of Engagement – Four Couples and American Marriage (Touchstone, 1996), and Tilting at Mills: Green Dreams, Dirty Dealings, and the Corporate Squeeze (Houghton Mifflin, 2003).

“Lis Harris, a nonfiction writer of unique gifts, has taken her reporting into areas where the greatest patience and the subtlest understanding are required, and she has produced classics,” said Ian Frazier, the acclaimed author. “Her portraits of modern marriage, urban activists, and Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn are among the indispensable works she has contributed to modern nonfiction. Study of her notes and and other papers in Columbia's archives will give future writers an up-close sense of this remarkable achievement, and perhaps some tantalizing clues about how it was done.”

The collection is comprised of roughly 36 linear feet of materials collected during Harris’ career as a reporter and author. It includes correspondence, research notes, writing drafts, interview notes, and audio recordings. In these materials, scholars will find valuable sources related to questions of religious fundamentalism, urban politics, and environmental justice, among other topics.  

“The range of research and writing projects that Lis Harris has explored speaks directly to her authorial and intellectual curiosity,” said Thai Jones, Herbert H. Lehman Curator for U.S. History at the RBML. “As often as not her investigations have focused on New York City. Although Columbia collects on a global scale, it is also an urban institution. And so we are pleased and fortunate to bring her papers into the library. Her interviews and notes will offer future researchers unique insights into an eclectic variety of subjects.” 

Lis Harris is an associate professor in the Writing Program at the Columbia University School of the Arts. In addition to her books, she has authored innumerable articles, reviews and commentaries, and has received numerous prizes and awards.

The Lis Harris papers join the RBML’s already-significant holdings in the history of journalism. Other important Columbia collections in this field include materials related to editors Marie Mattingly Meloney, Joseph Pulitzer, and John Oakes, as well as such journalistic orgnanizations as the Woman’s Press Club of New York City, the Overseas Press Club of America, and Committee to Protect Journalists. The library’s collections also include materials collected by distinguished columnists, correspondents, and reporters, including  Ernestine Evans, Walter Lippmann, Lincoln Steffens, Benjamin Stolberg, Herbert Matthews, and Harrison Salisbury.  

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year.  The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.