Gina Warren (PhD, 2020)

The first time I met Gina was at The Steep House. She had accompanied one of our folklore students, Jessica Doble, and the three of us were there to talk about possible computational approaches to texts. As we were talking, Gina pulled up something on her computer, and then swiveled it to show me a screen filled with an Excel spreadsheet she had constructed that captured various moments in novels she was analyzing. She had used a spreadsheet because it was the only tool she had, and she knew she needed something more than notecards. That approach to doing things is emblematic of Gina herself: there is a kind of “isn’t it obvious that that is what needed to be done” to her, that permeates her being and makes her the scholar and writer she is.

It is with that isn’t-it-obvious approach that she raised chickens, crickets, pigs, worms, and I-don’t-want-to-know-what-else. If you are going to write a book about the backyard chicken revolution, then you should participate in it. You should be able to feel it in your bones. And if you are lucky enough to have read an advance copy of her book, then you have felt it in your bones through her words: the tenderness of wiping chick bottoms that you will, one day, kill for meat. Gina is not simply going to observe: she is going to experience. And in the doing, there will come that kind of knowing that makes her prose ring true. And, in a moment where writers worry about craft and public figures only care about telling people what they want to hear, we need someone like Gina for whom content matters, and experience matters, and science matters, and people matter, and animals matter. There is nothing that does not matter in Gina’s prose and in her world.

The only thing I could hope to do as her dissertation director was to continue to create a space within which she could continue to be the writer and scholar she herself was already committed to becoming. That was my only job, and she made it incredibly easy, and I think I speak for her entire committee when I say it was an honor to have been a part of the process in which she continues to become who she intends to be.