Barbara Foster is an Associate Professor and research librarian at CUNY. She is co-author of three highly acclaimed books, including the biographies Forbidden Journey (Harper/Collins) and The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel (third printing Overlook, 2007). Her biography of Adah Isaacs Menken, America’s first superstar, A Dangerous Woman, was published in 2011 by Globe Pequot Press. Barbara is a world traveler in the tradition of the heroic women she writes about. She has written numerous articles, for print and the web, both scholarly and popular. Barbara has also published dozens of poems in journals in every English speaking country. She is included in Contemporary Authors and Marquis Who’s Who of American. Barbara is joint author of Three in Love: Menages a Trois from Ancient to Modern Times (HarperSF, 1997), which is presently an Authors Guild Selection available on iUniverse and Amazon. She is at work on a sequel to Three, which will be the definitive study of the history and psychology of plural love. Barbara has completed her intimate memoir of her experiences in New York and other exotic locales: The Confessions Club: the Secret Life of a Sexy Librarian.
How long have you been a member of the WNBA-NYC? How beneficial has the organization been for your career?
I have been a member of the WNBA for more than ten years. I have so much enjoyed and found the meetings practical. The once a year luncheons are divine and I have made excellent contacts there and at the meetings which address topics across the spectrum, very many of interest. People are friendly and helpful, ready to go out of their way for you.
Tell us about your memoir, The Confessions Club: the Secret Life of a Sexy Librarian. Has the publication process been more difficult because it’s a memoir?
Memoirs are difficult if you are not a celebrity. I am nevertheless currently submitting the Confessions Club to agents. I expect the process to be difficult, because I deal with erotic subject matter. I am a married academic who dared to have erotic adventures in various parts of the globe, which are now almost impossible to visit because of terrorism, etc. I did not write a Fifty Shades of Grey, which is in the porn category. My models are Erica Jong, Anais Nin and Toni Bentley – serious authors with a literary slant. My attempt is to tell a true, heartfelt story, which may offend some people. I led a double life: serious academic librarian by day, bohemian adventuress by night. I am now out of the closet and feel quite relieved. I will continue to circulate the work and hope to have good results.
What future projects do you have in the works?
I am currently working on a Sci-Fi book set in New York in the year 2050. It is a dystopian tale, which oddly enough was inspired by my library career and love of books. In my story there are no books, people are robotic after all the books have been burned. I am also preparing to put together a collection of my poetry which covers many subjects, written over a long period, and published in many journals in the USA and abroad.
You’ve previously written biographies about pioneering women like Alexandra David-Neel. What was your inspiration for writing about these women?
I want to tell the story of adventurous women who are not necessarily known by the general public. These projects take years of research and enormous work. They are labors of love. To quote Alexandra David-Neel, the explorer of Tibet: “I wanted to show the world what the will of a woman can do.” I to want to highlight remarkable women so they will not be lost to history.
My latest publication, A Dangerous Woman: the Life, Loves and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835-68, America’s Original Superstar (Lyons Press, 2011) is another case in point. I fell in love with Menken: her daring, originality, her poetry, her modernity, although she’s from the Victorian period. She defended Walt Whitman when everyone reviled him, was multicultural before the fashion, and was a precursor of Marilyn Monroe.
I have presented lectures on David-Neel as far away as Australia and am currently doing the Menken show in PowerPoint; she is the first superstar photographed by Sarony—the first celebrity photographer. I love doing the Menken show and am actively seeking speaking engagements.
What’s your favorite word?