UMW Great Lives Associate Director Discusses Kurt Vonnegut on Public Radio Program

University of Mary Washington Associate Director of the Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series Charles J. Shields will explore how Kurt Vonnegut’s experience as a World War II prisoner of war influenced his later writing during an interview on the “With Good Reason” public radio program beginning Saturday, January 28.

The interview can be heard on January 28 at 4:30 p.m. on WCVE 88.9 FM and on Sunday, January 29 at 7 p.m. and Monday, January 30 at 12:30 a.m. on WAMU 88.5 FM. The segment, “From Combat to College,” is expected to be online beginning the week of the show at

Shields’ biography, “And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life,” is the first full-length, definitive biography of Vonnegut based on interviews with him and 125 of his contemporaries, friends and family members. Shields spent five years researching Vonnegut for the biography.

The man who emerges in “And So It Goes” is not the man his readers may have believed him to be. Shields reveals the effects of Vonnegut’s mother’s suicide, his internment as a POW in Dresden during World War II, his many years as a literary failure before his breakout success in his late 40s, his adoption of three children when they were orphaned by his sister and brother-in-law, his bouts of depression and his own attempted suicide.

Shields received a master’s degree in American history and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of the New York Times-bestselling biography, “Mockingbird, A Portrait of Harper Lee” (2006). Co-founder and vice-president of Biographers International Organization, Shields and his work have been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post. He also will appear on WABC-AM‘s “John Batchelor” show at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Feb.2.  The New York City talk show can be accessed online at

“With Good Reason” is the only statewide public radio program in Virginia. It hosts scholars from Virginia’s public universities who discuss the latest in research, pressing social issues and the curious and whimsical. “With Good Reason” is produced for the Virginia Higher Education Broadcasting Consortium by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and is broadcast in partnership with public radio stations in Virginia and Washington D.C.

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News release prepared by: Brynn Boyer                     

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.