About The Author: Micki McGee

Micki McGee is a sociologist and cultural critic whose fascination with the American culture of self-improvement led her to spend five years reading and analyzing bestselling self-improvement books, visiting self-help groups and workshops, and talking with self-help readers.

When McGee observed that the number of self-help books in print began to increase in 1972—and nearly doubled relative to all books in print over the next three decades—she had a hunch that there was a relationship between the increase in self-help reading and the declining economic circumstances and opportunities for working Americans. Self-Help, Inc: Makeover Culture in American Life (Oxford University Press, 2005) takes up this idea and shows how the rise of makeover culture has left Americans not just overworked, but belabored—constantly at work on themselves, anxious to remain employed and employable.

In 2008, Dr. McGee launched a second book, Yaddo: Making American Culture, published jointly by Columbia University Press and the New York Public Library on the occasion of the major historical exhibition that McGee organized for the NYPL's Gottesman Hall at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Yaddo: Making American Culture is a comprehensive critical and historical survey of the well-known Saratoga Springs, NY artists’ and writers’ colony and its impact on twentieth-century American culture. More than 75,000 people visited the exhibition and attended related public programming.

The volume Yaddo: Making American Culture was reviewed by Yale University Scholar David Trumble in The London Review of Books, while the exhibition of the same name received widespread notice, most prominently in The New York Times by cultural columnist Charles McGrath and by Hillel Italie of the Associated Press in his syndicated report "Politics, War, Scandal: Yaddo Exhibit Opens."

McGee has been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts and residencies at the McDowell Colony and Blue Mountain Center, and a Helena Rubinstein Fellowship to the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program, McGee earned a doctoral degree in sociology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and an Masters of Fine Arts in visual arts and theory from the University of California at San Diego. 

Her essays and articles have been published in The Nation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Afterimage, Art & Text, High Performance and Social Text, as well as by the Centre Georges Pompidou and the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

In 2007 she joined the sociology faculty at Fordham University, where she is continuing her research on artists' communties, and remains at work on a long-term project on autism and its cultures.

Photo: Denise Malone © 2005