Liesl Olson is the author of Modernism and the Ordinary (Oxford, 2009) and Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis (Yale, 2017), which won the 2018 Pegasus Award from the Poetry Foundation for best book of poetry criticism, and the 2019 Mid-America Award from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.
Olson serves as Director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at the University of Illinois Chicago. Previously she directed the Program in Chicago Studies at the Newberry Library, where in 2021 she curated Chicago Avant-Garde: Five Women Ahead of Their Time, and produced its accompanying catalog. With three of her Newberry colleagues, Olson was awarded the 2020 Outstanding Public History Project Award from the National Council on Public History for Chicago 1919: Confronting the Race Riots, a series of programs across the city that explored the history and legacy of Chicago’s red summer. Born in Düsseldorf Germany, Olson grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and graduated from Stanford University. She received her PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. She holds strong opinions about poetry, and despite her proclivity for impossible shoes, loves to go camping.