Melissa Benn

Novelist, Non-fiction writer


Melissa Benn is the author of seven works of nonfiction and two novels. Her acclaimed nonfiction includes School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education (Verso, 2011) and What Should We Tell Our Daughters? The Pleasures and Pressures of Growing Up Female ( John Murray, 2013), shortlisted for Politico Book of the Year. She has published two novels: Public Lives (Hamish Hamilton, 1995) and One of Us (Chatto and Windus, 2008) – a modern retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone – which was shortlisted for a British Book award. Melissa’s writing often explores the tensions between private and public lives, either at a policy level or in more human terms.

As a freelance journalist, Melissa has honed her writing skills over decades, contributing to The Guardian, New Statesman and Financial Times among numerous others. Her published essays have enabled her to range beyond the topical, looking at everything from media representations of children in poverty to the life and times of the Kilburn High Road. She is currently researching a study of the interplay between politics and literary fiction over the last seventy years.

A winner of the Fred and Anne Jarvis award in recognition of her long campaigning for a fairer education system, Melissa relishes courteous debate. A patron of the Cambridge Literary Festival, she has spoken at many events and festivals and was recently appointed visiting professor at York St John university. She enjoys mentoring younger writers. Melissa lives in London with her partner with whom she has two grown-up daughters.

Melissa Benn
Image credit: Habie Schwarz

Melissa Benn

Novelist, Non-fiction writer

Current Fellowship

Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, 2023–2024


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