About Joe

Joe Benevento attended parochial schools in Queens through high school before enrolling in NYU, where he completed a B.A. in English and Spanish (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa). After an M.A. in English from Ohio State and a Ph.D. in English from Michigan State, where he wrote a dissertation comparing the literary efforts and theories of Walt Whitman and Jorge Luis Borges, Benevento accepted a teaching position at Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University), where he still serves as Professor of English, teaching courses mostly in creative writing and American literature (including Latino/Latina), though also in Mystery, Young Adult Literature and even Elementary Spanish. At Truman he has also been Director of Graduate Studies, Director of Composition, Convener of the English Department and, for eighteen years, co-editor of the Green Hills Literary Lantern. 

After giving up his dream of becoming a world renowned singer-songwriter, Benevento turned his creative efforts full time to poetry and fiction; his first published short story, “Meeting Borges,” appeared in 1984. Since that time his poems, stories, essays and reviews have appeared in about 275 places, including: Poets & Writers, The Chattahoochee Review, Pearl, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wisconsin Review, The Cape Rock, Inkwell, South Dakota Review, RE: Arts & Letters, The Potomac, U.S. Catholic and Bilingual Review. His work has three times been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. In 1991 he was one of seven people featured in a special issue of The MacGuffin, “New Decade, New Writers,” and was the overall prize winner for the best short story of the issue. In 2009 he was a finalist for the Bordighera Poetry Prize. 

Benevento’s books include three novels, two full length poetry volumes, two poetry chapbooks, a book of short stories and work as an editor for a book of poems by his late friend and colleague Jim Thomas. They are, in order of appearance: Holding On, Warthog Press, 1996; Willing To Believe, Timberline Press, 2003; Plumbing In Harlem, Independence Books, 2003; The Odd Squad, Behler Publications, 2005; My Puerto Rican Past, Ginninderra Press, 2006; Brief Tracks (by Jim Thomas, edited and with an introduction by Joe Benevento), Truman State University Press, 2009; Tough Guys Don’t Write, Finishing Line Press, 2011; The Monsignor's Wife, Moonshine Cove Press, 2013. 

Much of Joe Benevento’s poetry and fiction is inspired by his time living in a working class neighborhood in Queens, which was an exclusively white neighborhood when he was a small boy, but a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood by his teen years. This topic is most apparent in his multicultural, urban young adult novel, The Odd Squad (a finalist for the 2006 
John Gardner Fiction Book Award), which is based in part on his having grown up the only white in a peer group of blacks, Puerto Ricans and Ecuadorians. Other key autobiographical elements in much of his work include his Italian-American, Roman Catholic, working class heritage, and his having lived for the past thirty years in the small town, very white, mostly non-ethnic Midwest, after those first twenty-two years in NYC. 

Joe Benevento has been married for the past twenty-two years to Carol Fohey Benevento. They have together four children, Maria, a junior at Creighton, Joey, a freshman at Emory, Claire, just beginning Kirksville High School, and Margaret, just beginning first grade at Mary Immaculate School in Kirksville, Missouri.