Faculty & Staff Directory

Kaya Oakes

Continuing Lecturer

Kaya Oakes teaches College Writing R1A, R4B, 110, 130 and 131 (creative nonfiction), and has been a lecturer in College Writing since 1999. She is the author of four books, most recently including The Nones Are Alright (Orbis Books: 2015, Religion News Association best books finalist), Radical Reinvention (Counterpoint Press: 2012), and Slanted and Enchanted (Henry Holt: 2009, San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book). Her fifth book, The Defiant Middle, is forthcoming in November 2021. Her essays and journalism have appeared in The New Republic, SlateThe Guardian, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Sojourners, On Being, and many other publications. She is also a senior writer at Religion Dispatches, a contributing editor at Killing the Buddha, and a staff writer at America magazine. In 2016, she was among agroup of international writers who traveled to the Vatican to study reporting on religion in politically tumultous times. Kaya was selected as Religion News Service's 2021 recipient for best commentary writing. At Berkeley, she was the recipient of an innovation grant and a faculty fellowship from the Mellon Faculty Institute for Undergraduate Research, and twice received a Lecturer Teaching Fellowship. She holds an MFA in creative writing and has done postgraduate work in writing and education at Berkeley. Her books are widely taught, and she travels frequently to colleges and conferences around the country to speak and guest teach, but mostly enjoys spending time in her hometown of Oakland, California. 

Publications / Presentations 

Books (featured)

The Defiant Middle: How Women Claim Life's In-Betweens to Remake the World (Broadleaf Books, 2021)

The Nones Are Alright (Orbis Books, 2015; Religion News Service best books finalist)

Radical Reinvention (Counterpoint, 2012)

Slanted and Enchanted (Henry Holt, 2009; San Francisco Chronicle notable book)


Selected essays and journalism (featured; updated list of clips http://t.co/LxijKzCZIf)

On Zoom Monasticism and Julian of Norwich, America Magazine, Winter 2020

Letter from California, Commonweal, January 2019

The Conservative Resistance Inside the Vatican, The New Republic, October 2018

To the Woman Who Shushed Me at the Yo-Yo Ma Concert, Slate, October 2018

The Bay Area's Infinite Loop, Commonweal, November 2018

It's Not Midlife, It's Medieval, On Being, January 2018

Finding a Native Identity in Oakland (review of Tommy Orange's There There), America, November 2018)

Union Busting for God: Catholic Colleges Invoke Religious Freedom to Violate Catholic Teaching, Religion Dispatches, June, 2017

Religion in Real Time on CNN’s Believer: A Conversation with Reza Aslan, Religion Dispatches, February 2017

Do We Really Want Our Government Run Like a Business? Sojourners, April 2017

After the Ghost Ship Fire, Looking Back on Thirty Years in the Warehouses of Oakland, Narratively, December 2016

They’re Not Coming Back: The Religiously Unaffiliated in the Post-Religious Era, Religion Disptatches, June 2016

Democracy, Vatican Style, Foreign Policy, April 2016

Does Catholicism Have a Man Crisis? The Washington Post, January 2015

The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis by Garry Wills, The Guardian, March 2015


Selected presentations

Faith and Secularization: A Dialogue. Loyola University Chicago (Zoom). October, 2020. Speaker. 

Academy of American Religion special topics presentation. San Diego, CA. November, 2019. Speaker.

Does Faith Have a Future? Fordham University. October, 2019. Speaker. 

Festival of Faith and Writing. Calvin University, Grand Rapids, MI. April, 2020. Speaker.

Borgogni Lecture in Religion, Syracuse University, October 2018. Speaker. 

Writing a Life on the Margins. Search for Meaning festival. Seattle University, Seattle, WA. February 2017. Speaker.

The Queering of Young Adult Literature. Associated Writing Programs Conference. March, 2016. Panel moderator.  

Spiritual Autobiography in a Secular Time. Creighton University. October, 2015. Speaker.

Seekers, Believers, and Those In Between: Millennials, Gen X, and DIY Religion. De Paul University. May, 2015. Speaker.

 Joyful Indifference: Montaigne and the Contemporary Religious Essayist. The Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination Conference. University of Southern California. February, 2015. Panel.

Richard Rodriguez and Kaya Oakes in Conversation. Faith Presbyterian Church, Oakland, CA. October, 2014. Speaker.

Doubt is my Revelation: Literary Journalists on Religion. Associated Writing Programs Conference. February, 2014. Panel.

“Social Justice Week. College of Saint Rose. March 2013. Speaker.

Getting to Know (All?) About You: Unmasking the Teacher. CCCC Annual Conference. March 14, 2009. Panel.

Further Information 

Grants, fellowships and awards (selected)

First place, Best Feature Story, Catholic Press Association, 2020; Second place, Best In Depth Reporting, Catholic Press Association, 2020

Fellowship, The Church Up Close seminar for religion reporters, Pontifical University of Santa Croce, Rome, Italy. September 2016

Finalist, Awards for Religion Reporting Excellence, Books, Religion News Association, 2016

Lily Foundation grant for Religion Dispatches, contributing writer, University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism, 2014-2017

Catholic Press Association Award for The Nones Are Alright, 2016

Lecturer Teaching Fellowship, UC Berkeley, 2013-2014

San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book, 2009

Transcontinental Poetry Prize, Pavement Saw Press, 2005

Mellon Innovation Grant for Undergraduate Research, UC Berkeley, 2005-2006

Mellon Faculty Institute for Undergraduate Research, Fellow, 2004-2005

Bay Area Writing Project Summer Institute Fellow, 2002

The Nation Discovery Prize, finalist, 2000, 2002