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  About Us Bio of Dr. Joanna Hubbs

Biography of Dr. Joanna Hubbs

President and Senior Editor of Transitions Abroad Publishing, Inc.

Joanna Hubbs
Joanna Hubbs in Nice, France

Dr. Joanna Hubbs, a European who has traveled extensively since her birth 76 years ago, is the president and senior editor of, and has been helping select and edit copy for the website since 2007 after the passing of her late husband, Dr. Clay Hubbs, the visionary founder and publisher of Transitions Abroad magazine in 1977.

In 2006 she retired as professor of Russian cultural studies at Hampshire College where she had taught since 1971 after completing her Ph.D. at the University of Washington. She received a prestigious Woodrow Wilson fellowship to pursue her doctoral studies.

Though offered teaching positions by many of the most prestigious traditional institutions of higher learning in the country upon completion of her Ph.D. in Russian Studies, Joanna was drawn to maverick Hampshire College due to its very strong stated commitment to free speech and social activism within the unique context of the 5-college consortium in Amherst, Massachusetts. Hubbs was one of the first faculty members hired at the college to help build a community of teachers and students—an environment in which learning, discussion, and debate would go on easily and continually, formally and informally, in the classroom and out.

Hubbs has written on topics ranging from alchemy to Russian folklore and literature. Her book Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture is an interpretive study of Russian history from prehistoric times to the present. For her work, Joanna received the 1989 Heldt Prize for Excellence from the Association for Women in Slavic Studies.

Professor Hubbs taught courses at Hampshire designed to challenge students to think deeply and beyond the superficial by using their imaginations. She taught everything from great novelists such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev, Bulgakov, and Pushkin, to Russian Cultural History, Russian Film and Literature, the Persistence of Myth in Literature, Modernism and Film, and the French Enlightenment.

Joanna was married for 48 years to former Air Force jet pilot, journalist, professor and study abroad advisor Dr. Clay Hubbs, who left Hampshire College to found, publish, and edit Transitions Abroad magazine. The couple lived and traveled all over the world, most often as nomads, and their son, Gregory Hubbs, continues to enhance and expand upon the award-winning website—which has been inspired by family and independent travel over the course of more than 72 of her 76 years.

Joanna was born and grew up in Europe, spent her early years in England where she created mayhem in "finishing schools," met the Queen, spent 10 years in Switzerland, having such neighbors as Charlie Chaplin in Vevey on the Lake of Geneva in her teens (Note: she does not know and would not wish her editor-in-chief son to drop a fraction of the names of the many famous people she knew and knows well, that her son regards her as the most intelligent, widely educated, and sophisticated human being he has ever met, nor what a fabulous French/Italian cook she is!).

Joanna speaks, reads, and writes in five languages fluently. She has lived long-term on Italy, France, Switzerland, England, both coasts and central states of the U.S. She has traveled slowly and long-term in countries and regions such as Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, most every Mediterranean and Scandinavian country, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and many locations in North and Central America—not including the countless countries she has visited for shorter periods during the course of cross-continental trips.

Hubbs has written two novels (including A Russian Affair), and is working on a third about the French visionary poet and adventurer Arthur Rimbaud, whose voyages through Africa she retraced years before he became fashionable, and about whom she has written a poem below. Joanna has also published short stories in Europe. She plans to continue her fiction writing, poetry, and autobiography in retirement, in addition to continual travel, an insatiable appetite for reading, learning, discussion, and yes, even debate! Joanna tempers her intellectual intensity with other pursuits of interest such as art, classical and folk music, dance, French and Italian cooking, fine dining of all kinds, and a love of great conversation.

Joanna will continue to divide her time between Amherst, New York City, and Italy—where she owns a very modest hilltop watchtower in a lovely 12th century Tuscan village located between Siena and Florence, with a small and very hospitable population of locals and interesting expats from around the world.

Dr. Hubbs is presently involved in selecting and editing articles while judging writing contests for, helping to continue to steer the editorial direction towards what she finds interesting and informative. To contact her or for interviews, please email her at

Selected Articles by Joanna Hubbs for Transitions Abroad
Slow Food in Tuscany
Off the Beaten Track in Florence
Affordable Paris: Rent an Apartment Then Have Your Cake and Eat it Too
Beyond Venice: Soaking Up the Wine, Cooking, and Culture of the Friuli
Travel to Eat: The Traditional Food Found in the Langue Region of Italy
Il Theatro Minimo in Florence, Italy: Amy Luckenbach's Magic Show Goes on the Road
Cooking in Tuscany: Hands-On Lessons in La Cucina Tradizionale
Book Review of Rome:The Second Time
Letter from Ethiopia: Visitors to Africa's "Best-Kept Secret" Receive Rich Rewards
Selected Poem(s)


“No object is mysterious. The mystery is in your eye.” —Elizabeth Bowen: THE HOUSE IN PARIS

Why does the heart crave mystery,
Look to forbidden shores?
Why wander far from well trod paths
And unlock padlocked doors?

But so it was.
I made my way to Abyssian lands
Where centuries can melt away
Leaving still smouldering wounds.

Where churches dug into the ground
Guard chalices of gold,
The holy Ark of Covenant
It is rumored that they hold.

And in this Christian land there lies
A city little known
To infidel whose faith is pale,
Where Islam has grown.

And time which curls like serpent’s tail
Brought here a poet brave,
Who gave himself to mystery,
Though gold, he said, he craved.

Avid I was to see the place,
Where poets rarely go
To find that secret hidden spot,
A world I dreamed to know.

From Dire Dawa to Harrar
The mountainous road twists.
Thin tunic clad shepherd boys
Shout raising scrawny fists.

Caravans of camels trail
In the valleys down below
Where scattered groves of trees can veil
Huts built as though of straw.

Then barren hills softly descend
And Harrar’s walls appear
Malformed and yellowed ramparts
Against mountains grey and bare.

Once closed to every infidel
Now gates gape open wide
For strangers there in peace can dwell,
White domes on every side.

In cratered alleys they can roam
With lepers and the blind
With goats, with donkeys and with mules
And carts of every kind.

Blue mosques and tombs quite uniform
Where saints are worshipped still
And pilgrims there at every turn
To holy men appeal.

And markets are aplenty
Where stalls now sell such things
As radios and Western clothes
And silver hammered rings.

Slim women in their brilliant dress
Like rainbows clustered dense
Throne on the dirt and smile
Selling fruit, firewood, incense.

And turbaned tailors sit and wait
By antique sewing machines
To make for any customer
The attire of their dreams.

Young girls, faces like sunshine,
Balance beakers on their heads
And call out to “farangi”
Once traders from the West.

But foremost among them
So different from the rest,
A strange young man there once appeared,
In white he always dressed.

And though he came for commerce
He studied the Koran
And learned its language for he sought
To speak with each Iman.

For poets are enamored
Of words and rhythms strange
And Rimbaud, though he sacrificed
His genius, left that stage.

Still in his thoughts the letters
In each new splendid form
Danced bright before his curious eyes
Like music that is born,

From dreams, from colors, from the sounds
Of shots, of wind, of cries,
Flutes, and fingers playing on drums
Mezzuin, whose voices rise,

Hyenas nightly songs and calls
Gunshots like bells from desert knolls.
Or mid the stands of verdant trees
with leaves for thirsting souls,

That tame all evanescent needs
And lead the mind to roam
Past thoughts that daylight merely deems
Rebellious, strange in form.

And Rimbaud traveled far away
From Harrar to Red Sea
In ceaseless tireless desert treks
His mind to wander free,

Among the savage tribal sects
To seek terror and desire
Like flash of meteors in the sky
Words for the burning lyre,

Of a poet in whose ardent eyes
The world is poem pure
Refracted in a restless mind
Like oceans without shore.

© Joanna Hubbs. PhD

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