In his Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage for The Washington Post, Eli Saslow, who has been called “one of the great young journalists in America,” reveals the human stories behind the most divisive issues of our time. From racism and poverty to addiction and school shootings, Saslow’s work uncovers the manifold impacts of major national issues on individuals and families.
Saslow’s book, Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, charts the rise of white nationalism through the experiences of one person who abandoned everything he was taught to believe. Of the book, Ibram X Kendi says, “The story of Derek Black is the human being at his gutsy, self-reflecting, revolutionary best, told by one of America’s best storytellers at his very best. Rising Out of Hatred proclaims if the successor to the white nationalist movement can forsake his ideological upbringing, can rebirth himself in antiracism, then we can too no matter the personal cost. This book is an inspiration.”
Born out of his Washington Post feature “The White Flight of Derek Black,” Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how the one-time heir to America’s white nationalist movement came to question the ideology he helped spread. Derek Black might be termed white nationalist royalty: his father, Don Black, launched Stormfront, the first major white supremacist website; his mother was once married to former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who was Derek’s godfather and mentor from birth. Derek was an elected politician at 19, with his own daily radio show on which he urged white nationalists to “infiltrate” the American political system to prevent what he termed “white genocide.” But when Derek chose to attend a tiny liberal arts college, his ideological foundations began to crack.
By 2016, white nationalism had become a glaring presence in the political mainstream, and Derek was ready to confront the damage he had done. Built on extensive, wide-ranging interviews with Derek, his father Don Black, and many other people, Rising Out of Hatred traces Derek’s painful but ultimately profound evolution, and explores the enormous ramifications of his decision to publicly denounce white nationalism in an open letter to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2013.
“This is a beautiful and important book. I am a changed person for having read it. If my father were still alive, there would be no book I’d rather discuss with him than this. There are gorgeous, brilliant souls at work in this powerfully told story, and they are everything that’s right and promising about our future.”
—Elisha Wiesel, son of Elie Wiesel and Marion Wiesel and chairman of the WVN Elie Wiesel Award
A testament to the power of education to broaden minds and spark conversations, Rising Out of Hatred immerses us in Derek’s world—as challenging, even uncomfortable, as we might find that—and creates, in the words of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, “a relationship between reader and story.” At once political and intensely personal, Rising explains how our nation arrived at this polarizing moment, and suggests that outspoken communication and active listening have the power to change lives. Yale law professor Amy Chua called Rising Out of Hatred “a must-read for anyone interested in understanding and overcoming hate.”
“This is a double portrait: of a worse America, and of a better one. Neither of them has yet come to pass, but each of them might. Thanks to reporting that is both truthful and humane, we see in one young man’s decision a guide to the choices that face a generation and a country.”
—Timothy Snyder, New York Times bestselling author of On Tyranny and The Road to Unfreedom
Saslow’s next book is Voices from the Pandemic, drawn from his ongoing oral history project for The Washington Post of the same name. Collected from interviews with a cross-section of Americans, Voices from the Pandemic documents a country struggling in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. From the first ominous stirrings of COVID-19, Saslow began interviewing a cross-section of Americans, capturing their experiences in real time: An overwhelmed coroner in rural Georgia; a grocery store owner feeding his neighborhood for free in locked-down New Orleans; rural citizens adamant that the whole thing is a hoax, and retail workers attacked for asking people to wear masks; patients struggling to breathe and doctors desperately trying to save them. Through these conversations Saslow reveals a kaleidoscopic picture of a people dealing with the unimaginable. These deeply personal accounts, showing Americans at their worst and at their resilient best, was recognized with a George Polk Award for Oral History, the first time that category has been awarded. Voices from the Pandemic is forthcoming in September 2021.
Saslow won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for a yearlong series of stories about food stamps and hunger in the United States. Collected into the book American Hunger, his stories were praised as “unsettling and nuanced…forcing readers to grapple with issues of poverty and dependency.” Saslow was also a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing. “The Lonely Quiet,” Saslow’s intimate, devastating portrait of parents whose first-grader was murdered at Sandy Hook in 2012, explores both staggering loss and the determination to wrest something meaningful from that loss. In 2016’s “How’s Amanda?“, he profiled a mother trying to support her adult daughter’s recovery from opioid addiction; he co-wrote the script for the film adaptation, Four Good Days, starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis.
Saslow’s first book is also concerned with untold American stories and the complex ways we understand our leaders. Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President, grew out of Saslow’s fascination with President Obama’s daily habit of reading ten letters he had received from Americans. By turns angry, optimistic, and moving, these letters—addressed from “Dear Mr. President” to “Dear Jackass” —serve as Saslow’s lens through which to understand who we are as Americans. David Maraniss, who has written biographies of both Obama and Bill Clinton, calls Ten Letters “a luminous book.”
Saslow is a longtime staff writer for The Washington Post, where he was initially a sportswriter. He covered the 2008 presidential campaign as well as President Obama’s life in the White House. Four of his stories have been anthologized in Best American Sportswriting, and he is an occasional contributor to ESPN The Magazine.
Saslow speaks on the role of journalism in highlighting social and public health issues, the craft of longform journalism, the human impacts of public policy, and the importance of civility and radical inclusion. He was the T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor of Journalism at the University of Montana, and he has spoken at Princeton, Syracuse University, UNC Wilmington, UVA, Northwestern, USC, and elsewhere. In 2011, Saslow cofounded Press Pass Mentors, a writing-focused nonprofit for underrepresented high school students in the Washington, DC area
A graduate of Syracuse University, Saslow is the winner of two George Polk Awards, a PEN Literary Award, a James Beard Award, and other honors. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and children.here.