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 mass shootings, Saslow’s work uncovers the manifold impacts of major national issues on individuals and families.
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, he profiled three children orphaned by America’s opioid epidemic. And in his feature “The White Flight of Derek Black,” Saslow told millions of Americans a story we need to hear.
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, hailed as the heir apparent to white nationalism since he was a teenager, 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. Saslow’s book Rising Out of Hatred, forthcoming in 2018, charts the rise of white nationalism through the experiences of one person who abandoned everything he was taught to believe.
By 2016, white nationalism was 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.
“Fascinating, gripping, and terrifying, Rising Out of Hatred is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding and overcoming hate. Eli Saslow is a gifted writer, and the tortured story he tells is deeply illuminating and ultimately uplifting. In our rancorous times, this story of how the power of humanity and empathy transformed a twisted mind offers more than a ray of hope.”
—Amy Chua, Yale Law professor and author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations and The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America
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 craft of longform journalism, social determinants of health, the human impacts of public policy, and the importance of civility and radical inclusion. He has spoken at Princeton, the University of Southern California, Syracuse University, the University of Montana, the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, Indiana University, the University at Wilmington, and Illinois College.
A graduate of Syracuse University, Saslow is the winner of a George Polk Award, a PEN Literary Award, a James Beard Award, and other honors. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and children.