Jeanne Marie Laskas is one of the most incisive, wide-ranging, and appealing voices in contemporary journalism. An “intrepid reporter and great storyteller” (Kirkus), she has been writing longform narratives for The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Esquire, and other magazines for more than 20 years. She has profiled everyone from Mr. Rogers to Vice President Joe Biden, and has done groundbreaking research into everything from the brain damage suffered by professional football players to the secret lives of undercover cops.
Other readers know her from her trilogy of funny, intensely relatable memoirs: Fifty Acres and a Poodle, The Exact Same Moon, and Growing Girls, which chronicle Laskas’s move from the city to a 50-acre sheep farm with a ramshackle barn and a busted tractor, and the growth of her family as she and her husband travel to China to adopt their two daughters.
In Hidden America, Laskas delved into the lives of those many of us have never considered: coal miners, cowboys, migrant workers, air traffic controllers, and others whose work supports our day-to-day existence—whether we realize it or not. Named a “Must-Read Best Book” by O, The Oprah Magazine and the Book of the Year by GQ, Hidden America is as entertaining and funny as it is moving and revelatory. After reading Hidden America, The Daily Beast concluded, “It’s impossible not to see the world a little differently.” Garnering comparisons to the work of Studs Terkel, Hidden America is infused with Laskas’s trademark wit and sparkling sense of humor, making it an engrossing and deeply affecting read.
Her book Concussion, based on her 2009 GQ article about the NFL concussion scandal, was published in 2015 to coincide with the release of the Golden Globe-nominated film adaptation starring Will Smith. Concussion, a New York Times bestseller, is the unlikely story of Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian immigrant pathologist who made one of the most significant medical discoveries of the twenty-first century. His status as a medical outsider and his unfamiliarity with football’s most powerful corporation gave Omalu the courage and the leeway to conduct research that would change the game forever.
Laskas’s newest book is To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope. Every evening during his presidency, Barack Obama, at his request, read ten handpicked letters written to him by ordinary Americans. He was the first president to archive every piece of mail he received from his constituents. These letters affected not only the president and his policies, but also the profoundly committed people in the Office of Presidential Correspondence whose job it was to open and read the millions of pleas, rants, thank-yous, and apologies that landed in the White House mailroom. Named one of the best books of 2018 by Glamour, To Obama is the result of interviews with the president, the letter writers themselves, and the White House staff who sifted through the powerful, moving, and incredibly intimate letters that comprise a narrative, even a time capsule, of America during the Obama years. President Obama called the New York Times Magazine article that grew into To Obama “my single favorite story about my presidency.”
A syndicated columnist for The Washington Post Magazine for nearly 15 years, Laskas has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, and many others. Her work has been anthologized in Best American Magazine Writing 2008 and Best American Sportswriting 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012. Laskas was a finalist for the Pen American Literary Award and the winner of more than a dozen Gold Quill Awards for excellence in journalism. Two of her pieces have been finalists for the National Magazine Awards: “Underworld,” in 2007 and “To Obama With Love, Hate and Desperation” in 2017.
Laskas teaches creative writing and is a Founding Director of the Center for Creativity at the University of Pittsburgh. She lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.here.