The Washington Post Style Section turns 50 this year. In a special edition celebrating the edgy, groundbreaking, award-winning features section where I worked for just over a decade, a piece of mine from 1995, an interview with John Kennedy Jr., was chosen to be reprinted. I wrote a lot of profiles for Style and I never thought this one was my very best. And it’s a bittersweet read now, remembering what a gentle and dashing and funny guy John Kennedy was. He died just a few years later.
Hank Stuever, the TV critic at WaPo, who has written his own motherlode of classics for Style, wrote a introduction to the special section — where you can also find links to a number of great stories, scenes, profiles, exposes and just fantastic writing that will keep you entertained and laughing all day and night. Somebody should get around to putting some of these in a book.
Click to check out the best of Style
More great news . . . In addition to the NYTimes Notable Books of the 2018, What the Eyes Don’t See has been named a “Best Book of the Year” by NPR’s Science Friday. Here’s a nice round-up of praise from 2018 reviews:
“Intimate and subjective…Hanna-Attisha’s quest is full of drama and suspense…She’s a breezy, charismatic raconteur prone to feisty character descriptions…crusading figures from public health lore, turn the book into a condemnation of groupthink and a clarion call to live a life of purpose.”
— The Washington Post
“Amid the crisis that unfolded after the water switch,heroes emerged. WHAT THE EYES DON’T SEE is a thoughtful, at times blistering meditation…weaving her own family story through the book…Hanna-Attisha sheds new light.”
“In her gripping memoir…She is disarmingly modestabout her role…Hanna-Attisha is a chatty and entertaining narrator…Her book has power precisely because she takes the events she recounts so personally…A great virtue of her book is the moral outrage present on every page.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Personal and emotional, she vividly describes the effects of lead-poisoning on her young patients…She is at her best when recounting the detective work she undertook after a tip-off about lead levels from a friend…‛Flint will not be defined by crisis,’ vows Ms Hanna-Attisha.”
“A stirring and personal account…For all her doggedness, Hanna-Attisha is a goofy, appealing,very human narrator…Hers is the book I’d recommend to those coming to the issue for the first time; the crisis becomes personalized through the stories of her patients and their parents.”
—Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
“Mona Hanna-Attisha’s account of that urban man-made disaster reads both as a detective story and as an exposé of government corruption… Her book’s message is that we each have the power to fix things,to make the world safer by opening one another’s eyes to problems. Her book reinforced my belief that the first step to becoming a citizen activist is seeing the world as it should be, not as it is given to you.”
—The Seattle Times
“Essential for all readers who care about children, health, and the environment. This should be required reading for public servants as an incisive cautionary tale, and for pediatricians and youth advocates as a story of heroism in the ranks of people who have the capacity to make a difference.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“The Iraqi American pediatrician who helped expose the Flint water crisis lays bare the bureaucratic bunk and flat-out injustice at the heart of the environmental disgrace—revealing, with the gripping intrigue of a Grisham thriller, “the story of a government poisoning its own citizens, and then lying about it.”
—O Mag, Summer Book Guide
Thrilled to see Mona Hanna-Attisha’s WHAT THE EYES DON’T SEE on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018.
Every time I take on a new collaboration project and help somebody tell their story, it’s like entering a new universe. The learning curve is usually steep and invigorating, like taking a tough hike up a mountain. I learned so much working on WTEDS with Mona — about the Flint Water Crisis, lead, pediatrics, public health, environmental injustice, the DC Water Crisis — ever hear about that? — and Mona’s amazing Iraqi family, the Hanna’s, and their long history of social activism.
The book turned out well, thanks to Mona’s dedication, hard work and fantastic storytelling chops, and the brilliant help of its editor, Christopher Jackson at One World, who cared as much as we did and gave us fantastic guidance, ideas and inspiration.
Mona signing books . . .
The Cyber Effect by Mary Aiken is now in paperback, a fantastical and scary dive into our online lives and personas — and a crucial must-read for parents.
Human behavior changes online and the impact on child development needs more attention, not another decade of burying our heads in the sand. I am proud to have been a writer and collaborated on this book — embraced already by a multitude of experts, including NATURE, the gold-standard for scientists — and really hope to work with Mary Aiken again. Besides being breathtakingly smart, she’s also hilariously fun.
My dad is the gift that keeps on giving. When Esquire Classic made #20 in a list of best podcasts of the year, My Father the Bachelor was singled out as the “gateway” episode. I love that we beat out The New Yorker Radio Hour (#23) and Fresh Air (#24)
20. Esquire Classic
Most literary podcasts adopt a familiar highbrow voice, but Esquire Classic makes English lit conversational. Each episode sees the show reexamine one great piece from the magazine, poring over all the insider details: what Susan Orlean was thinking when she profiled a 10-year-old boy, or why Richard Ben Cramer was the perfect foil for Ted Williams. By interweaving readings of the essays with conversations between the host and someone close to the piece (usually a writer or editor), the podcast contextualizes the making of essential literature.
Gateway Episode: “My Father the Bachelor, by Martha Sherrill”
Banner Episode: “What It Takes, by Richard Ben Cramer”
Fascinating, wild, scary — finally, something that makes sense of the behavior we are seeing online and in real life these days. I am very proud to have collaborated with Mary Aiken on The Cyber Effect (Spiegel & Grau, 2016)
“Just as Rachel Carson launched the modern environmental movement with her Silent Spring, Mary Aiken delivers a deeply disturbing, utterly penetrating, and urgently timed investigation into the perils of the largest unregulated social experiment of our time.” — Bob Woodward
“Drawing on a fascinating and mind-boggling range of research and knowledge, Mary Aiken has written a great, important book that terrifies then consoles by point a way forward so that our experience online might not outstrip our common sense. This is a must-read for this moment in time.”
— Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics.
“We can look away, we can deny it, but the more we’re online, the more compulsive, more secretive, more cruel and more disconnected from our better selves we are liable to become. This cyber-effect not only threatens adults but also is influencing our children and the kind of grown-ups they will be.”
— Catherine Steiner-Adair — in The Washington Post review.
Lucky for me, I got to spend time at Esquire magazine. For about a decade, on and off, I wrote profiles and essays for the magazine, before I started writing books. There were three talented editor-in-chiefs during my tenure — Terry McDonell, Ed Kosner, and David Granger. But the amazing man who assigned and edited my work was the incomparable Mark Warren, who cared as much about my work as I did. He recently left the magazine after 28 years. I’m certain his absence will be noticed.
This June, just before Father’s Day, the Esquire Classic archive asked me for an interview about one piece I wrote in particular, “My Father, The Bachelor,” which has become one of the most visited and shared essays in the archives.
Click on this collage and it will take you to the podcast — and links to some of my other pieces:
In the summer of 2012, I began a two-year project: creating a 50th anniversary book for EF, the world’s largest private education company. The founder of EF, Bertil Hult, wanted a spectacularly well-designed coffee table book that would tell the story of his company and its strong culture. Bertil, who is Swedish, is a collector of Frank Stella’s work and American Pop Art. He appreciates abstraction, spareness, boldness, silence, and humor — in both obvious and nuanced ways.
The Washington Post asked me to write an appreciation for Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of the newspaper who hired me as a Style staff reporter in 1989. He was a wonderful boss, editor and man.