Leslie Jamison

"Everything proceeds from losing our place."

Leslie Jamison is an extraordinarily gifted writer whose work explores the strengths and limits of our shared humanity. Her writing has been called at once “profound” and “intellectual” and then “poetic” and “philosophical.” She’s often compared to Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, the inheritor of a great American literary tradition.

Leslie’s collection of essays, The Empathy Exams, won the 2012 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and was named one of the best books of the year by NPR, the New York Times, and Publishers Weekly. The Gin Closet, Leslie’s first book was one of The San Francisco Chronicle’s best books of the year. In 2018, Leslie released The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, a book that seamlessly blends memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and reportage. The Recovering chronicles how we tell stories about addiction, as well as the larger history of the recovery movement. Stephen King calls The Recovering, “an honest and important book…vivid writing and required reading.”

Leslie’s newest, a collection of essays titled Make It Scream, Make It Burn, was met with high praise and critical acclaim. Entertainment Weekly writes, “Jamison has emerged as a definitive chronicler of human connection…She’s been compared to Joan Didion and Susan Sontag…Make It Scream, Make It Burn proves those comparisons were no fluke…With this brilliant new collection…Leslie Jamison affirms why she’s the essayist of the moment.”

A graduate of Harvard College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Leslie also graduated with her PhD from Yale University. She teaches at the Columbia University MFA program and mentors through the PEN Prison Writing Program. She has worked— for various stints, in various points—as a baker, an office temp, a barista, a medical actor, and an innkeeper. Leslie’s aunt is the renowned psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison and her husband is the bestselling novelist Charles Bock.

Leslie Jamison, "The Empathy Exams"

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