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Diane Ackerman      

Bestselling Author, Poet & Naturalist, PEN Henry David Thoreau Prize Winner Pulitzer Prize & NBCC Award Finalist

The incandescent Diane Ackerman is the author of two dozen highly acclaimed works of nonfiction and poetry, including, "The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us," a New York Times bestseller, Notable Book of 2014, and winner of the 2015 PEN New England Henry David Thoreau Prize for literary excellence in nature writing for a book that “celebrates the natural world and human ingenuity, while exploring how the human race has become the single dominant force of change on the whole planet.” Her other nonfiction works include One Hundred Names for Love: A Memoir; The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story; Dawn Light and the bestselling A Natural History of the Senses—a book beloved by millions of readers all over the world. Humans might luxuriate in the idea of being “in” nature, but Ms. Ackerman has taught generations that we are nature—for “no facet of nature is as unlikely as we, the tiny bipeds with the giant dreams.” In prose so rich and evocative that one can feel the earth turning beneath one’s feet as one reads, Ackerman’s thrilling observations urge us to live in the moment, to wake up to nature’s everyday miracles.

One Hundred Names for Love was a finalist for the Pultizer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Books for a Better Life Award. It tells the story of Ackerman’s work to bring her husband back from the depths of aphasia after he suffered a terrible stroke, and was described by the Washington Post as “an ode to playfulness and the brain’s plasticity…a testament to the power of creativity in language, life—and love.” Abraham Verghese of The New York Times Book Review remarked, “Ackerman weds exquisite writing with profound insights, this time into speech and imagination….This book has done what no other has for me in recent years: it has renewed my faith in the redemptive power of love.”

Her nonfiction book, The Zookeeper’s Wife, is about one of the most successful hideouts of World War II—a tale of people, animals, and subversive acts of compassion. The book received the Orion Book Award, which honored it as “a groundbreaking work of nonfiction, in which the human relationship to nature is explored in an absolutely original way through looking at the Holocaust. A few years ago, ‘nature’ writers were asking themselves, How can a book be at the same time a work of art, an act of conscientious objection to the destruction of the world, and an affirmation of hope and human decency? The Zookeeper’s Wife answers this question.” Speaking deeply to readers of all ages, it has been chosen as a Freshman Reads and Community Reads book in many cities.

Other nonfiction titles include Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day, a book about “waking up” to each passing moment; An Alchemy of Mind, a poetics of the brain based on the latest neuroscience; Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden; Deep Play, which considers play, creativity, and our need for transcendence; A Slender Thread, about her work as a crisis line counselor; The Rarest of the Rare; and The Moon by Whale Light, in which she explores the plight and fascination of endangered animals; A Natural History of Love; and On Extended Wings, her memoir of flying.

Ackerman’s poetry has been published in leading literary journals. Maxine Kumin says of it, “I know enough to know when I’m in the presence of a brilliant mind. Her acrobatic poems are full of fact and exuberance.” Her poetry books are Origami Bridges: Poems of Psychoanalysis and Fire; I Praise My Destroyer; Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems; Lady Faustus; Reverse Thunder: A Dramatic Poem; Wife of Light; The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral.

Her essays about nature and human nature have appeared in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Parade, The New Yorker, National Geographic, and many other journals, where they have been the subject of much praise. She is also an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. She hosted a five-hour PBS television series inspired by A Natural History of the Senses. She also writes nature books for children. Those titles include: Animal Sense; Monk Seal Hideaway; and Bats: Shadows in the Night. Says The Chicago Sun, “If you’re lucky you have someone in your life like Diane Ackerman—smart and capable, and successful in the world of grownups, but still brimming with the kind of infectious enthusiasm and wonder generally found only in children.”

Diane Ackerman was born in Waukegan, Illinois. She received an MA, MFA, and PhD from Cornell University and has received many prizes and awards, including a D. Litt. from Kenyon College, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the John Burroughs Nature Award, and the Lavan Poetry Prize, as well as being honored as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library. She has taught at a variety of universities, including Columbia and Cornell.

She also has the rare distinction of having a molecule named after her—the dianeackerone.

Speech Topics

Everyday Heroism: The Subversive Power of Compassion

In this incredibly inspiring presentation based on her best-selling book, The Zookeeper’s Wife, Ackerman discusses themes of heroism and compassion in the face of destruction. Sharing the true story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski, Christian directors of the Warsaw Zoo during WWII who saved over 300 doomed Jews and members of the Resistance, she explores human relationship to nature in an absolutely original way through looking at the Holocaust.

After Germany invaded Poland, bombers devastated Warsaw and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, Jan and Antonina began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen guests hid inside the Zabinskis' villa. For three years, she kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants in ingenious ways. Never giving in to the penetrating fear of discovery, she kept alive an atmosphere of play and innocence as Europe crumbled around her.

Ackerman engages audiences with her natural storytelling ability, offering an affirmation of hope in human decency.

One Hundred Names for Love

Deep Play

The Healing Power of Nature


The Sunday Conversation: 'Zookeeper's Wife' author Diane ...

Sunday conversation with author Diane Ackerman, whose book 'The Zookeeper's Wife' has been turned into a film that opens March 31.

Diane Ackerman, Tyehimba Jess, Ernie Johnson Jr. and other ...

Jeanne Skartsiaris will sign Dance Like You Mean It at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 2, at Half Price Books, 5803 E. Northwest Highway, Dallas. Erin and Philip C. Stead ...

Diane Ackerman on "The Zookeeper's Wife" | The Huffington Post

Diane Ackerman is a poet and a writer of nonfiction whose work has a deep sensitivity to the natural world. Her books include An Alchemy of Mind: The Mar...

Caged By Its Noble Intentions: 'The Zookeeper's Wife' : NPR

But author Diane Ackerman, who wrote the nonfiction book the film is based on, drew from Jan's wife Antonina's diaries for research; this explains why ...

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