I’m Olivia Gentile, an author, a journalist, a wife, a mother to a second-grader, a stepmother to two 20-somethings, and a daughter to two vigorous 70-somethings. I recently celebrated my 43rd birthday.
I’m lucky: I was a grandchild until just a few years ago. As a kid, I only knew my mom’s parents casually, but later, when I was in my 20s and they were in their 80s, they became two of the most important people in my life.
My mom’s dad died in 2005, when he was 94 and I was 30. My mom’s mom survived him by six years—long enough to help me finish my first book, get to know my husband, and hold our newborn girl.
I started this project shortly after my grandmother’s death in 2011.
Before immersing myself in the subject of grandparents, I spent seven years immersed in the life of midwestern housewife, cancer survivor, and adventuress Phoebe Snetsinger, who died in 1999. From 2002 to 2009, I interviewed hundreds of Phoebe’s family members and friends around the country, collected and reviewed her papers, and retraced her steps in Africa and South America.
The result was Life List: A Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds (Bloomsbury, 2009). Here’s what Jared Diamond, Susan Orlean, Meg Wolitzer, and other reviewers had to say about the book.
I’ve been a staff writer at two daily newspapers, The Hartford Courant, in Connecticut, and The Rutland Herald, in Vermont. I’ve also written for The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Tampa Bay Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other newspapers, magazines, and websites.
I have a B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard, where I worked on the campus daily, and an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from Columbia.
But I got my start in journalism in sixth grade, when some pals and I launched a monthly newspaper at our elementary school in Washington, D.C. My column was called “Olivia’s Trivia.”
I now live in New York City with my husband, comedian Andy Borowitz, and our seven-year-old daughter, who loves fairies, mermaids, and forests. When school’s out, we like to explore the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires.
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