I’m Olivia Gentile, an author, a journalist, a wife, a mother to a tween, a stepmother to two young adults, and a daughter to two vigorous elders.
I’m lucky: I was a grandchild until my late 30s. 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 93 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), which The Chicago Tribune called “enthralling, provocative and inspiring” and The Minneapolis Star Tribune described as “an adventure story, a psychological drama, a tragedy—and a triumph.”
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 New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, the Tampa Bay Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Scientific American, Sierra, and many other publications.
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 Hampshire with my husband, comedian Andy Borowitz, and our daughter, who loves dogs, tween fiction, and overnight camp.
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