Born and raised in Great Neck, New York, Laskin graduated from John L. Miller North Senior High and went to Harvard College (BA in history and literature in 1975) and New College, Oxford (MA in English, 1977). He worked in the editorial department of Bantam Books before becoming a free-lance writer. Laskin married law professor Kate O’Neill in 1982; in 1993 they moved from New York to Seattle, Washington, with their three daughters, Emily, Sarah and Alice.
Though Laskin has written on a range of subjects, his recent books have focused on ordinary people swept up in the cataclysms of history. Laskin publishes travel articles and book reviews in the New York Times travel section, the Washington Post, and Seattle Metropolitan.
The Children’s Blizzard
The Children’s Blizzard, published by HarperCollins in 2004, tells the story of the The Schoolhouse Blizzard, a sudden winter storm that bore down on the Upper Midwest on January 12, 1888 and killed hundreds of settlers, many of them children on their way home from one-room prairie schoolhouses. The book won the 2006 Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Award for Nonfiction, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, the Washington State Book Award, and it was a Quill Award finalist in history.
The Long Way Home
His most recent book, The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War (2010), unfolds the lives of a dozen European immigrants who served with the American Expeditionary Force when the nation went to war in 1917. These men — four Italian-Americans, three Jews, two Poles, an Irishman, a Slovak and a Norwegian — fought bravely in the trenches of France and Belgium; three of the them were killed in action; two won the Congressional Medal of Honor.