Search - List of Books by Sarah Vowell
"Not that I want the current president killed. I will, for the record and for the FBI agent assigned to read this and make sure I mean no harm, clearly state that while I am obsessed with death, I am against it." -- Sarah Vowell
Sarah Jane Vowell (born December 27, 1969) is an American author, journalist, and commentator. Often referred to as a "social observer," Vowell has written five nonfiction books on American history and culture, and was a contributing editor for the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International from 1996—2008, where she produced numerous commentaries and documentaries and toured the country in many of the program’s live shows. She was also the voice of Violet in the animated film The Incredibles.
"Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, Robert Lincoln bought a nice ski lodge.""Assassins and presidents invite the same basic question: Just who do you think you are?""History is full of really good stories. That's the main reason I got into this racket: I want to make the argument that history is interesting.""I didn't come from any kind of academic background, but I lived in a college town and I knew people who weren't without pretense. There was this idea in the town that if something was European it would be good.""I discovered that Robert Todd Lincoln was there for each of the first three assassinations. I wanted to write about the Lincoln Memorial, so when I found out he had attended its dedication, that helped focus it further.""I get younger people who watch Conan or The Daily Show, but before that it was mostly people who knew me from public radio. Those people are kind of old.""I hated the lost colony; in second grade, we were doing American History, and they said, We don't know what happened to them. That drove me nuts. That lost colony drove me crazy.""I loved that these two guys argued with each other as if movies actually mattered. Nobody I knew talked about movies that way, but Siskel and Ebert took each movie as it came and talked about whether it was a success on its own terms.""I seem to have no problem revealing my crush on the man who murdered Lincoln.""I was a big Nancy Drew reader. Nancy figures it out. Case closed.""I'm a big fan of editing and keeping only the interesting bits in.""In death, you get upgraded into a saint no matter how much people hated you in life.""Jesus and Lincoln, Moses and Jefferson can seem so long gone, so unbelievable, so dead.""Like Lincoln, I would like to believe the ballot is stronger than the bullet. Then again, he said that before he got shot.""Most people don't like to talk about violent historical death.""My audience is going to die before I do.""One night last summer, all the killers in my head assembled on a stage in Massachusetts to sing show tunes.""Part of the success of This American Life, I think, is due to the fact that none of us sound like we should be on the radio. We don't sound professional; we sound like people you would know.""Relics are treasured as something close to the divine.""The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Civil War-when I really think about them they all seem about as likely as the parting of the Red Sea.""The one time I was an actor, it happened to be in a globally dominant juggernaut. That was lucky.""The whole point of Louis Armstrong is that no one can really figure him out. There was a while where I thought you could try.""We go in to liberate Cuba, but Cuba still isn't free; we don't really think through what we'll do after the initial treaty is signed, but we're still occupying. There's chaos and torture and finally an outcry.""What are you hiding? No one ever asks that.""While I gave up God a long time ago, I never shook the habit of wanting to believe in something. So I replaced my creed of everlasting life with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Education and Personal Life more less
Vowell was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She has a fraternal twin sister, Amy. She earned a B.A. from Montana State University in 1993 in Modern Languages and Literatures and an M.A. in Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996. Vowell received the Music Journalism Award in 1996.
Vowell is part Cherokee (about 1/8th on her mother’s side and 1/16th on her father’s side). According to Vowell, “Being at least a little Cherokee in northeastern Oklahoma is about as rare and remarkable as being a Michael Jordan fan in Chicago.” She retraced the path of the forced removal of the Cherokee from the southeastern United States to Oklahoma known as the Trail of Tears with her twin sister Amy. This American Life chronicled her story on July 4, 1998, devoting the entire hour to Sarah's work. This American Life at www.thisamericanlife.org
Vowell is the president of the board of 826NYC, a nonprofit tutoring and writing center for students aged 6—18 in Brooklyn.
Vowell is the New York Times’ bestselling author of five nonfiction books on American history and culture. Her most recent book, The Wordy Shipmates, examines the New England Puritans and their journey to and impact on America. She studies John Winthrop’s 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” — and the bloody story that resulted from American exceptionalism. And she also traces the relationship of Winthrop, Massachusetts’ first governor, and Roger Williams, the Calvinist minister who founded Rhode Island — an unlikely friendship that was emblematic of the polar extremes of the American foundation. Throughout, she reveals how American history can show up in the most unexpected places in our modern culture, often in unexpected ways.
Her book Assassination Vacation (2005) is a haunting and surprisingly hilarious road trip to tourist sites devoted to the murders of presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Vowell examines what these acts of political violence reveal about our national character and our contemporary society.
She is also the author of two essay collections, The Partly Cloudy Patriot (2002) and Take the Cannoli (2000). Her first book Radio On (1997), is her year-long diary of listening to the radio in 1995.
Her writing has been published in The Village Voice, Esquire, GQ, Spin, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and the SF Weekly, and she has been a regular contributor to the online magazine Salon. She was one of the original contributors to McSweeney’s, also participating in many of the quarterly’s readings and shows.
In 2005, Vowell served as a guest columnist for the New York Times during several weeks in July, briefly filling in for Maureen Dowd. Vowell also served as a guest columnist in February 2006, and again in April 2006.
For the audio recording of The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Vowell was able to call upon such friends as Conan O'Brien, Seth Green, Stephen Colbert, David Cross, Paul Begala, Michael Chabon, Norman Lear, and They Might Be Giants to contribute to the reading. The resulting excerpts were posted in McSweeney's Internet Tendency.
In 2008, Vowell contributed an essay about Montana to the book A Panoramic Portrait of America.
Public appearances and lectures
Vowell has made many public appearances and has been on a number of speaking tours, usually discussing her written works as well as cultural and historical events.
She has made appearances on television shows like Nightline, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report and The Late Show with David Letterman. She also made regular appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
In April 2006, Vowell served as the keynote speaker at the 27th Annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference.
In August and September 2006, she toured around the United States as part of the Revenge Of The Book Eaters national tour, which benefits the children's literacy centers 826NYC, 826CHI, 826 Valencia, 826LA, 826 Michigan, and 826 Seattle.
Sarah Vowell also provided commentary in Robert Wuhl's 2005 Assume the Position HBO specials.
Voice and acting work
Vowell's first book, which had radio as its central subject, caught the attention of This American Life host Ira Glass, and it led to Vowell becoming a frequent contributor to the show. Many of Vowell's essays have had their genesis as segments on the show.
In 2004, Vowell provided the voice of Violet Parr, the shy teenager in the Brad Bird-directed Pixar animated film The Incredibles and reprised her role for the various related video games and Disney on Ice presentations featuring The Incredibles. The makers of The Incredibles discovered Vowell from episode 81 – Guns of This American Life where she and her father fire a homemade cannon. Pixar made a test animation for Violet using audio from that sequence, which is included on the DVD version of The Incredibles. She also wrote and was featured in Vowellet: An Essay by Sarah Vowell included on the DVD version of The Incredibles, where she reflects on the differences between being super hero Violet and being an author of history books on the subject of assassinated presidents, and what it means to her nephew Owen.
Vowell provided commentary in "Murder at the Fair: The Assassination of President McKinley", which is part of the History Channel miniseries, 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America.
Vowell is featured prominently in the They Might Be Giants documentary Gigantic . She also participated on the DVD commentary for the movie, along with the film's director and They Might Be Giants' John Linnell and John Flansburgh.
In September 2006, Vowell appeared as a minor character in the ABC drama Six Degrees.
She appeared on an episode of HBO's Bored to Death as an interviewer in a bar.
In 2010, Vowell appeared briefly in the film Please Give as a shopper.
Partial Bibliography more less
- 1997 A Listener's Diary ISBN 0-312-18301-1
- 2000 Stories From the New World ISBN 0-7432-0540-5
- 2002 The Partly Cloudy Patriot ISBN 0-7432-4380-3
- 2005 Assassination Vacation ISBN 0-7432-6003-1
- 2008 The Wordy Shipmates ISBN 1-5944-8999-8
- 2011 Unfamiliar Fishes ISBN 1594487871
External Radio Links more less
Sarah Vowell's writing has been featured on the following episodes of This American Life
- 31 – When You Talk About Music
- 45 – Media Fringe
- 54 – Sinatra
- 56 – Name Change
- 58 – Small Towns
- 65 – Who's Canadian?
- 67 – Your Dream, My Nightmare
- 70 – Other People's Mail
- 76 – Mob
- 81 – Guns
- 90 – Telephone
- 94 – How To
- 97 – Death To Wacky
- 104 – Music Lessons
- 107 – Trail of Tears
- 114 – Last Words
- 118 – What You Lookin' At?
- 125 – Apocalypse
- 128 – Four Corners
- 129 – Advice
- 141 – Invisible Worlds
- 148 – The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Suit
- 151 – Primary
- 167 – Memo To The People Of The Future
- 174 – Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Milestones
- 191 – I Know What You Did This Summer
- 226 – Reruns
- 235 – The Balloon Goes Up
- 239 – Lost in America
- 244 – MacGyver
- 247 – What Is This Thing?
- 256 – Living Without
- 277 – Apology
- 291 – Reunited
- 305 – This American Life Holiday Spectacular
- 328 – What I Learned From TV
- 329 – Nice Work If You Can Get It
- 354 – Mistakes Were Made
Total Books: 35
External VIdeo Links more less
- Appearance on The Daily Show, 7 October 2008, discussing The Wordy Shipmates and the financial crisis.
- Appearance on The Daily Show, 5 October 2009, discussing The Wordy Shipmates, again, and religious tolerance