MacArthur Fellow, visual journalist, author, and artist
About Lauren Redniss
Lauren Redniss is the author of several works of visual non-fiction and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” Her book Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future is a dazzling fusion of storytelling, visual art, and reportage that grapples with weather in all its dimensions: its danger and its beauty, why it happens and what it means. Thunder & Lightning won the 2016 PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.
Lauren Redniss’s Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout combines art, reportage, and cultural history to tell the story of the Curies’ intellectual partnership and to examine the contemporary reverberations of their discoveries. Radioactive was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award.
Her next book Oak Flat is a powerful work of visual nonfiction about three generations of an Apache family struggling to protect sacred land from a multinational mining corporation.
Lauren Redniss has been a Guggenheim fellow, a fellow at the New America Foundation and the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers, and Artist-in-Residence at the American Museum of Natural History. She teaches at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.
A Nobel laureate in physics and chemistry. A teenage Native American activist. A long-distance swimmer who braves stormy oceans and bone-chilling temperatures. A star of the Roaring Twenties who dances on Broadway at age 106. In this presentation, Lauren Redniss examines the lives and passions of these and other women, famous and obscure, telling stories of innovation, radicalism, and resilience that cast light on forgotten corners of history and illuminate the perils and promise of the 21st century. How do women’s stories reframe the conventions of narrative and ideals of heroism the that have defined storytelling for centuries? How do women’s perspectives alter our thinking about such existential issues as the menace of the nuclear age and the threat of climate change? These and other questions will be explored in this visually arresting talk.
Lauren Redniss’ work has been called “some of the most inventive, rigorous and beguiling published anywhere in the world.” In her award-winning books, Redniss has pioneered the genre of visual nonfiction, blending longform prose narratives, journalism, and oral history with visual art to create a different kind of literature—a startling new form that challenges long-held assumptions about what a book can do. In this talk, Redniss dives deep into her process and reflects on the secrets to her creativity. She explores the surprising effects that result when digital age technology is combined with traditional artforms that date back to antiquity. She explains how the hue of page or the slant of a typeface can be the key to communicating emotions and opening minds to surprising ideas. She shows that words and images, those building blocks of all storytelling for millennia, can still, at this late date, be combined in shockingly fresh ways—to inform, to enchant, to innovate.
The climate crisis is the great global challenge of our time. The threat of warming temperatures, rising sea levels, and collapsing ecosystems poses urgent questions with which we all must grapple, whether we are a head of state or merely a head of household. What are the threads of connection that tie our individual consumer choices to the actions and industries that imperil the planet? Why are some places and communities sacrificed in the name of progress, and how, in an age of climate change, are the effects spilling over to impact all of us? What is the efficacy, what is the morality, of grand-scale “geoengineering” interventions in the world’s weather systems to reverse climatic catastrophe? In this presentation, Lauren Redniss wrestles with these stark moral and political dilemmas, and reflects on the beauty and wonder of the natural systems, the landscapes, the ways of life that we are compelled to protect and preserve.
Thunder & Lightning
Lauren Redniss illuminates the dynamic and complex nature of the world around us, as well as the intimate and personal relationship we all have with the weather. Weaving together personal stories, history and science, Redniss explores how deeply our lives are shaped and changed by meteorological phenomena.
Lauren Redniss’s book Radioactive is the stunning visual biography of Marie Curie. Redniss’s lectures about Marie and Pierre Curie are filled with imaginative genius, illuminating questions that resonate far beyond the life of the couple. In the century since the Curies began their work, the world has struggled with nuclear weapons proliferation, debated the role of radiation in medical treatment, and pondered nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. As Redniss illustrates in her lectures, these debates all have roots in a love story in 19th century Paris.
The Intersection of Art and Science
Lauren Redniss's lectures are a journey to the place where art and science intersect. The research for her books leads her to the far reaches of the globe. She has interviewed atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, weapon specialists on the Nevada desert, a lighthouse keeper in the foggiest place on earth, lightning strike victims, and the scientists who run the “Doomsday Vault” in the Arctic where the world’s agricultural reserves are stored. In Paris, she examined the still-radioactive papers of Nobel Laureate Marie Curie. She has explored rainmaking efforts during the Vietnam War and the economics of weather disasters like Hurricane Katrina. She is the first writer to discover and reveal the Old Farmer’s Almanac secret weather forecasting formula. Redniss brings her ideas to vivid life with her acclaimed artwork and design. She even designs her own typefaces.
Praise for Lauren Redniss
In the world of arts and letters, there isn’t anyone quite like Lauren Redniss….Reading her work is like poring over the notebooks of a hyper-literate, hyper-curious, and slightly mad artist.— The New Yorker
Praise for Oak Flat
Brilliant...astonishing...arrestingly beautiful...establishes Redniss as a master storyteller of a new order.— The New York Times
Redniss has a flair for weaving deep reporting and visual storytelling into immersive and engrossing nonfiction.— The Wall Street Journal
Redniss creates books like no one else’s. . . Oak Flat is a fervent and beautiful argument. . . . It is, one might hope, proof of art’s purpose: to expand minds, to promote beauty, and to make change.— NPR
In the world of arts and letters, there isn’t anyone quite like Lauren Redniss....Reading her work is like poring over the notebooks of a hyper-literate, hyper-curious, and slightly mad artist.— The New Yorker
In Oak Flat, Lauren Redniss has produced a supernova: a dazzling blend of deep reporting, sublime artwork, haunting dialogue, and descriptive writing that has the crystalline precision of a prose poem. In conveying the story of the ongoing clash over a patch of southeastern Arizona—site of priceless copper deposits, but also sacred Apache land—Redniss weaves together physics, history, geology, legislative chicanery, intimate portraiture, and tribal custom and culture into a vivid, searing, indelible act of witness.— Patrick Radden Keefe, New York Times bestselling author of Say Nothing
Oak Flat left me stunned. History, testimony, art, landscape: Lauren Redniss weaves these elements together to evoke the rock and sand and sky of the Arizona desert, and to bring to life the story of the people for whom that land is sacred. Rarely is a book simultaneously so heartfelt and so brilliant.— David Treuer, New York Times bestselling author of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee
Lauren Redniss’s Oak Flat unfolds and unfolds, moving swiftly and seamlessly from the cosmological to the geological to the intimate regions of the human heart. It tackles a painful, important subject with grace, rendering everyone and everything it investigates with uncommon intimacy, curiosity, and dignity.— Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
Blending journalism, politics, poetry, and art is a literary high-wire act. Lauren Redniss is one of the few artists who can do it. Oak Flat is a bewitching and mesmerizing book.— Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis
A vital read and a staggering work of art.— Buzzfeed
Gorgeous, devastating, and hopeful . . . Redniss’s glowing colored-pencil illustrations capture the surreal magic of Southwestern landscapes: from a green-eyed ocelot, to the nearly empty Main Street in Superior. The future of Oak Flat and other sacred sites remains precarious, but Redniss effectively conveys the importance of these grounds and delivers a respectful and powerful portrait of people who are down but refuse to be counted out.— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Artistically and thematically profound . . . [Redniss] has a scope that extends well beyond the conventional limits of the graphic novel. Here, she frames her provocative narrative with artistry that evokes the awe and wonder of Native origin stories and the timelessness of eternity. . . . As a work of advocacy, the book is compelling and convincing; as a work of art, it is masterful.— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Praise for Radioactive
Redniss’ achievement is a celebration of the essential power of books to inform, charm, and transport. In marrying the graphic and visual arts with biography and cultural history, she has expanded the realm of non-fiction.— National Book Foundation
[Radioactive] is a deeply unusual and forceful thing to have in your hands. Ms. Redniss’s text is long, literate and supple. The electricity…derives from the friction between Ms. Redniss’s text and her ambitious and spooky art. …Radioactive is serious science and brisk storytelling. The word ‘luminous’ is a critic’s cliché, to be avoided at all costs, but it fits Ms. Redniss’s book pretty snugly.— New York Times
Sheer imaginative genius.— Malcolm Gladwell
Stunningly beautiful…Radioactive is a rare cross-pollination of art and science, the kind of storytelling that makes us care about stories.— The Atlantic
Radioactive offer innumerable wonders. Colors suddenly bloom into tremendous feeling, history contracts into a pair of elongated figures locked in an embrace, then expands again in an explosive rush of words. In this wholly original book about passion and discovery Lauren Redniss has invented her own unique form.— Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love
One of the most beautiful books-as-object that I’ve ever seen.— Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
Praise for Thunder & Lightning
In Thunder & Lightning, Lauren Redniss tells these personal stories, which illustrate the magic and mystery of our weather. Then she illustrates those stories with vivid artwork in this big, beautiful book… Redniss has taken the graphic novel form and tilted it to the demands of nonfiction.— Miami Herald
21st Century Genius...Redniss has been credited with inventing a new literary genre.— Elle Magazine
Magical…This is what Redniss has done, too: shown us how human beings live with nature.— New York Times Book Review
A gorgeous and illuminating illustrated study of weather in all its tempestuous variety…Redniss’s combo of fact, folklore, and vibrant etched copperplate prints enthralls— O, The Oprah Magazine
Lauren Redniss’s Thunder & Lightning is such a strange and wonderful thing, the work of a first-class mind that refuses to submit to any categories or precedent. It’s the way you wish science would always be taught—with a mix of stories and facts, legend and hard science.”— Dave Eggers
In Thunder & Lightning, Lauren Redniss combines her own dual punch of expressive art and impressive erudition to give an entirely new take on all that happens above our heads. This is an illuminated book that is also an illuminating one.— Adam Gopnik
Lauren Redniss is one of the most creative science writers of our time—her combination of beautiful artwork, reporting, and poetic prose brings science to life in ways that words alone simply cannot. Thunder & Lighting is a fascinating meditation on how climate affects the earth’s landscape and the lives inhabiting it, but also how the landscape of a book—the layout of its text, the images on its pages—impacts the telling of a story. This is an important book about a topic that couldn’t be more important to us all.— Rebecca Skloot
Books by Lauren Redniss
Media About Lauren Redniss