I spent 22 years as a reporter and foreign correspondent for The New York Times. For much of that time I focused my attention on Latin America, especially Mexico and Cuba, but I also traveled widely and reported from places as diverse as Albania, Montenegro, Guyana and Suriname. In 2001 I published Here: A Biography of the New American Continent.
My second book, published in 2006, was The Man Who Invented Fidel, about U.S.-Cuba relations. The book has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. I wrote many of the “Portraits of Grief” that, as a group, won a Pulitzer for The Times in 2001. Shortly after that, I started writing about environmental issues, focusing on the environmental and health impacts of the 9/11 attacks.
I left The Times in 2008 to become writer-in-residence at Seton Hall University, where I completed City of Dust, about the aftermath of the 9/11 disaster. I am also a member of the faculty at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. I've won many professional recognitions, among them a 2007 Emmy finalist for the documentary “Toxic Legacy,”, the 2009 Maria Moors Cabot Award for international reporting, and the 2010 Sigma Delta Chi award for the CNN documentary "Terror in the Dust," which was based on my book, "City of Dust" and to which I contributed reporting and oversight.
I continue to write for The Times and other publications. Viking, the legendary imprint of Penguin/ Random House, in 2020 published my book on Cuba and its people titled The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times. It was published in the U.K. by Bodley Head, and has been translated into Chinese, Korean, Polish and Bulgarian. It was excerpted in The New York Times and acclaimed in reviews in many major publications. You can see some of what has been said about it on my Blog page.
In 2022 I began work on my latest book, which will be a departure from my work in international affairs. Once again I will be writing about ordinary people, but this time they are right here in the U.S. in the old, largely unloved and tragically unlucky city of Newark, N.J. The story focuses on a remarkable group of individuals who stayed put when so many others were abandoning the city. The story of Newark Abbey, the Benedictine monks who've dedicated their lives to the abbey, to the city in which it has existed for more than 150 years, and to the city kids who find hope and confidence in the school the monks run there, is an incredibly beautiful narrative of resilience and faith. This book will be published by St. Martn's Press, a division of Macmillan. Publication date tba.