Frances FitzGerald (journalist)

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Frances FitzGerald

Frances FitzGerald (born October 21, 1940)[1] is an American journalist and historian, who is primarily known for Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (1972), an account of the Vietnam War. It was a bestseller that won the Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft Prize, and National Book Award.

Early life[edit]

Frances FitzGerald was born in New York City, the only daughter of Desmond FitzGerald, an attorney on Wall Street, and socialite Marietta Peabody. Her grandmother was a prominent activist in the civil rights movement of the 1960s,[2] and from an early age, FitzGerald was introduced to a wide range of political figures.[3] Her parents divorced shortly after World War II. From 1950 to his death in 1967, her father was an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, becoming a deputy director.

As a teenager, FitzGerald wrote voluminous letters to Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, her mother's lover,[4] expressing her opinion on many subjects, a reflection of her deep interest in world affairs.[5] She graduated from Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia and magna cum laude from Radcliffe College, then a women's college associated with Harvard University.


External video
Booknotes interview with FitzGerald and Peter Kann on Reporting Vietnam, January 31, 1999, C-SPAN

FitzGerald became a journalist, initially writing for the New York Herald Tribune magazine. She went to Vietnam in 1966.[6] Her debut book, Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (1972), was met with great acclaim when it was published, and is still considered one of the most notable books about the Vietnam War. For Fire in the Lake, she won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, the Bancroft Prize for history, and the U.S. National Book Award in Contemporary Affairs.[7][8] The book cautioned that the United States did not understand the history and culture of Vietnam and it warned about American involvement there.[9]

FitzGerald has continued to write about history and culture: her published books include America Revised (1979), a highly critical review of history textbooks published in the United States; Cities on a Hill (1987), an analysis of United States urban history compared to ideals; Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War (2000),[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17] a Pulitzer Prize finalist;[18] and Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth (2002).[19]

Her book Cities on a Hill: A Brilliant Exploration of Visionary Communities Remaking the American Dream includes a chapter on the Rajneesh Ranch, whose rise and fall in the 1980s in Oregon is the subject of the documentary "Wild, Wild Country".

External media
NPR interview with FitzGerald on The Evangelicals, May 2, 2017
Presentation by FitzGerald on The Evangelicals, April 12, 2017, C-SPAN

Her book, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, published in 2017,[20] is a history of the evangelical movement, its central figures, and its long-reaching influence upon American history, politics, and culture.[21][22][23] The Evangelicals was shortlisted for the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction.[24]

FitzGerald has also written numerous articles, which have been published in The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Architectural Digest, and Rolling Stone. Her "Rewriting American history" was published in The Norton Reader. She serves on the editorial boards of The Nation and Foreign Policy magazines. She serves as vice-president of International PEN.

Personal life[edit]

FitzGerald is married to James P. Sterba, a former writer for The Wall Street Journal. They live in New York City and Maine. Sterba featured the latter in his 2003 book Frankie's Place: A Love Story.[25]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Frances FitzGerald, Magazine Writer, Married to James P. Sterba, Reporter". The New York Times. 1990-12-23. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  3. ^ Applegate, Edd (1996-01-01). Literary Journalism: A Biographical Dictionary of Writers and Editors. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313299490.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Her letters are in the Adlai Stevenson Collection at Princeton University.
  6. ^ "Biography - Frances FitzGerald". Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  7. ^ "General Nonfiction". Past winners and finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  8. ^ "National Book Awards – 1973" (web). National Book Awards. 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-03..
    There was a "Contemporary" or "Current" award category from 1972 to 1980.
  9. ^ "VIETNAM I-FIRE IN THE LAKE". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  10. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War by Frances Fitzgerald, Author Simon & Schuster $30 (592p) ISBN 978-0-684-84416-9". Publishers Weekly. April 3, 2000. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  11. ^ Schoenfeld, Gabriel (May 1, 2000). "Way Out There in the Blue by Frances FitzGerald". Commentary Magazine. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  12. ^ Brinkley, Alan (April 16, 2000). "An Idea Whose Time Will Not Go". New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  13. ^ Tobias, Scott (March 29, 2002). "Frances FitzGerald: Way Out There In The Blue". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  14. ^ Herken, Gregg (2001-04-01). "Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars, and the End of the Cold War (review)". Technology and Culture. 42 (2): 385–386. doi:10.1353/tech.2001.0062. ISSN 1097-3729.
  15. ^ Jervis, Robert (Winter 2000–2001). "Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War, Frances FitzGerald". Political Science Quarterly. 115 (4): 630–632.
  16. ^ Stephen, Vaughn, (2001-10-01). "Frances Fitzgerald. Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2000. Pp. 592. $30.00". The American Historical Review. 106 (4): 1422–1423. doi:10.1086/ahr/106.4.1422. ISSN 0002-8762.
  17. ^ McMahon, Edwina (2001-04-01). "Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War by Frances Fitzgerald". American Foreign Policy Interests. 23 (2): 110–114. doi:10.1080/108039201750463353. ISSN 1080-3920.
  18. ^ "History". Past winners and finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  19. ^ "Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth". The New Yorker. 2001-12-10. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  20. ^ "THE EVANGELICALS The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald". Kirkus Reviews. February 6, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  21. ^ Wolfe, Alan (2017-03-28). "With God on Their Side: How Evangelicals Entered American Politics". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  22. ^ Wills, Garry (2017-04-20). "Where Evangelicals Came From". The New York Review of Books. ISSN 0028-7504. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  23. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald. Simon & Schuster, $35 (706p) ISBN 978-1-4391-3133-6". Publishers Weekly. February 13, 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  24. ^ Katie Tuttle (March 15, 2018). "National Book Critics Circle Announces Winners for 2017 Awards". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  25. ^ Jim Sterba, Frankie's Place A Love Story, Jim Sterba website (This is the home page 2012-03-17.)

External links[edit]