Leila Philip’s writing has been called “inspiring” by The New York Times, “full of charm and wonder” by The Wall Street Journal, and “mesmerizing” by Publishers Weekly. In her deeply researched, intrepidly reported, and lyrically written works of nonfiction she chronicles diverse, personal journeys that zoom out beyond the periphery to capture the forces and events that shape us all.
In A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm, Three Centuries, Five Wars, One Family she weaves the history of the Hudson Valley farm where she spent her childhood in a “subtly shaded story of the importance of understanding the ghosts and heroes that reside in every ancestral home.” (The New York Times). In a historical quest both surprising and engaging, she addresses the tensions between memory and recorded fact and invites us to take a new look at our own sense of the past, home, and family.
In The Road through Miyama, Philip, already fluent in Japanese and a potter, traveled to southernmost Japan to apprentice a master potter. As she tells us of her progress she gives us an insightful guide to an exacting craft, a deeply personal portrait of the village, and a beautifully perceptive look at the cultural roots of modern Japan. “In this enchanting book, Philip recounts her trip with sensitivity and clarity. The reader will learn much about potting, but also about Japanese history, social mores, rural life, modern youth, religion and much else.” (Library Journal).
Called “a triumph of popular nature writing” (Publishers Weekly), Philip’s newest book, Beaverland, looks far beyond the beaver pond as she asks “What is it about interspecies connection that enables us to feel that our world has suddenly expanded to something so much larger than what we could know on our own?” In this masterful work of narrative science writing she highlights, through history and contemporary storytelling, how this weird rodent with 4 orange teeth, humanoid hands, poor eyesight, and a paddle for a tail plays an outsized role in American history and its future, especially when it comes to ongoing economic and environmental contributions.
A Guggenheim Fellow, Philip has also been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She works across genres, publishing poetry, essays and theatrical script and is currently at work on a documentary film. She was a popular contributing columnist at the Boston Globe and teaches in the Environmental Studies Program at the College of the Holy Cross where she is a professor in the English Department. Leila currently lives in Woodstock, Connecticut where, surrounded by trees, she has learned to love the beauty of living in a woodland.