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Nonfictionist who illuminates the marvelous, especially as revealed in art, architecture, and engineering. A New York Times bestselling author, Judith has written numerous books of illustrated nonfiction that have been published in 14 languages. An inspired visual storyteller, she connects people to ideas, structures, and places, creating new understanding and joy.
Her work has been featured in most national media, including the New York Times, CBS Sunday Morning, All Things Considered, Los Angeles Times, NPR Marketplace, People, PBS, and O, the Oprah Magazine. Her essays, editorials, and reviews have appeared in America, Architectural Record, the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the Daily Beast, Time, and USA Today.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Judith holds a M.Div. from Yale University, where she is a fellow of Saybrook College and named scholar at the Institute of Sacred Music. She earned degrees in English Literature and Studio Art at Brown University, and later studied at the Open Atelier of Design and Architecture in Manhattan. The recipient of numerous prestigious awards, she is a 2015 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar. She serves on the boards of cultural and civic institutions in the tri-state area.
My illustrated books of narrative nonfiction investigate art, architecture, history, and books themselves. These are hybrid works that blend diverse genres—history, biography, visual analysis, and memoir—and blur the boundaries between traditional and digital narratives. The reader chooses how to engage the imagery, essays, and marginalia. I write with scholarly rigor for the general public, welcoming them into conversations about the built environment that are vital, but often limited to a privileged few.
Expressing time and history within the limits of two dimensions is an ongoing obsession. Consequently, I spend a good deal of time thinking about how readers absorb information and, even more fundamentally since the advent of the Web, how the printed page is approached, read, and retained.
Narratives developed for the reading public are vastly different creatures than those written for a scholarly audience. They must be accessible, presuming little if any specialized knowledge. Writing about architecture, a highly visual and physical art, compounds the difficulty of explaining in words what is best experienced in person. Photographs can approximate the experience of structure, and help transport the reader from a textual to a contextual understanding, but cannot replace presence itself.
My most recent book, One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building (2016), documents the struggles and triumphs of this complex, controversial project. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which owns the Trade Center, gave me unfettered access to their site, suppliers, and archives; I am the only author who was given such access.
I have been assisted by a number of fellowships and grants, notably, the Josef Albers Traveling Fellowship (2008), a Two Brothers Fellowship (2007), and an Institute of Sacred Music Fellowship (2008-2011), all from Yale University. In 2012, a Teaching Artist Grant fallowed me to help a dozen senior citizens write their memoirs and then publish them in hardcover. I am a MacDowell Colony Fellow (2009, 2003). In 2015, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded me an inaugural Public Scholar grant to complete One World Trade Center.