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Prior to working at The New Yorker, Colapinto wrote for Vanity Fair, New York magazine and The New York Times Magazine, and in 1995 he became a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, where he published feature stories on a variety of subjects ranging from AIDS, to kids and guns, to heroin in the music business, to Penthouse magazine creator, Bob Guccione (his Guccione story was a finalist for the ASME Award in profile writing in 2004). In 1998, he published a 20,000 word feature story in Rolling Stone titled "The True Story of John/Joan", an account of David Reimer, who had undergone a sex change in infancy—a medical experiment long heralded as a success, but which was, in fact, a failure. The story, which detailed not only Reimer's tortured life, but the medical scandal surrounding its cover-up, won the ASME Award for reporting and in 2000, Colapinto published a book-length account of the case, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl. The book was a New York Times bestseller and the film rights were bought by Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Colapinto also wrote a novel, About the Author, a tale of literary envy and theft. It was published in August 2001 and was a number 6 pick on the Booksense 76 list of best novels of the season; it was a nominee for the IMPAC literary award and for a number of years was under option by DreamWorks, where playwright Patrick Marber (Closer and Howard Katz) wrote a screen adaptation. The film rights to the novel have since been acquired by producer Scott Rudin.
As a writer for The New Yorker, Colapinto has written about subjects as diverse as medicinal leeches; Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer; fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld and Rick Owens; the linguistic oddities of the Pirahã people (an Amazonian tribe); and Paul McCartney. His piece on the Piraha was anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2008); his New Yorker story about loss prevention (anti-theft in stores) was included in The Best American Crime Reporting (2009); and his New Yorker profile of neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran was selected by Freeman Dyson for inclusion in The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2010).
John Colapinto lives on New York City's Upper East Side. He is married to fashion illustrator and artist, Donna Mehalko, and they have one son.
(2001) About the Author: A Novel
- Colapinto, John (15 March 2010). "Profiles: New Note". The New Yorker 86 (4): 32–39. (Esperanza Spalding)
- Karkazis, Katrina Alicia (November 2008). Fixing sex: intersex, medical authority, and lived experience. Duke University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-8223-4318-9. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
- Colapinto, John (4 June 2007). "When I'm Sixty-Four". The New Yorker. Retrieved 24 February 2012.(subscription required)
- Toobin, Jeffrey; Penzler, Otto; Cook, Thomas H. (2009-09-02). The Best American Crime Reporting 2009. HarperCollins. pp. 275–. ISBN 978-0-06-149084-2. Retrieved 8 April 2011.