Susan Orlean at the 2011 Texas Book Festival.
October 31, 1955
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
|Education||University of Michigan|
|Spouse||Peter Sistrom (1983–?)
John William Gillespie, Jr. (2001–)
Life and career
Orlean is the author of several books, including The Orchid Thief, a profile of Florida orchid grower, breeder, and collector John Laroche. The book formed the basis of Charlie Kaufman's script for the Spike Jonze film Adaptation. Orlean (portrayed by Meryl Streep in an Golden Globe-winning role) was, in effect, made into a fictional character; the movie portrayed her as becoming Laroche's lover and partner in a drug production operation, in which orchids were processed into a psychoactive substance.
In 1999, she co-wrote "The Skinny: What Every Skinny Woman Knows About Dieting (And Won't Tell You!)" under her married name, Susan Sistrom. Her previously published magazine stories have been compiled in two collections, The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People and My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere. She also served as editor for Best American Essays 2005 and Best American Travel Writing 2007. She contributed the Ohio chapter in State By State (2008). She recently published a biographical history about the dog actor Rin Tin Tin. She discussed the book on The Colbert Report on 17 November 2011.
Orlean was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Michigan. She was then a staff writer at the Portland, Oregon, weekly Willamette Week, and soon began publishing stories in Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vogue, Outside, and Spy. In 1982 she moved to Boston and became a staff writer for the Boston Phoenix and later a regular contributor to the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. Her first book, Saturday Night, was published in 1990, shortly after she moved to New York and began writing for The New Yorker magazine. She became a New Yorker staff writer in 1992. Orlean was also a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2003. Orlean received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Michigan at the spring commencement ceremony in 2012.
- Saturday Night (1990)
- The Orchid Thief (1998)
- The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People (2001)
- My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere (2004)
- Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend (2011)
- Orlean, Susan (28 September 2009). "Popular Chronicles: The It Bird". The New Yorker 85 (30): 26–31.
- Orlean, Susan (1998). "Life's Swell". Women's Outside.
- Orlean, Susan (December 1992). "The American Male at Age Ten". Esquire.
- Animalish (Kindle Single) (2011)
- Susan Orlean Official Website
- IdentityTheory.com interview
- New Yorker contributor page for Susan Orlean
- Susan Orlean articles at Byliner
- Susan Orlean discusses Rin Tin Tin on The Lit Show
- 2011 radio interview at The Bat Segundo Show