|Born||1972 (age 44–45)
New York City
|Occupation||Journalist, author, poet|
|Education||BA, Brown University, 1994
Master of Science, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, 1997
|Notable works||Hothouse Kids
Republic of Outsiders
|Notable awards||Nieman Fellowship, 2010
Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grant, 2013
Alissa Quart (born 1972) is an American nonfiction writer, critic, journalist, editor, and poet. Her nonfiction books are Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers and Rebels (2013), Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child (2007), and Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers (2003), her poetry, Monetized (2015).
She was an editor at large for The Atavist, an award-winning nonfiction iPad and enhanced ebook publisher: Her multimedia story with Maisie Crow, "The Last Clinic" was nominated for a National Magazine Award and a Documentary Emmy in 2014. She is editor-in-chief of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, founded by Barbara Ehrenreich. Her articles and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times Sunday Review, The Nation, Newsweek, Mother Jones, and Marie Claire, and she has appeared on Nightline, 20/20, the Today Show, CNN, CBC, and C-Span. She coined the term hyperlink cinema in 2005 and popularized the term hipster sexism.
Early life and education
Born to two college professors, she grew up in lower Manhattan, attending Stuyvesant High School. She graduated a BA in English Literature with Honors in Creative Writing from Brown University in 1994 then did graduate work in English Literature for a year at CUNY Graduate Center before completing a Master of Science at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in 1997.
In 2003 she published Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers which illustrates and criticizes the way that corporations chase teenagers and pre-teens. From the annual Advertising & Promotion to Kids Conference to affiliate programs by catalog retailers such as Delia's that have teenagers advise their friends on what is desirable to Disney and McDonald's holding focus groups in high schools, Quart shows how companies have become increasingly sophisticated in hooking youngsters into a world of extreme consumerism that is ultimately harmful to them socially and developmentally. She points out that companies trap these impressionable individuals "into a cycle of labor and shopping" with "brands "aim[ing] to register so strongly in kids' minds that the appeal will remain for life."
The book received generally favorable reviews. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review calling it a "substantive follow-up to Naomi Klein's No Logo". It received consistent praise for its analysis from other sources such as the New York Times, The Nation, and the book industry monthly Bookpage. The work received criticism for its proposed solutions which the New York Times's William Holstein described as laying the responsibility on corporations instead of parents, unrealistically advocating for homeschooling, and suggest[ing] teenagers involve themselves in DIY activities such as starting their own music group which he sniffed "doesn't strike this parent as the ideal path."
Hothouse Kids, 2006
In 2006, after having an excerpt from it published in the Atlantic, she released Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child, a book that examines the cultures of extreme child-rearing that can be found across the U.S. that puts heavy emphasis on early achievement. Quart turns a skeptical eye on the growing genius-building business that includes the Baby Einstein videos, the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and IQ tests. In a book that Publishers Weekly called "first class literary journalism," she paints a somber picture of what the life of a child prodigy really looks like. Along with social isolation that comes with obsessive interests, from soccer from three-year-olds to preaching to knitwear entrepreneurship, the hothouse kid is burdened by a premature emphasis on maturity and professionalism. Quart dubs this conflation of childhood, commerce and competition, the Baby Genius Edutainment Complex, which "reflects a faith that if babies are exposed to enough stimulating multimedia content... bright children can be invented." Quart — herself a gifted youngster who discussed modernist painting at age 5 and wrote her first novel at 7 — discovers, for every well-adjusted math wunderkind who transitions smoothly into a financial service wiz, there are two prodigies whose adult lives never live up to their parents' fantasies. Quart also confronts the fact that students who are stressed out by too many extracurricular gigs remain a tiny, privileged minority in a country where gifted programs are being gutted from public schools, and the minimal mandates of No Child Left Behind have driven the divide between the haves and the have-nots even wider.
Republic of Outsiders, 2013
Her most recent book, Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers and Rebels (2013), describes the role of cultural outsiders who are importantly changing elements of mainstream US culture via new technologies and entrepreneurialism. In a book that Publishers Weekly called "thoroughly researched and admirably evenhanded," Quart reports on self-advocacy among people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses that are usually treated with drugs. Instead of allowing doctors to define them, these people espouse “mad pride” and create online communities where peer counseling replaces institutionalization. She also covers transgender feminism, the neurodiverse movement and amateur musicians, chefs, filmmakers, crafters who are appropriating the tools of entrepreneurialism to reinvent themselves, culture, and make some money in the process. She reports on musician Amanda Palmer, who famously raised over $1 million on Kickstarter so she could make an album independently. There is also the example of a vegetarian crusader, founder of the company who fights for animal rights by making millions of dollars selling a grain-derived meat substitute. And while people who sell their wares on Etsy may not seem like they have much to do with mad priders, Quart's point is that all are examples of "counterpublics" who crucially re-form what is considered acceptable, allowing further diversity of options. She ends with a powerful example of Occupy Bank Working Group, or an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street headed by an ex-banker whose goals include to make a nonpredatory credit card for the needy.
In addition to the starred review from Publishers Weekly, the book was reviewed in the Times by science and tech writer Annalee Newitz, who praised Quart's skill in reporting on "the experiences of ordinary people, following their realistically messy lives for year, offering us vivid portraits that are profoundly humane." The book, which was included in the "brilliant" "high brow" quadrant of New York magazine's popular Approval Matrix, was excerpted in O magazine's August 2013 issue, AlterNet, The Nation, Salon, Daily Beast, and Reuters. Republic of Outsiders has a forthcoming Chinese edition.
Magazine, news and multimedia work
She coined the term hyperlink cinema in 2005 in a review of the film Happy Endings for Film Comment. In the article, she underscored director Don Roos's use of connecting scenes through happenstance, and linking text and captions under or next to a split-screen image. Other films that she includes under this term: The Opposite of Sex, Magnolia, Time Code, and Paul Haggis's Crash, and the TV series 24. Hyperlink cinema was further popularized by Roger Ebert in his review of Syriana the same year.
Her work for the New York Times includes a feature on the indie music scene in Toronto, a story about a transmale college freshman at Barnard, and opinion pieces for its Sunday Review. In 2009 and 2010 she produced, wrote and presented pieces for Public Radio International's The World: a story about Berlin's memory from the German capital, and another about American artists' and writers' attraction to Iceland. Her writing for New York magazine includes a piece about the rise of the obsession with breast-feeding and one about a new kind of sexism: She wrote, "Hipster Sexism flatters us by letting us feel like we are beyond low-level, obvious humiliation of women and now we can enjoy snickering at it" in her October 2012 piece for New York.
Quart commissioned and helped originate Maisie Crow's 50-minute documentary about Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, writing its National Magazine Award-nominated multimedia story for the Atavist, an award-winning nonfiction iPad and enhanced ebook publisher. Marie Claire published her features on a neurodiverse activist and sexual harassment in the tech world. The Nation, in addition to excerpting from her section on former bankers-turned-Occupiers in Republic of Outsiders, published her 2013 article on the burgeoning field of neurohumanities and one of its chief critics, Alva Noe. Quart has also blogged for Reuters about Hollywood's love of the CIA. She was also a regular columnist for the Columbia Journalism Review for which she reviewed documentaries, and wrote about such topics as Vimeo and Rachel Maddow.
Quart was a poet before she became a journalist. Her poetry has been published by the London Review of Books, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and news and culture website the Awl, among other places: In 2002, she came out with a chapbook entitled Solarized. The work is lyrically and sonically complex, and share the thematic preoccupations of her journalism: commercialism, gender identity and being a young woman, gentrification, 1970s and indie film, advertising, adolescence, and bad tourism. Of her writing process, she has said:
"Most of my poems are from experiences at the edges of, say, a reporting trip: the sensory or internal experiences, the physical American landscape I perceive rather than the one that makes it into a piece or a nonfiction book, or the emotional response to a work of art or film I've seen in the course of writing a review or an essay.... I see the 'arguments' in my poetry as being surplus: what is left over or impossible to express or too passionate or even too obvious or familiar in journalistic terms."
Monetized is her collection of her poetry since 1998 edited by Jorie Graham, Quart's mentor at Harvard University during her Nieman Fellowship. The poems reflect on consumer identities, Internet culture, gentrification, and "belatedness." Some of the poetry is autobiographical, two are responses to poems by Wallace Stevens. The book was well received by critics, and covered by the New Yorker, with Joshua Rothman describing it as "dense, playful, aphoristic," and in the New York Observer's "Innovation" section. The review in Publishers Weekly praised Quart for "her keen sociological eye" and "remarkably apt cultural critiques". Alternet's Lynn Stuart Parramore wrote, "Quart’s laser-sharp phrases...have a way of sticking around in your head long after you turn the final page.”
- Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers (2003)
- Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child (2007)
- Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers and Rebels (2013)
- "Nominees for the 35th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards Announced by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences". National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
- "About". Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
- "Fall 2013 Journalism J6040 section 052 MASTERS PROJECT I". Columbia University Directory of Classes. Retrieved Dec 11, 2013.
- Holstein, William H. (Jan 26, 2003). "BOOK VALUE; How Consumer Culture Sets Up Its Young Ducks". New York Times.
- "BRANDED: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers". Publishers Weekly. Nov 25, 2002.
- Segall, Rebecca (Feb 6, 2003). "The New Product Placement". The Nation.
- Brady, Martin (March 2003). "Tracking teens and trends". Bookpage.
- Quart, Alissa (July 1, 2006). "Extreme Parenting Does the Baby Genius Edutainment Complex enrich your child's mind—or stifle it?". The Atlantic. p. 1.
- Quart (July–August 2006). "Extreme Parenting: Does the Baby Genius Edutainment Complex enrich your child's mind—or stifle it?". The Atlantic.
- "Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child". Publishers Weekly. May 22, 2006.
- Karnasiewicz, Sarah (Aug 31, 2006). "The hothouse effect: The author of a new book about gifted children talks about the big business of "enrichment" and the joys of just being average".
- Newitz, Annalee (Nov 8, 2013). "Gate Crashers 'Republic of Outsiders,' by Alissa Quart". The New York Times.
- "Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers, and Rebels". Publishers Weekly. May 6, 2013.
- "The Approval Matrix: Week of August 19, 2013". New York Magazine. August 11, 2013.
- Quart (August 2013). "A Saner Approach? New Ways of Treating Mental Illness As diagnoses of bipolar disorder soar, a grassroots movement is offering alternatives". O.
- Quart (August 12, 2013). "Occupy Bank Cards! A band of finance wizards take on the system they now say is corrupt". The Nation.
- "Transamerica: Growing Up Trans". Daily Beast. Aug 14, 2013.
- Quart (Aug 6, 2013). "The movie business is broken long live the movie business". Reuters.
- Quart (Aug 22, 2013). "Saving animals from factory farms". Salon.com.
- Quart, "Networked: Don Roos and Happy Endings," Film Comment, Aug. 1, 2005.
- Ebert, Roger (Dec 8, 2005). "Syriana". RogerEbert.com.
- Quart (February 26, 2006). "Guided by (Many, Many) Voices". New York Times.
- "When Girls Will Be Boys". New York Times. March 16, 2008.
- "Audio transcript". PRI.
- Quart (Nov 27, 2012). "Milk Culture: Rise of the Breast-feeding Obsessed". New York Magazine.
- "The Age of Hipster Sexism". Oct 30, 2012.
- "National Magazine Awards 2014 Finalists Announced". American Society of Magazine Publishers website. March 27, 2014.
- "When Geeks Attack". May 17, 2013.
- "Adventures in Neurohumanities: Applying neuroscience to the study of literature is fashionable. But is it the best way to read a novel?". May 7, 2013.
- Quart (December 28, 2012). "The Great Debate: Why Zero Dark Thirty divides the media in half". Reuters.
- Quart (March 19, 2013). "The Great Debate:How liberal Hollywood fell in love with the CIA".
- "How to recount a plague: A new documentary about AIDS is the best one in the past few years". Columbia Journalism Review. Sep 17, 2012.
- "Is Project Runway saving criticism?". Aug 27, 2012.
- "The Sarcastic Times: For Rachel Maddow and the other ironic anchors, absurdity is serious stuff". March 3, 2009.
- Andresen, Kristin (November 1, 2013). "Full quart press". The Writer.
- Quart, Alissa (Jan 24, 2013). "Two Poems". London Review of Books. Retrieved Dec 17, 2013.
- "A Poem By Alissa Quart". The Awl. July 12, 2012.
- "A Poem By Alissa Quart". The Awl. August 16, 2013.
- Quart and Schaff, Sara, interview, Day One, issue 10, Seattle: StoryFront, 2014.
- Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara (April 21, 2015). "New Poetry Collection Depicts the Decline of Legacy Media". NY Observer.
- "Monetized: Alissa Quart, Author". Publishers Weekly.
- Parramore, Lynn Stuart (February 24, 2015). "Books: Feel Like Your Life Has Become Monetized? You're Not Alone". Alternet.
- "News: Nieman Foundation Announces 2009-2010 Nieman Fellows". www.nieman.harvard.edu. May 19, 2009.
- "Catalogue Monetized". Miami University Press.