Elliot Ackerman

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Elliot Ackerman
Ackerman at the 2015 Texas Book Festival.
Ackerman at the 2015 Texas Book Festival.
Born (1980-04-12) April 12, 1980 (age 41)
Alma materTufts University,
Fletcher School
Notable awardsSilver Star,
Purple Heart
Years active2013 to present

Elliot Ackerman (born April 12, 1980) is an American author. He is the son of businessman Peter Ackerman and author Joanne Leedom-Ackerman and the brother of mathematician and wrestler Nate Ackerman.

Early life[edit]

At the age of nine, his family moved to London.[1] The family moved back to Washington, DC, when he was fifteen.[1]

Ackerman studied literature and history at Tufts University, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 2003, completing a special program in which he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in five years, rather than the usual six.[2] He holds a master's degree in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He also completed many of the United States military’s most challenging special operations training courses.[citation needed]


Beginning in 2003,[3] Ackerman served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, working as both an infantry and special operations officer. He served multiple tours of duty in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. As a Marine Corps Special Operations Team Leader, he was the primary combat advisor to a 700-man Afghan commando battalion responsible for capture operations against senior Taliban leadership. He also led a 75-man platoon that aided in relief operations in post-Katrina New Orleans. He was briefly attached to the Ground Branch of the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division.[4]

Ackerman served as Chief Operating Officer of Americans Elect, a political organization known primarily for its efforts to stage a national online primary for the 2012 US Presidential Election. As one of its officers, Ackerman was interviewed extensively, notably on NPR's Talk of the Nation.[5]

Ackerman has served on the board of the Afghan Scholars Initiative and as an advisor to the No Greater Sacrifice scholarship fund.[6] He is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2012 to 2013, Ackerman served as a White House Fellow in the Obama Administration.[6]

Now a novelist and journalist, Ackerman has published four novels (Green on Blue, Dark at the Crossing, Waiting for Eden, and Red Dress in Black & White) and a memoir (Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning). His fiction and essays have also appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, TIME magazine, Ecotone and others. He is also a contributor to The Daily Beast. In 2017, Ackerman contributed the short story "Two Grenades" to the anthology "The Road Ahead."[7]

Ackerman's first novel, Green on Blue, was published February 17, 2015 by Scribner. Tom Bissell of the New York Times Book Review said,

"Like all novels written in skilled, unadorned prose about men and women of action, this novel will probably be compared to Hemingway’s work. In this case, however, the comparison seems unusually apt…Elliot Ackerman has done something brave as a writer and even braver as a soldier: He has touched, for real, the culture and soul of his enemy.”[8]

The Los Angeles Review of Books describes the novel as a "radical departure from veterans writing thus far" due to his choice of a first-person narrator, the lowly Aziz, a poor soldier in a local militia.[9] The Stars and Stripes review described Green on Blue and Phil Klay's Redeployment as carrying "the sting of authenticity and the sensory expression of experiences lived".[10] Green on Blue was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.

Ackerman's second novel Dark at the Crossing, was published January 24, 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2017. In a starred review Library Journal wrote, "Here is a thriller, psychological fiction, political intrigue, and even a love story all wrapped into a stunningly realistic and sometimes horrifying package. Put Ackerman on the A-list."[11] In the New York Times Book Review the novelist Lawrence Osborne wrote, "One could argue that the most vital literary terrain in America’s overseas wars is now occupied not by journalists but by novelists...Elliot Ackerman is certainly one of those novelists...He has created people who are not the equivalents of the locally exotic subjects in your average NPR story, and he has used them to populate a fascinating and topical novel."[12] Dark at the Crossing was noted as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, NPR, Christian Science Monitor, Military Times, Vogue, and Bloomberg and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Ackerman was a featured author at the Miami Book Fair in 2017.[13]

Ackerman’s third novel Waiting for Eden was published September 25, 2018, by Alfred A. Knopf. The book was nominated for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and it won the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s James Webb Award. Author Anthony Swofford wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “Masterly…Brilliant…In his short novel, Ackerman accomplishes what a mountain of maximalist books have rarely delivered over tens of thousands of pages and a few decades: He makes pure character-based literary art, dedicated only to deeply human storytelling…Cusk’s Outline trilogy and Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation have created similarly shimmering portraits of humans at rest and fury…Ackerman explore[s] conflicted, confused true love in such elegant and humane ways that you will come to question everything you think you know about the meanings of romance and fidelity…The micro-level power of his unadorned and direct prose lies in no less than an attempt to contain and dramatize the darkness and light of our souls…To identify this book as a novel seems inadequate: Waiting for Eden is a sculpture chiseled from the rarest slab of life experience.”[14] The novel was one of the best books of the year on Amazon, NPR, and the Washington Post and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.

Ackerman’s fourth book Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning was published June 11, 2019 by Penguin Press. The memoir was nominated for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-fiction. TIME magazine named it a must-read book of 2019 and said, “In Places and Names, perhaps the most striking war memoir of the year, Ackerman attempts to make sense of the reasons he served (personal and geopolitical), the people he met, the kinship he felt and the reckonings he has since confronted. Places and Names is as clean and spare in its prose as it is sharp and unsparing in timely observation.”[15] It was also a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.

Ackerman’s fifth book Red Dress in Black & White was published May 26, 2020, by Alfred A. Knopf. The novel was nominated for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and was also a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Author Joan Silber wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “Having worked so impressively at overturning the conventions of war fiction, Ackerman has now written a novel without a single soldier in it…He’s decided on a different sort of drama, a territory of intrigue and tricks, entirely absorbing, with other sources of suspense…Ackerman’s rich knowledge of Turkey is evident on every page.”[16]

2034: A Novel of the Next World War is Ackerman’s latest book, jointly authored by Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), and was released on March 9, 2021 by Penguin Press.

Ackerman’s article “Why Bringing Back the Draft Could Stop America’s Forever Wars” was featured on the cover of the October 21, 2019 issue of TIME magazine.[17]

Ackerman has been interviewed in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal and appeared on Charlie Rose, The Colbert Report, NPR's Talk of the Nation, Meet the Press, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Al Jazeera and PBS NewsHour among others.

Awards and honors[edit]

Military Awards[edit]


Select bibliography[edit]


  • "Goodbye, My Brother". Esquire Mar 23, 2017
  • "A West Point Literature Professor's Inspiring Plea for Creativity in Our Military". The New Republic Oct 27, 2014
  • "Hometown Heroes". War, Literature and the Arts October 3, 2014
  • "Pictures from My War". The New Yorker Sep 21, 2014
  • "Watching ISIS Come to Power Again". The Daily Beast Sep 7, 2014
  • "Charlie Balls". Ecotone, Volume 9, Number 1, Fall 2013, pp. 81–90
  • "Airstrikes and the U.S. Strategy to Combat ISIS ". The Daily Beast Aug 8, 2014
  • "The Islamic State's Strategy Was Years In the Making". The New Republic Aug 8, 2014
  • "Waiting Out the Afghan War". The New Yorker Aug 6, 2014[20]
  • "Syria's War Poets". The Atlantic Jul 28, 2014
  • "Four Hundred Grand". The Daily Beast Jul 6, 2014
  • "A Black Flag and a Rainbow Flag". The New Yorker Jul 2, 2014
  • "Watching ISIS Flourish Where We Once Fought". The New Yorker Jun 17, 2014
  • "The Wounds Caused By Friendly Fire". The New Yorker Jun 12, 2014
  • "The Bored Horsemen of the Apocalypse ". The Daily Beast Jun 9, 2014
  • "I Was a Marine in Afghanistan: Bowe Bergdahl Haunted Us All". The New Republic Jun 4, 2014
  • "Extraordinary Bravery on the Streets of Fallujah". The New Republic May 25, 2014
  • "The US Marine Who Disappeared in Syria". The Daily Beast May 3, 2014
  • "A Man to Believe In". The Daily Beast Mar 5, 2014
  • "Joyce Carol Oates Goes to War". The Daily Beast Jan 30, 2014
  • "I Fought at Fallujah. Here's What I Think About When People Ask If It Was Worth It". The New Republic Jan 13, 2014
  • "The Case for Female SEALs". The Atlantic Dec 24, 2013
  • "Greg Baxter's 'The Apartment'". The Daily Beast Dec 12, 2013
  • "Why Bringing Back the Draft Could Stop America’s Forever Wars". TIME Oct 21, 2019[17]


  • Green on Blue: A Novel. Scribner, 2015. ISBN 978-1476778563[21]
  • Dark at the Crossing: A Novel. Knopf, 2017. ISBN 978-1101947371
  • Waiting for Eden. Knopf, 2018. ISBN 978-1101947395
  • Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning. Penguin Random House, 2019. ISBN 0525559965
  • Red Dress in Black & White. Knopf, 2020. ISBN 978-0525521815
  • With Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.) 2034: A Novel of the Next World War. Penguin Press, 2021. ISBN 1984881256


  1. ^ a b "Safe on the Southbank". nytimes.com.
  2. ^ "From War Zones to the White House: Elliot Ackerman (F03) Translates Fletcher Experience into Diverse Career Path - Tufts Fletcher School". tufts.edu.
  3. ^ Michael Blanding. "The Opposite of Fear: In the Battle of Fallujah, a Marine Platoon Learns What Its Leader Is Made Of". Tufts Magazine. Tufts Publications. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2015-01-22.
  4. ^ "Assassination and the American Language". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
  5. ^ National Public Radio. Talk of the Nation, July 26, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "Press Release: White House Appoints 2012-2013 Class Of White House Fellows". Whitehouse.gov. White House Office of the Press Secretary. 4 September 2012.
  7. ^ "The Road Ahead". pegasusbooks.com. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  8. ^ Bissell, Tom (2015-02-27). "Elliot Ackerman's 'Green on Blue'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  9. ^ "Afghanistan: A Stage Without a Play - The Los Angeles Review of Books". The Los Angeles Review of Books.
  10. ^ "Back from the battlefield: Iraq, Afghanistan vets produce a surge of great fiction". Stars and Stripes.
  11. ^ "Library Journal Fiction Reviews: September 15, 2016".
  12. ^ "The New York Times Book Review: February 5, 2017, pg BR17".
  13. ^ a b "2017 National Book Awards". www.nationalbook.org. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  14. ^ Swofford, Anthony (2018-10-04). "A Short Novel of Love, War and Comrades in Arms Contains the World in a Foxhole". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  15. ^ "'Places and Names' Is One of the 100 Must-Read Books of 2019". Time. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  16. ^ Silber, Joan (2020-05-26). "In His New Book, a War Novelist Turns to More Intimate Battles". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  17. ^ a b "Why Bringing Back the Draft Could Stop America's Forever Wars". Time. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  18. ^ a b "U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Elliott Ackerman - U.S. Department of Defense Official Website". 2011-05-29. Archived from the original on 2011-05-29. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  19. ^ "2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Finalists". www.daytonliterarypeaceprize.org. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  20. ^ Elliot Ackerman (6 August 2014). "Waiting Out the Afghan War". The New Yorker. Condé Nast.
  21. ^ Green on Blue: A Novel. Scribner. 17 February 2015. ISBN 978-1-4767-7857-0.

External links[edit]