Michael Maren

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Michael Maren (born November 15, 1955)[1] is an American journalist, screenwriter, and director. He spent seventeen years as a foreign correspondent based in Africa,[2] writing for The Village Voice,[3] Newsweek,[4] The New Republic,[5] Harper's,[6] GQ,[7] The New York Times Magazine,[8] among others. His book about his experiences in Somalia, titled The Road to Hell (1997), was called "the seminal critique of foreign aid" by The New Yorker.[9] In 2012 he wrote and directed his first feature film, A Short History of Decay.[10] His newest feature film, Shriver, is due to be released in 2023.[11]

Early life and education[edit]

Maren grew up in Andover, Massachusetts and graduated from Northfield Mt. Hermon in 1973. As an undergraduate he attended Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. In 1984, Maren earned his master's degree from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.[12]


Aid work[edit]

Maren joined the Peace Corps in 1977 and served for two years teaching English and Physics at a secondary school in rural Kenya.[13][14] He remained in Kenya, running the food-for-work program with the Catholic Relief Services; later he worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Somalia, serving as a food assessment specialist on the Somali border with Ethiopia.[15]

Journalistic writing[edit]

During his time at Columbia, Maren worked for Africa Report Magazine as a contributing editor.[16] Later, he went on to publish articles in The Nation, The New York Times, Harper's, The Village Voice, and other publications.[17] Much of this work centered on war and famine and the culpability of aid organizations (Private Voluntary Organizations, or PVOs); he wrote in Harper's Magazine:[18]

Because reporters are as dependent on aid organizations as the organizations are on them. It would have been impossible, for example, for the press to cover Somalia without the assistance of PVOs. There's no Hertz counter at the Mogadishu airport, and no road maps available at gas stations. If a journalist arrives in Africa from Europe or the United States and needs to get to the interior of the country, PVOs are the only ticket. journalists sleep and eat with PVO workers. When they want history and facts and figures, they turn to the PVOs.[19]

Maren chronicled his experiences abroad in his book, The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity, published in 1997 by The Free Press.


In 1999,[20] Maren began working as a screenwriter. He has written scripts for HBO, Sony Pictures, and several independent producers; he's also taught screenwriting at Wesleyan University, The Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center,[21] and the Taos Writers’ Conference.[22]

Maren wrote, directed and produced his first feature film, A Short History of Decay--"a dark comedy about stepping up when your parents are going downhill"[23]—in 2012; the film stars Bryan Greenberg, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Linda Lavin, Harris Yulin, Kathleen Rose Perkins and Benjamin King. The film was released theatrically in May 2014.[24] The New York Times called the film "well-observed" and noted its strength in portraying family relationships.[25]

His second feature, Shriver, began production in Los Angeles in February, 2020. Filming was temporarily suspended in March due to COVID-19.;[26] but resumed and was completed in April, 2021.[27] The film stars Michael Shannon, Kate Hudson, Don Johnson, and Zach Braff.[28][29] Shriver is based on the novel of the same name written by Chris Belden.

He is currently adapting his wife's Dani Shapiro's memoir, Inheritance, for film.[30]

Personal life[edit]

In 1997, Maren married writer Dani Shapiro.[31] They have a son, Jacob,[32] and they live in Litchfield County, Connecticut.[33]


  1. ^ "Biographical Summaries". www.myheritage.com. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  2. ^ "Michael Maren". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  3. ^ Strobel, Warren (1997). Late-breaking Foreign Policy: The News Media's Influence on Peace Operations. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press. p. 175. ISBN 978-1878379689.
  4. ^ ""The Faces of Famine" by Maren, Michael - Newsweek, Vol. 132, Issue 4, July 27, 1998".[dead link]
  5. ^ Brown, Michael E. (1999). The Costs of Conflict: Prevention and Cure in the Global Era. Oxford, England: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 242.
  6. ^ Maren, Michael. "Michael Maren | Harper's Magazine". harpers.org. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  7. ^ Harer, John (2009). The Alexander Technique Resource Book: A Reference Guide. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 24.
  8. ^ Maren, Michael (1999-12-02). "Opinion | Using Food As a Weapon". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  9. ^ Gourevitch, Philip (4 October 2010). "Alms Dealers". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  10. ^ "Michael Maren". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  11. ^ Shriver, retrieved 2020-04-23
  12. ^ "Dani Shapiro, Michael P. Maren". The New York Times. 1997-06-08. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  13. ^ "The Bittersweet Life: Episode 210: CORRESPONDENT (with Michael Maren)". thebittersweetlife.net. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  14. ^ Schleier, Curt (12 May 2014). "To Somalia and Back Again". The Forward. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  15. ^ ""You are going to think about quitting..." Maren on Aid Work". Michael Matheson Miller. 2015-02-07. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  16. ^ Seidman, Ann (1990). Apartheid, Militarism and the U.S. Southeast. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, Inc. p. 50.
  17. ^ "Michael Maren | Michael Maren". michaelmaren.com. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  18. ^ Maren, Michael (1993-08-01). "The food-aid racket". Harper's Magazine. August 1993. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  19. ^ "No.1472: Relief Food Workers Dying of Starvation". www.laits.utexas.edu. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  20. ^ "Michael Maren". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  21. ^ "Michael Maren, Dani Shapiro and Angela Dufresne". FINE ARTS WORK CENTER in Provincetown. 2015-04-06. Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  22. ^ "Michael Maren". Key West Literary Seminar. Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  23. ^ Michael Maren, Bryan Greenberg, and Linda Lavin: Meet the Filmmaker | Himalaya, retrieved 2020-04-24
  24. ^ A Short History of Decay, retrieved 2020-04-27
  25. ^ Rapold, Nicolas (2014-05-15). "A Depressed Writer, Distracted by His Ailing Parents". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  26. ^ McNary, Dave (2020-06-25). "Michael Shannon, Kate Hudson, Don Johnson, Da'Vine Joy Randolph to Star in Comedy 'Shriver'". Variety. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
  27. ^ "Kate Hudson Gushes Over Shriver Costar Michael Shannon in First Look at Their Upcoming Comedy". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  28. ^ Shriver, retrieved 2020-04-27
  29. ^ "Michael Maren". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  30. ^ Gillette, Sam (March 28, 2022). "Dani Shapiro Shares Excerpt From Her Upcoming Novel Signal Fires, Her 'Most Personal Book' Yet". people.com. Retrieved 2022-03-29.
  31. ^ "Dani Shapiro, Michael P. Maren". The New York Times. 1997-06-08. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  32. ^ "Dani Shapiro's 'Hourglass' Explores A Marriage Over TimeLitchfield County resident and bestselling memoirist Dani Shapiro discusses her latest book, Hourglass". www.ruralintelligence.com. May 9, 2017. Retrieved 2020-04-23.
  33. ^ Shaw, Dan (2013-10-24). "Dani Shapiro's Provident Move to the Country". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-23.

Maren's Testimony on aid to Africa before the House Committee on International Relations

External links[edit]