photo by Ralph Gabriner
January 17, 1958|
|Education||Manual High School (Denver), Amherst College, Cambridge University|
Ted Conover (born January 17, 1958 in Okinawa and raised in Denver, Colorado) is an American author and journalist. A graduate of Denver's Manual High School and Amherst College and a Marshall Scholar, he is also a professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University. He teaches graduate courses in the Literary Reportage concentration and an undergraduate courses on journalism and empathy and undercover reporting.
Conover's books of narrative nonfiction have typically been researches of little-known social groups. He will often become an active participant with the subculture he is writing about. His first experiment with this melding of anthropological and journalistic method occurred during 1980, when he rode freight railroads back and forth across the western United States with some of the last remaining hobos. This experience, initially rendered as an ethnography for an honors thesis, became the basis of his first-person book, Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes (1984).
Some of those people Conover met on the rails were Mexican nationals, and in his next book, Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America's Illegal Migrants (1987), he turned his attention to illegal immigrants, describing them as "the true modern-day incarnation of the classic American hobo." Conover spent a year traveling with Mexicans in order to write Coyotes; he lived in a "feeder" valley in the Mexican state of Querétaro, spent time in Arizona, Idaho, California, and Florida, and crossed the border three times. The 1987 book was published in a new edition during 2006 with a new preface and subtitle: "A Journey Across Borders With America's Mexican Migrants."
His next project, which he has stated he began in part to see whether the participatory method could work with wealthier people, describes life in the mining-town-turned-lifestyle-capital of Aspen, Colorado, where Conover worked as a driver for the Mellow Yellow Taxi Company, the Aspen Times, and for a catering company. The result was the book Whiteout: Lost in Aspen (1991).
A few years later, Conover trained as a corrections officer and worked at Sing Sing prison in New York state for nearly a year as a rookie correction officer. The resulting book, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (2000), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award in General Nonfiction, among other honors. For many months, prisoners were banned from reading Newjack; now, inmates who receive a copy have to wait as much as several months while the state redacts several pages that it considers a threat to security.
Conover discussed his next work, The Routes of Man: Travels in the Paved World (2010) in the Paper Cuts weblog of the New York Times Book Review. His most recent book, Immersion: A Writer's Guide To Going Deep, explores the practical and ethical challenges of immersive reporting, citing examples from his own work and that of other writers such as Sebastian Junger, Anne Fadiman, Susan Orlean and Jon Krakauer. He discussed the book with journalist Kevin Deutsch in a Q&A for the [[Columbia Journalism Review]]].
In addition to books, much of Conover's work has been published in magazines. He contributes frequently to The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair, T Magazine, National Geographic Magazine, Travel + Leisure, and others. He is on the editorial board of the literary magazine The Common, based at Amherst College, and published work in the debut issue.
- Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes, 1984, ISBN 978-0-670-60319-0
- Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America's Illegal Migrants, 1987, ISBN 0-394-75518-9
- Whiteout: Lost In Aspen, 1991, ISBN 978-0-394-57469-1
- Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, 2000, ISBN 978-0-375-50177-7
- The Routes of Man: Travels in the Paved World, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4000-4244-9 hardcover, 978-1400077021 paper
- Immersion: A Writer's Guide to Going Deep, 2016, ISBN 9780226113067 paper