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One Book, One San Diego 2009

The Zookeeper's Wife

by Diane Ackerman

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About the Book

The Zookeeper's Wife is about one of the most successful hideouts of World War II. It's a tale of people, animals, transcendence, and subversive acts of compassion.

With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.

The Zookeeper's Wife is the winner of the 2008 Orion Book Award, which is conferred annually to a book that deepens our connection to the natural world, presents new ideas about our relationship with nature, and achieves excellence in writing. "The Zookeeper's Wife is a groundbreaking work of nonfiction," said a selection committee member, "in which the human relationship to nature is explored in an absolutely original way through looking at the Holocaust." Kathleen Dean Moore, the committee's chairperson, said: "A few years ago, 'nature' writers were asking themselves, How can a book be at the same time a work of art, an act of conscientious objection to the destruction of the world, and an affirmation of hope and human decency? The Zookeeper's Wife answers this question."

Read an Excerpt from The Zookeeper's Wife

About the Author

Image of Diane Ackerman

Diane Ackerman was born in Waukegan, Illinois. She received an M.A., M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University. Her works of nonfiction include, most recently,The Zookeeper's Wife, narrative nonfiction about one of the most successful hideouts of World War II, a tale of people, animals, and subversive acts of compassion; An Alchemy of Mind, a poetics of the brain based on the latest neuroscience; Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden; Deep Play, which considers play, creativity, and our need for transcendence; A Slender Thread, about her work as a crisisline counselor; The Rarest of the Rare and The Moon by Whale Light, in which she explores the plight and fascination of endangered animals; A Natural History of Love; On Extended Wings, her memoir of flying; and the bestseller A Natural History of the Senses.

Her poetry has been published in leading literary journals, and in the books Origami Bridges: Poems of Psychoanalysis and Fire; I Praise My Destroyer; Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems; Lady Faustus; Reverse Thunder: A Dramatic Poem; Wife of Light; The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral. She also writes nature books for children: Animal Sense; Monk Seal Hideaway; and Bats: Shadows in the Night.

Ms. Ackerman has received many prizes and awards, including a D. Litt. from Kenyon College, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Orion Book Award, John Burroughs Nature Award, and the Lavan Poetry Prize, as well as being honored as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library. She also has the rare distinction of having a molecule named after her --dianeackerone. She has taught at a variety of universities, including Columbia, the University of Richmond, and Cornell. Her essays about nature and human nature have appeared in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Parade, The New Yorker, National Geographic, and many other journals, where they have been the subject of much praise. She hosted a five-hour PBS television series inspired by A Natural History of the Senses.

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