Frances FitzGerald

Frances FitzGerald

Fellow: Awarded 2009
Field of Study: General Nonfiction

Competition: US & Canada

Frances FitzGerald began her more than four-decades-long career as a freelance journalist a couple of years after her graduation from Radcliffe College. She wrote largely for the Herald Tribune Sunday Magazine until she travelled to Vietnam in 1966 and began covering the war for the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, and the Daily Telegraph. Returning to the United States in 1967, she spent the next five years writing Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1972). This book, her first monograph, was not only excerpted in The New Yorker, but won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and the Bancroft Prize for history, to name a few of its honors.

Ms. FitzGerald continued to write about Vietnam and other Third World countries, but also turned more and more to America for her subjects. Her next major publication was America Revised: History School Books in the Twentieth Century (Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1979), which traced the changes in how history was interpreted over the course of the century. She was also becoming increasingly interested in Christian fundamentalism during these years, writing pieces on Jerry Falwell and Jim and Tammy Bakker, as well as on San Francisco’s gay community, a retirement community in Florida, and a Hindu New Age cult in Oregon. She collected these and other articles in Cities on a Hill: A Journey through Contemporary American Culture (Simon & Schuster, 1986), which won an award for literature from the English Speaking Union.

Her list of honors grew with the publication of Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars, and the End of the Cold War (Simon & Schuster, 2000), which was selected as one of the New York Times’ ten best books of the year and which garnered the Los Angeles Times award for nonfiction. It was also a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and Francis Parkman prize in history.

After her study of the postwar resurgence of traditional Vietnamese culture, Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth (Bulfinch Press, 2001), which featured photographs by her collaborator Mary Cross, Ms. FitzGerald examined a variety of topics—the Iraq war, young adult literature, architecture, and scuba diving, to name a few—published in Harper’s and other major magazines. She is returning during her term as a Guggenheim Fellow to her research on Christian evangelicalism and the emerging reaction within it to what many see as its far-right wing.

Frances FitzGerald is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and on the boards of the Nation magazine and New York City’s Citizens Committee.


National Book, Comtemporary Affairs, 1973
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