I have always been a reader and a lover of words. As a child, my favorite way to spend the day was lying on my bed with a book. I still love that, though I get to do it far less often. I got hooked on the New Yorker and John McPhee in high school. I loved how McPhee could take almost anything and show you why it was interesting. Perhaps because of that, I never aspired to write a novel, only nonfiction.
In more than twenty-five years of journalism, I’ve covered everything from French food to the neuroscience of video games. Now, I write primarily about science and social issues. I am a contributing editor at Scientific American and I write the Brain Waves blog for Psychology Today. My work has also appeared in The Atlantic, Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Parents, and many other publications. I have also been an adjunct professor of journalism at Fordham University and Long Island University.
My first book, Toxic Truth: A Scientist, A Doctor and the Battle Over Lead, told the story of how two men risked their careers and reputations to sound alarm bells about how lead was contaminating our environment and endangering children. My second book, I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language, is the story of my investigation into hearing, sound, brain plasticity and Deaf culture after my youngest son’s hearing loss was identified. Now, I’m at work on my third book, which explores the biology and evolution of friendship. It will be published by W.W. Norton in 2019 and is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
A native of Philadelphia and graduate of Princeton University, I moved to New York City soon after graduation. I have considered New York home ever since—even though I have periodically lived overseas, in France, London and Hong Kong. I have served on the boards of trustees of the Berkeley Carroll School (where I was chair from 2014-2017) and the Oliver Scholars Program, an organization promoting educational access for black and Latino students. I was also president of my neighborhood civic association—a role for which I received a Community Service Award and was named an Extraordinary Woman of Brooklyn (that has a nice ring to it!). Although I am a lifelong city person, my husband, Mark Justh, my three sons, and I now also have a foot in the country. With our partner Daniel Dolgin, we own and run a sustainable farm in Eaton, New York, where we raise cows, pigs and chickens, and produce organic hay and industrial hemp. You can learn more about the farm at www.jdfarmsusa.com and in the essay I wrote about it for Vogue‘s Upfront section.