Author, poet, and naturalist Diane Ackerman discusses her latest book, The Zookeeper's Wife, about the eccentric family that owned the Warsaw Zoo during the 1930's, and who kept Jews hidden there throughout the Nazi occupation of Poland.
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 crisis line 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.
Louise Steinman is a writer and literary curator. Her work frequently deals with memory, history and reconciliation. Her book, The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War was cited as “A graceful, understated memoir… that draws its strength from the complexities it explores.” (New York Times Book Review) and “…an intimate and powerful story of the effects of war.” (James Bradley, author, Flags of Our Fathers). The book won the 2002 Gold Medal in Autobiography/Memoir from ForeWord Magazine and has been the selection of several all-city and all-freshman reading programs. The book chronicles her quest to return a war “souvenir” to its owner and-- in the process-- illuminates how war changed one generation and shaped another.
Author, poet, and naturalist Diane Ackerman tells how a zookeeper and his family managed to keep hundreds of Jews hidden at their zoo during the Nazi occupation of Poland. She explains how they managed to hide people in such a public place, and describes the chaos that resulted from caring for both refugees and zoo animals.
Diane Ackerman describes how the zookeeper was able to get people from the ghetto and into the zoo, and explains how an insect collection left at the zoo turned out to be one of the key elements of the escape plan.