Jacki Lyden regards herself first and foremost as a storyteller and looks for the distinctive human voice everywhere: in decades of making radio pieces and doing radio interviews, in live public interviews, and in print. Recent years have found her contributing pieces to NPR (her home for 35 years), op-ed pieces, keynote speeches and other works. She is the author of the national bestseller, Daughter of the Queen of Sheba, which the NYT’s called “a memoir classic.” It was published in nine foreign editions and optioned for a film. She is currently working on a new memoir, Tell Me Something Good,about surviving, and caring, for an aging mother with mental health issues and exploring the mother-daughter-sisters bond.
Listeners to NPR will recognize Jacki Lyden's voice from her signature work there for decades. From 1979 until 2014, Lyden was a staff host, correspondent, and essayist for NPR. She was a former Middle East and foreign correspondent, and a go-to guest host on nearly all NPR news shows. In 2014-15, she founded “The Seams Podcast” and on an NPR series on fashion as anthropology In 2016, with a grant from the Florida Humanities council, she produced the NPR series “ A Seminole Patchwork History: People of the Cloth.” She continues to contribute occasional freelance pieces and reviews to NPR. In 2017-18, she was a recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship (and in early her career, won the National Mental Health Foundation’s grand prize for reporting on the Montana state mental health system.)
She loves doing writers workshops and encouraging others to develop their own voice. Her workshops take place annually in Renvyle, Ireland, (Love Comes in at the Eye) and also Maryland, Woodstock,NY, and Arizona. She’s a popular workshop leader and loves building creative esprit de corps, and has appeared in college classrooms, The Moth Radio Hour, the New York Film Festival, the Center for Fiction, Brooklyn, The Florida Writers Conference, and the Sixth and I historic synagogue, Washington, DC, 92Y NY, and upcoming, the Hippocampus Magazine summer workshop. There is no interview more appealing for her than interviewing other writers and artists.
Her journalism has taken her to dozens of countries including Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, and other conflict zones like Northern Ireland. She won The Gracie Award for Best Foreign Documentary (Loss and Its Aftermath: Palestinian and Israeli Children, 2001, NPR) and also, with NPR teams, the DuPont-Columbia, the Polk, and George Foster Peabody Awards for coverage of the First Gulf War, Afghanistan and the Second Gulf War. She also covered America: The Florida Highwaymen, The Rust Belt, American farms, prisons, and other topics.
Over the years, Lyden's articles have appeared in Granta, Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, The New York Times and The Washington Post. She is a 1975 graduate of Valparaiso University and its Christ College for Scholars, and also its program in Cambridge University, England. She has received an honorary PHD from Valparaiso and was its commencement speaker. She was a 1991-92 Benton Fellow at the University of Chicago.
She once jumped out of a plane on a dare and has done air acrobatics with UN pilots over the Hindu Kush. She has reformed in this regard.
She has received artist residencies from Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY, and Ragdale, Lake Forest, Illinois.
She is represented by The Tuesday Agency. For speaking requests, please contact info@Tuesdayagency.com. Lyden divides her time between residences in Brooklyn, Silver Spring, MD, and Delafield, Wisconsin. She’s been married to Washington Post Photographer Bill O’Leary since 2004.