DeBlieu, Jan 1955-
DeBlieu, Jan 1955-
PERSONAL: Born January 6, 1955; daughter of Ivan K., Jr. (a chemical engineer) and Helen (a homemaker; maiden name, Snider) DeBlieu; married Jeffrey Burton Smith (an administrator of the Nature Conservancy), June 19, 1982; children: Reid. Education: University of Delaware, B.A., 1976.
ADDRESSES: Home—Rte. 1, Box 982, Manteo, NC 27954. Agent—Shoemaker and Hoard, 1400 65th St., Ste. 250, Emeryville, CA 94608.
CAREER: Writer and journalist. News-Journal, Wilmington, DE, staff reporter, 1974–78; Register-Guard, Eugene, OR, 1978–80; freelance writer, 1981–84; Newsweek, Atlanta, GA, correspondent and contributor, 1982–85; Emory Magazine, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, staff writer, 1983–85.
AWARDS, HONORS: John Burroughs Medal for nature writing for Wind.
Hatteras Journal, Fulcrum Press (Golden, CO), 1987.
Meant to Be Wild: The Struggle to Save Endangered Animals through Captive Breeding, Fulcrum Press (Golden, CO), 1991.
Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1998.
Year of the Comets: A Journey from Sadness to the Stars, Shoemaker & Hoard (Emeryville, CA), 2005.
Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Audubon, New York Times Magazine, Orion, Smithsonian, and Southern Living.
ADAPTATIONS: Wind has been made into an audio recording by Blackstone, 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Jan DeBlieu told CA: "I began my writing career as a general interest journalist, working for newspapers in my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and in Eugene, Oregon. From 1981 to 1984 I was a freelance magazine journalist in Atlanta, Georgia, writing for a variety of publications, including Newsweek, the Atlanta Constitution's Sunday magazine, and the award-winning alumni magazine published by Emory University.
"During the early 1980s I became increasingly interested in writing about nature and ecology. I was influenced during this period by a number of classic nature works, especially Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and the writings of Barry Lopez. In 1985 I moved to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, settling into a rickety house in the Cape Hatteras hamlet of Rodanthe. I spent the next year and a half exploring the barrier island beaches, marshes, and waters. My first book, Hatteras Journal, published in 1987, is a first-person account of my island experiences. Hatteras Journal is both a natural history and a cultural portrayal of the people of the Outer Banks.
"My work on Hatteras Journal made me acutely aware of how greatly humans influence the natural world, even in the most pristine settings. In 1987 I became intrigued with a proposal to return the rare red wolf to the marshes of the Alligator River, a national wildlife refuge just west of the Outer Banks. Once a common denizen of Southern forests, the red wolf was all but extinct. Only eighty-five animals survived, all in captivity. I began working as a volunteer for the release program, all the while exploring the philosophical questions that surround captive breeding. I spent time living in the bush and caring for the wolves as they grew acclimated to the site. Then, after the release, I worked alongside biologists radio-tracking the animals and charting their progress as they learned their way in the woods. My efforts are chronicled in Meant to Be Wild: The Struggle to Save Endangered Animals through Captive Breeding. This second book includes accounts of my experiences not only with the red wolf but with biologists who are working to save the California condor, the Florida panther, the Puerto Rican parrot, and other rare species. It explores in detail the question of whether the wild spirit of animals can be preserved in captivity."
A Publishers Weekly contributor called Meant to be Wild "an important entree into the highly politicized … programs" that oversee endangered species protection. The reviewer went on to note that DeBlieu also examines the "philosophical controversy" that exists within these programs and how personalities often clash.
In her 1998 book Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land, DeBlieu explores the wind and its relationship both to the natural world and to human culture. The author writes about a wide range of topics, from the wind's importance in scattering moisture throughout the earth to humanity's deep emotional perceptions of the wind. The book's "story is told not in a focused narrative, but in scattered bits of science, history, personal experience, myth, mysticism and religion," noted a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, called Wind "nature writing at its most expansive and rewarding." In a review for Audubon, Verlyn Klinkenborg commented that the book "transforms the reader's experience of nature."
In Year of the Comets: A Journey from Sadness to the Stars, DeBlieu weaves a story involving her husband's battle with depression and the appearance during that time of the Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp comets. While dealing with her husband's emotional downfall, the author recounts how she began to take solace in looking at the night sky, which eventually led to her growing knowledge about the universe. As her husband recovered, "DeBlieu built a metaphorical bridge between her own growing understanding of the stars and her understanding of the depths of the human mind," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. A Science News reviewer called the book a "poignant and personal story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
DeBlieu, Jan, Year of the Comets: A Journey from Sadness to the Stars, Shoemaker & Hoard (Emeryville, CA), 2005.
Astronomy, October, 2005, review of Year of the Comets: A Journey from Sadness to the Stars, p. 106.
Audubon, July-August, 1998, Verlyn Klinkenborg, review of Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land, p. 119.
Booklist, July, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Wind, p. 1842; April 1, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Year of the Comets, p. 1332.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2005, review of Year of the Comets, p. 328.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1991, review of Meant to Be Wild: The Struggle to Save Endangered Animals through Captive Breeding, p. 43; June 29, 1998, review of Wind, p. 47; March 7, 2005, review of Year of the Comets, p. 58.
Science News, May 21, 2005, review of Year of the Comets, p. 335.
Weatherwise, November-December, 1998, Dave Thurlow, review of Wind, p. 52.