Halpern, Jake 1975–

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Halpern, Jake 1975–


Born 1975, in Buffalo, NY. Education: Yale University, graduated, 1997.


Home—Cambridge, MA. E-mail—[email protected]


Freelance journalist and author. Has worked as a fact checker for New Republic (magazine), and as a reporter for National Public Radio.


Braving Home: Dispatches from the Underwater Town, the Lava-Side Inn, and Other Extreme Locales, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.

Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths behind America's Favorite Addiction, Houghton Mifflin Co. (Boston, MA), 2007.

Contributor of articles to the New Yorker, New Republic, Commonweal, and Jerusalem Report.


While working as a freelance journalist, Jake Halpern "became obsessed with stories about hellish places," as he noted on his Web site. Traveling from smoke-filled coal towns of Pennsylvania to the snow-bound Alaskan wilderness to a village built at the base of a volcano in Hawaii, Halpern began to gather stories about what made people settle down in such extreme locations. He provides five such stories in his 2003 nonfiction debut, Braving Home: Dispatches from the Underwater Town, the Lava-Side Inn, and Other Extreme Locales. The book describes "a journey to the most punishing towns in America," Halpern stated on his Web site, "but more than this, it's [a] periscope into the extraordinary lives of the people who live there."

Halpern's book details life in the path of hurricanes in North Carolina and endangered by wildfires in Malibu, California. He focuses on the human stories in such places, such as the proprietor of a little-visited bed-and-breakfast near an active volcano in Hawaii, and the eighty-one-year-old Malibu resident who takes wildfires in stride. In Whittier, Alaska, he visits the residents of the town's principal dwelling place, a fourteen-story apartment building that protects residents against avalanches. Halpern's book attracted the attention of a wide variety of reviewers. For example, Kate Jacobs, writing in the New York Times, felt that the book "reads mainly like a quick travelogue and a series of disconnected encounters." Jeff Pearlman, reviewing the title in the Chicago Tribune, was unimpressed by what he found; on the one hand, he felt the author describes "strong-minded" characters, but on the other the critic commented that Halpern's portrayals "are not especially interesting." Pearlman elaborated: "The theme of ‘Braving Home’ is not that home is simply where you are. It's that home isn't necessarily all that fascinating." San Francisco Chronicle reviewer John McMurtrie similarly felt that Halpern's "youthfulness can sometimes work against him, as when he includes wide-eyed and earnest bits of dialogue and philosophizing that are simply dull." On a more positive note, McMurtrie added: "Overall,… [Halpern's] voice is a welcome one; he is a fresh, spirited chronicler of a rare breed of people." Writing in the Boston Globe, Caroline Leavitt asserted: "What's so enchanting about Braving Home is Halpern's infectious sense of wonder, his willingness to be amazed, and his absolute respect for the people he visits." Leavitt went on to conclude: "Traveling may be broadening, but here, staying put is the revelation."

In Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths behind America's Favorite Addiction Halpern addresses a very different aspect of life than is his normal focus, although his interest in the darker side of life is still reflected in the book. Halpern takes his readers behind the scenes of the lives of the rich and famous, unveiling the tarnished side of the coin, including pushy stage mothers, greed, lying, and desperation. He also addresses crazed fans and the everyday viewers who encourage the media coverage of these individuals. David Pitt, writing for Booklist, remarked: "As a cautionary tale, a warning that fame ain't all it's cracked up to be, it well may be indispensable." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called the book "an astute look at the mighty vortex of fame, which this author believes will only get more powerful."



Booklist, May 15, 2003, David Pitt, review of Braving Home: Dispatches from the Underwater Town, the Lava-Side Inn, and Other Extreme Locales, p. 1636; October 15, 2006, David Pitt, review of Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths behind America's Favorite Addiction, p. 8.

Boston Globe, July 20, 2003, Caroline Leavitt, review of Braving Home, p. D9.

Chicago Tribune, August 17, 2003, Jeff Pearlman, review of Braving Home, p. 7.

Entertainment Weekly, June 20, 2003, Evan Serpick, review of Braving Home, p. 79.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of Braving Home, p. 656; October 1, 2006, review of Fame Junkies, p. 1000.

National Geographic Adventure, August, 2003, Kalee Thompson, review of Braving Home, p. 30.

New York Times, July 27, 2003, Kate Jacobs, review of Braving Home, p. 13.

Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA), July 27, 2003, Sara Peyton, review of Braving Home, p. G5.

Publishers Weekly, January 27, 2003, review of Braving Home, p. 158; April 28, 2003, review of Braving Home, p. 56.

San Francisco Chronicle, July 20, 2003, John McMurtrie, review of Braving Home, p. M6.

School Library Journal, January, 2004, Ted Westervelt, review of Braving Home, p. 165.


Identity Theory,http://www.identitytheory.com/ (August 15, 2003), Robert Birnbaum, interview with Jake Halpern.

Official Jake Halpern Web site,http://www.jakehalpern.com (March 26, 2004).

Yale Club of Southern California Web site,http://www2.aya.yale.edu/ (July 16, 2003), "Yale Author Explores Why People Live in Places They Probably Shouldn't on His Book Tour."