Leslie, Jacques 1947- (Jacques Robert Leslie, Jr.)

views updated

Leslie, Jacques 1947- (Jacques Robert Leslie, Jr.)


Born March 12, 1947 in Los Angeles, CA; son of Jacques Robert and Aleen Leslie; married Leslie Wernick, June 21, 1980; children: Sarah Alexandra. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1968.


Home—Mill Valley, CA. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and journalist. Washington Post, Washington, DC, summer intern, 1967; New Asia College, Chinese University, Hong Kong, teacher, 1968-70; Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, foreign correspondent, 1971-77; freelance journalist and writer, 1977—.


Pulitzer Prize nominations, 1973, 1975, for work on Los Angeles Times; Distinguished Service Award, Sigma Delta Chi, 1973, for best newspaper foreign correspondence; Overseas Press Club citation, 1973; Top Censored Books of 1995 designation, Project Censored Yearbook, 1996, for The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia; grant for creative nonfiction, Marin, California, Arts Council, 1999 and 2003; John B. Oakes Award in Distinguished Environmental Journalism finalist, 2001, and Best American Science Writing, Ecco Press, 2001, both for "Running Dry: What Happens When the World No Longer Has Enough Freshwater?"; Work-in-Progress Award, J. Anthony Lukas, 2002, for Deep Water; Drunken Boat Panliterary Award in Nonfiction, 2006, for "Lisa's Shoe."


The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 1995.

Deep Water: The Epic Struggle over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, Farrar (New York, NY), 2005.

Work reprinted in The Best American Science Writing 2001, Ecco Press, 2001. Contributing writer, Wired magazine, 1993—; contributor to periodicals and newspapers, including Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Reader's Digest, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and Washington Post.


Jacques Leslie's writing first drew attention in 1973, when he became the first American journalist to enter and return from Viet Cong territory in war-torn South Vietnam. After surviving six years as a foreign correspondent, he resigned in 1977 to delve more deeply into the subjects he had explored as a journalist.

The first fruit of that effort was The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia, which solidified Leslie's reputation as a writer. At age twenty-four he landed an assignment most journalists of his era envied: Indochina during the Vietnam War. His experience touched him so deeply that he felt the need to record it, and readers are spared nothing as they experience the war along with Leslie. "The Mark," as Leslie defines it, is his (and others') need to be in Vietnam during the war, to immerse himself in the chaos, to be in the midst of the horror. So engulfed in the madness was he that he remained in Phnom Penh until the final flight out embarked. One might expect that anyone who endured such experiences as Leslie would write a memoir too heavy under the weight of angst and despair. Not so, wrote New York Observer columnist Ron Rosenbaum, noting: "[Leslie] seems to have worked his way through complexity, not to simplicity but to a remarkable lucidity. He's produced a nearly pure narrative of wide-eyed clarity purged of ostentatious soul-searching, geopolitical theorizing and apocalyptic special effects—we've all had that before." The critic also wrote that The Mark "reads almost like a coming-of-age novel, albeit a coming of age in hell."

Leslie has more recently focused his attention on the environment. Harper's magazine made his article "Running Dry: What Happens When the World No Longer Has Enough Freshwater?" its cover story in 2000, and Leslie's efforts were rewarded when the piece was included Ecco Press's The Best American Science Writing of 2001. Explained Leslie on his home page: "I'd found the marriage of voice, style, and subject I'd been seeking. The topic was a slice of what I take to be the great looming story of the twenty-first century, the unraveling of the global environment."

"Running Dry" became the starting point for Leslie's 2005 book, Deep Water: The Epic Struggle over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, which follows an Indian anti-dam activist, an American anthropologist, and an Australian river basin manager as they deal with the social and environmental impacts of large dams.

In an introduction to Deep Water on the author's home Web page, Leslie notes: "Deep Water is a work of narrative nonfiction. It's meant to illustrate dams' consequences by portraying three people who have contended with them in quite distinct ways." In his book, the author examines how dams often negatively affect not only people but also social and political institutions and world communities. The author surmises that many hydroelectric water management projects have resulted in far more damage than benefits. Although he discusses river ecosystems and regional environmental history, Leslie is primarily concerned with the effects of dam construction on individual people. He also delves into the lives of three people he profiles in the book and how they deal with their relationship to the problems associated with dams. For example, in his profile of Indian activist Medha Patkar, the author notes how the Patkar has tried to repeatedly drown herself in reservoir waters and has also gone on a twenty-six-day hunger strike to protest the building of dams.

Noting that Deep Water "reads well and tells a compelling story," Issues in Science and Technology contributor Gregory B. Baecher wrote: "The debate at the heart of Deep Water is not about dams; it is about the increasing human population and how to sustain it." Mother Jones contributor Dave Gilson commented that the author "takes a thoughtful look at the ambivalent legacy of the rash to plug the world's rivers."



Booklist, March 1, 1995, John Mort, review of The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia, p. 1177; September 15, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of Deep Water: The Epic Struggle over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, p. 12.

Issues in Science and Technology, spring, 2006, Gregory B. Baecher, "A Dam Shame," review of Deep Water, p. 94.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1995, review of The Mark, p. 57; June 1, 2005, review of Deep Water, p. 624.

Mother Jones, September-October, 2005, Dave Gilson, review of Deep Water, p. 80.

New York Observer, February 13, 1995, Ron Rosenbaum, "The Edgy Enthusiast."

Publishers Weekly, February 6, 1995, review of The Mark, pp. 72-73; June 13, 2005, review of Deep Water, p. 39.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 2005, Maurice Timothy Reidy, "Blowing Holes in the Justification for Dams," review of Deep Water,) p. F6.


Jacques Leslie Home Page,http://www.jacquesleslie.com (February 13, 2008).

About this article

Leslie, Jacques 1947- (Jacques Robert Leslie, Jr.)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article