Homelands Productions, Tucson, AZ, cofounder, documentary film producer, 1982—; University of California at Berkeley, School of Journalism, director of the International Reporting Project, 2000—.
Nieman Fellow, Harvard University, 1993; three Overseas Press Club awards; the duPont-Columbia Silver Baton; three Robert F. Kennedy awards for reporting on the disadvantaged; the Harry Chapin World Hunger Year award; a United Nations Gold Medal award.
Me and Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-five Years Later, Free Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Contributor to various periodicals, including the New York Times, Audubon, Nation, and the Los Angeles Times.
Producer of The Gormans, Portrait of the Navajo Artists (sound recording), National Public Radio (Washington, DC), 1983, and a sound recording of Me and Hank, Simon & Schuster Audio (New York, NY), 2000.
Sandy Tolan is a writer, journalist, and educator. He is the cofounder of Homelands Productions, based in Tucson, Arizona, and has produced numerous documentaries for National Public Radio and Public Radio International. Tolan's primary interests include studies of the land, water, and other natural resources, as well as indigenous cultures from the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Central Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He developed his global interests through his extensive travels, spending time in such varied parts of the world as the Balkans, an Israeli kibbutz, the Gaza strip, Sri Lanka, India, Peru, and Panama. Tolan's efforts have won multiple awards, including three Robert F. Kennedy awards for presentation of the plights of the disadvantaged, the Harry Chapin World Hunger Year award, and a United Nations Gold Medal award.
Tolan's first book, Me and Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-five Years Later, is part autobiography, part tribute to a childhood hero, and part social commentary. It tells the story of Tolan's reaction at the age of nine, when his favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Braves, moved to Atlanta, forcing him to resort to using his ham radio to listen to the games in order to keep up on the team's progress, and that of his idol, Hank Aaron. It was at that time he became aware of death threats made against Aaron, both due to his quest to break Babe Ruth's homerun record, and because he was black. It was Tolan's first experience with racism, and his distress led to his writing a letter of support to his idol. Aaron wrote back, solidifying Tolan's hero worship. Years later, Tolan is still outraged at how little attention Aaron's career receives, and the way his achievements are downplayed in comparison to other players of the time. His book addresses Aaron's life and contributions to baseball, but seen through the lens of his struggles against racism and prejudice. A contributor for Publishers Weekly called the book "a heartfelt story that is only slightly marred by the author's occasional attempts to imitate the voices of other people." Barry X. Miller, writing for Library Journal found the book to be "a work of singular beauty, whose gentle nostalgia and social gravity are inextricably woven together into a tale told simply."
In The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, Tolan once again addresses social history, looking at religious differences and upheaval in the Middle East. He narrows the conflict to a single house, once in an Arab area that is now a Jewish community. He uses the history of that house and the families it has sheltered to illustrate the arguments and rights of both sides of this conflict. Liv Leader, in a review for Mother Jones, found the book to be "an empathetic look at the struggles of these Holocaust survivors and Palestinian exiles." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called Tolan's effort "humane and literate—and rather daring in suggesting that the future of the Middle East need not be violent."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Tolan, Sandy Me and Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-five Years Later, Free Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Booklist, October 1, 2000, Candace Smith, review of Me and Hank, p. 367; April 1, 2006, Bryce Christensen, review of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, p. 15.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006, review of The Lemon Tree, p. 282.
Library Journal, May 15, 2000, Morey Berger, review of Me and Hank, p. 101; November 15, 2000, Barry X. Miller, review of Me and Hank, p. 118; May 1, 2006, Marcia L. Sprules, "The Middle East: Going Over the Ground," p. 102.
Mother Jones, May-June, 2006, Liv Leader, review of The Lemon Tree, p. 78.
Nieman Reports, summer, 2006, review of The Lemon Tree, p. 108.
Publishers Weekly, May 29, 2000, review of Me and Hank, p. 64; September 4, 2000, review of Me and Hank, p. 44; March 27, 2006, review of The Lemon Tree, p. 69.
Washington Monthly, April, 2001, Michael Hudson, review of Me and Hank, p. 35.
Bloomsbury USA Web site,http://www.bloomsburyusa.com/ (November 13, 2006), author biography.
Homelands Web site,http://www.homelands.org/ (November 13, 2006), author biography.
Transom Web site,http://www.transom.org/ (November 13, 2006), author biography.
Zmag.org,http://www.zmag.org/ (November 13, 2006), author biography.*