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About the Author

Author Karen Coates

Author Karen Coates

I write about food, the environment, health and social issues—really, anything that interests me. And that’s a lot. I’ve been hooked on Asia ever since I spent a semester of graduate school in Hanoi in 1996. Somehow I managed to wheedle my husband, photojournalist Jerry Redfern, into a life on the move. I took a newspaper job in Phnom Penh shortly after we married, and we’ve been tromping through jungles and rice paddies ever since. For a long time, Jerry and I lumped our work beneath the wide umbrella of societies after war and under oppression. But we’ve strayed from that. We simply thrive on meeting interesting people and reporting on their lives.

Many readers recognize me as a food writer, though I never set out to be just that. I simply realized food was a natural segue into people’s lives. Generous mothers offer curry and tea. Farmers discuss the changing monsoons and their diminishing harvests. The ability—or not—to feed a family is paramount. And it depends entirely on the environment, which is globally threatened. Those interests led me through five happy years as Asia correspondent for Gourmet, where editors allowed me to delve into the culture and environment of food. The job lasted until Condé Nast killed the magazine in 2009.

I spent the 2010-11 academic year as a Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, where I studied graduate courses in climate science and food security.

I’m also a teacher. On the lighter side, I offer Asian cooking classes for American adults. On the more serious side, I conduct training courses for working journalists in developing countries. In 2011, I worked with The University of Montana School of Journalism to organize a historic three-week government reporting program that brought eight Burmese journalists to Montana on a U.S. State Department grant. I stuck around the J-School a few more months as the 2011 T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor, teaching a course in the business of freelance journalism.

In 2012, Jerry and I were both awarded senior fellowships at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, based on our investigation of unexploded ordnance in Laos. That work will result in another book this year, Eternal Harvest, The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos. Stay tuned for further information.

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