By Marnie Klein
Though you may not be familiar with the name Ron Suskind, you might have heard of his critically acclaimed novel A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League. This true story about a teen’s journey from one of Washington DC’s worst high schools to Brown University has reignited the affirmative action debate and is required reading for many AP Language and Composition students at B-CC. After finishing A Hope in the Unseen in 1998, Suskind went on to write several controversial and powerful books, including The One Percent Doctrine about the war on terror, and his latest book, Confidence Men, about Obama’s handling of the financial crisis. I had the opportunity to listen to this Pulitzer Prize winner and Chevy Chase resident speak about Confidence Men at a Friends of Bethesda Library event on November 21st. Afterwards, I sat down with him to hear his thoughts on being a journalist and writer.
Suskind grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. As a child, he had wanted to become a lawyer. After college, he was filling out law school applications while working for a Senate campaign in Connecticut when the campaign’s press secretary read Suskind’s work and suggested that he become a writer. “As people ask me where that press secretary is now, well, I say, right now she is at home….I’ll see her in about a half an hour,” Suskind added. Suskind began both his marriage and his career as a journalist at the same time.
“My favorite thing…is [that] I really get excited by the reporting,” Suskind said about the writing process. “The writing [itself] is very hard, and then after that….the publication is a relief.” His advice to students who are thinking about pursuing a career as a writer was that “the key is to get as widely educated as you can, so that you are strengthened to be able to understand….[even] the forces beneath a character or a person.” He does not recommend pursuing an undergraduate degree in journalism, but Suskind says that reading and learning are essential to developing one’s writing.
On a broader level, Suskind advises all high school students to “follow your interests…don’t be too ‘careerist’ too early. You’re really learning about who you are…the key is to not be too concerned about choosing a [field] too early.” He also urges high schoolers to “live life’s adventure to its fullest. Be interested—be curious—ask basic questions. Let people teach you. That’s the key.”
For more information on Friends of the Bethesda Library and to look up upcoming events, check out http://www.folmc.org/about-us/friends-chapters/bethesda/. And for more information on Ron Suskind, go to http://www.ronsuskind.com/.