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Get to Know Portland Arts & Lectures Author Daniel James Brown

Single Tickets for Daniel James Brown’s event on October 14th are now available! Click here for more information.

On October 14, Literary Arts will host Daniel James Brown as the opening event of our 2021-22 season of Portland Arts & Lectures.

Brown is the author of the New York Times bestseller Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War IIThe Indifferent Stars AboveUnder a Flaming Sky, which was a finalist for the B&N Discover Great New Writers Award, and The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a New York Times bestselling book that was awarded the ALA’s Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. 


Facing the Mountain tells the story of the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the US Army: a brave group of Nisei, second-generation Japanese American soldiers, who volunteered to serve even as the federal government uprooted many of their families from their West Coast homes and incarcerated them in camps across America.

Read what inspired Brown to research and write about their remarkable stories in this interview Mary Ann Gwinn for The Seattle Times.

I’m always drawn to stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That pretty much always involves some form of courage.”

PRH Librarian Book Festival

WATCH: Introducing Facing the Mountain.

The Boys in the Boat sold more than three million copies stateside since publication, and was printed in 22 countries around the globe. The book remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 150 weeks.

The book is a narrative history of nine working-class Americans who rowed their way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Brown learned of their inspiring story from a neighbor. He describes that fateful encounter in this interview with Book Browse.

“For me, the whole aim of the endeavor is to personalize the story, to personalize the history. I’m not trying to write comprehensive history. I’m trying to tell the story focused on specific people, introduce my readers to those people, and let them get to know those people really well so that they can empathize with them and understand them, and then put that into historical context.”

PRH Librarian Book Festival

Brown didn’t always know he wanted to write historical nonfiction. Watch this interview with Leslie Wilcox for PBS to hear the in-depth story of his path to become a bestselling writer.

“If you simply kept your eyes open, it seemed, you just might find something valuable in the most unlikely of places. The trick was to recognize a good thing when you saw it, no matter how odd or worthless it might at first appear, no matter who else might just walk away and leave it behind.”

The Boys In the Boat

Interested in more? Below is a bio of Daniel James Brown’s life and writing career thus far.

Daniel James Brown was born in 1951 and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. His father worked in the flower business, and his mother was a homemaker. As a youth, Brown struggled with anxiety and was the victim of bullying by his peers, so much so that he dropped out of high school. He completed his high school degree through a series of correspondence courses, which he worked on in the Doe Memorial Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Brown describes this time spent in the Berkeley library, studying on his own, as when he first became interested in books and reading.

After earning his high school degree, Brown attended Diablo Valley College, a nearby community college, and then transferred to UC Berkeley to finish his undergrad. He went on to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he earned his master’s degree in English. After graduation, Brown taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford University.

Looking for new opportunities, Brown applied for a position as a technical writer and editor at the then-burgeoning Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington. In his role, Brown wrote and edited some of the first manuals and interactive tutorials for Microsoft Windows, and became adept at translating complex and technical subjects into something the average reader could easily understand. He worked there for twelve years before leaving to pursue a career writing narrative nonfiction.

Despite writing across a wide range of historical subjects, Brown’s books all celebrate courage and the human spirit. He’s said, “I’m always drawn to stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That pretty much always involves some form of courage.” In 2006, Brown published his first book, Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894. In 2009, he released The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride.

Brown achieved wide recognition in 2014 with the publication of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book shares the story of the American Olympic rowing team, and their triumph in Nazi Germany. The Seattle Times said of the book, “The individual stories of these young men are almost as compelling as the rise of the team itself. . . . A story this breathtaking demands an equally compelling author, and Brown does not disappoint.” The Boys in the Boat served as the inspiration for the PBS documentary The Boys of ’36, and an adaptation for young readers was released in 2016.

In May 2021, Brown released his second New York Times bestseller, Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II. The book tells the story of the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the US Army: a brave group of Nisei, second-generation Japanese American soldiers, who volunteered to serve even as the federal government uprooted many of their families from their West Coast homes and incarcerated them in camps across America. Ann Burroughs of the Japanese American National Museum praised Facing the Mountain, stating that: “Drawing on impeccable historic research, the narrative movingly shines the light of history on prejudice and discrimination and the unfinished struggle for a more just future.”

Brown lives in the Washington countryside with his wife, two daughters, and an assortment of cats, dogs, chickens, and honeybees. A passionate outdoorsman, in his free time he enjoys birding, gardening, fly fishing, and reading American history.


Single Tickets for Daniel James Brown’s event on October 14th are now available! Click here for more information.

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