Jeff Sharlet

Professor of English
Academic Appointments

Frederick Sessions Beebe '35 Professor in the Art of Writing
Director of Creative Writing

Jeff Sharlet is a journalist and bestselling author or editor of seven books, including The Family, the basis for a 2019 Netflix documentary series, The Family, of which he is executive producer. His most recent book, combining image and text, is This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers"Gorgeous," says The New York Times, "[t]he book ingeniously reminds us that all of our lives — our struggles, desires, grief — happen concurrently with everyone else’s, and this awareness helps dissolve the boundaries between us." Sharlet's other books include Sweet Heaven When I Die, C Streetand, with Peter Manseau, Killing the Buddha, and two edited volumes, Radiant Truths, and (with Manseau) Believer, Beware. His writing on Russia's anti-LGBTQ crusade earned the National Magazine Award for Reporting, and his writing on anti-LGBT campaigns in Uganda earned the Molly Ivins Prize and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission's Outspoken Award, among others. He has also been the recipient of numerous fellowships from the MacDowell Colony. Sharlet is an editor-at-large for VQRa contributing editor for Harper’s and Rolling Stone, and a contributor to publications including The New York Times Magazine, Vanity FairGQ, EsquireMother JonesBookforumand others. At Dartmouth College, he is the publisher of 40 Towns and a member of the Society of Fellows. 

Twitter Instagram
013 Sanborn
HB 6032
B.A. Hampshire College

Selected Publications

RECENT JOURNALISM: I've been taking a break from longterm book projects to report on and think about the Trump 2020 campaign for Vanity Fair, starting with this long story from a series of campaign rallies around the country, "The Second Coming." Shortly after that published, I tuned into Trump's mid-pandemic Tulsa rally. Then Trump opened the GOP convention by talking about "12 more years." It scarier from there as Trump doubled down on his deal with the Christian Right, promoting a "biblical capitalism." Meanwhile, out beyond blue bubbles a new Trump flag was flying, declaring "F--k Your Feelings." Trump proposed a "patriotic history" centered on the preservation of white supremacy. There's more to come, unfortunately. This is a Hodor election. 


This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers (W.W. Norton, 2020)

Executive Producer, The Family (Netflix / Jigsaw Productions, 2019)

Editor, Radiant Truths (Yale University Press, 2014)

Sweet Heaven When I Die, (W.W. Norton, 2011)

C Street (Little, Brown, 2010)

Co-editor, Believer, Beware (Beacon Press, 2009)

The Family (Harper, 2008)

Co-author, Killing the Buddha (The Free Press, 2004)


"Darkness Visible," Vanity Fair, 2020

"The Second Coming: On the gospel of numerology, tweetology, and white supremacy at the president's rallies," Vanity Fair, 2020

"Faery Land," Guernica, 2020

"A Flag for Trump's America," Harper's, 2018

"Telemetry," Virginia Quarterly Review, 2017

"The Ministry of Fun," Esquire, 2016

"Donald Trump, American Preacher," New York Times Magazine, 2016

Guest Co-Editor, Documentum: Pictures and Words, 2016

"The Invisible Man: On Skid Row, the end of a Black life that mattered," GQ, 2015

"A Resourceful Woman," Longreads, 2015

"Are You Man Enough for the Men's Right's Movement?" GQ, 2015

"Inside the Iron Closet: What it's like to be gay in Putin's Russia," GQ, 2014

"Voice and Hammer: Harry Belafonte's unfinished fight," Virginia Quarterly Review, 2013

"Ditto Boys," Killing the Buddha, 2013

"By the Mob's Early Light: The ritual significance of Occupy Wall Street," Bookforum, 2012

Occupy Writers, 2011

"Code of the West," an excerpt for Guernica from "Sweet Fuck All, Colorado," in Sweet Heaven When I Die, 2011

"Straight Man's Burden: The American roots of Uganda's anti-gay persecutions" Harper's, 2010

"The Supreme Love and Revolutionary Funk of Dr. Cornel West," Rolling Stone, 2009

"Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian Military," Harper's, 2009

"Hell House: Young Christians encounter sex, violence, and the eros of evangelicalism in an East Texas hell house," Lapham's Quarterly, 2009

"Quebrado: The life and death of a young anarchist," Rolling Stone, 2008

"Oh, Yes, Oh, Yes, My Darling!" Oxford American, 2007

"Teenage Holy War," Rolling Stone, 2007

"Through a Glass Darkly: How the Christian Right is reinventing U.S. history," Harper's, 2006 (subscriber only)

"The Capitalist Spirit: The post-9/11 New Age healing boom," New York, 2005

"Jesus Plus Nothing," Harper's, 2003

SELECTED CRITICISM: Every now and then I consider the genre in which I work. Most thoroughly in "This Mutant Genre," an introductory essay to my 2014 book Radiant Truths, published here on Killing the Buddha. The genre is sometimes referred to as "the art of fact," which I like because it sounds like "artifact." And often critics praise such work--it's even happened to me!--as "like a novel." But I don't think it is "Like a Novel," as I wrote for VQR. I like better the phrasing of documentary filmmaker John Grierson (who coined the English term "documentary" in 1926): "the blazing fact of the matter." I borrowed it for an essay on documentary films about how the small nation of Uganda became a global battleground for LGBTQ+ rights, "The Blazing Facts," in Harper's. (Sub only, so subscribe; support longform journalism.) Some reviews of literary and longform journalism: on James Agee, with Leslie Jamison, for Oxford American; on Frances Fitzgerald, for The New Republic; on Mary McCarthy and Sara Jeannette Duncan for Harper's; on Aman Sethi for Literary Journalism Studies; on the inauthenticity of authenticity, for New Statesman. With Paige Williams, a great literary journalist herself, I talked about the literary journalism of my students for Nieman Storyboard; and, also for Storyboard, I talked with Elon Green, another terrific writer, about my reporting and writing process. Once Travel+Leisure asked me to attend an Airbnb convention in Paris. I thought they must have the wrong number, but I said yes, and then, at one point Airbnb locked me in a room. The result is "Cult of Hospitality," about the breakdown of that reporting and writing process. By that point I was writing as often through snapshots--literal pictures--as through words. For The New York Times Magazine, I thought about "Instagram's Graveyard Shift." I used to write about music from time to time for Oxford American: Al Green, "Bad Moon Rising," and the rest is lost (or found) in print. Last but perhaps most appropriately, I wrote about people who ask you to read their work for Lithub: "When a Self-Declared Genius Asks You To Read his Masterpiece."


+ View 28 more

Speaking engagements

2020: Harvard Divinity School: “The Campaign for (White) Christian America: Lauren R. Kerby in conversation with Jeff Sharlet on White Evangelicals in the 2020 Election."

2020: Washington, D.C.: Keynote Speaker, Americans United For Separation of Church and State Convention.

2020: New York: “Otherwise,” at House of Speakeasy, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater.

2020: Boston: WBUR CitySpace: This Brilliant Darkness, in conversation with Christopher Lydon.

2020: University of Virginia: This Brilliant Darkness.

2020: Los Angeles: L.A. Community Action Network, This Brilliant Darkness, in conversation with Jody Armour.

2020: Pomona College: “Very Bad People: Journalism, Identity, and the Trumpocene’s New Enemies Within,” plenary address, The Humanities Studio Presents: Colloquium on Fake News.

2019: New York University: The Family, a screening and conversation with Jeff Sharlet and Jesse Moss,

2019: Boston University, “Empathy for the Devil: On Writing About Wickedness and Weakness,” The Power of Narrative Conference.

2018: University of Southern California Annenberg School, “This Brilliant Darkness."

2017: University of California at Davis: “Fables of the Trumpocene: On Reading and Reporting Religion in the Secular Kingdom.”

2017: University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth: “The Darkness Show: On Jokes and Terror in Paris.”

+ View 4 more

Works in progress

Undone: An Incomplete History of Unfinished Stories, under contract with W.W. Norton

The Undertow, a collection of essays, under contract with W.W. Norton

"North America," a book of words and pictures