Compiled from The New York Times, Contemporary Authors, and Broadway World
Amy Hill Hearth (pronounced "HARTH") is a New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Publisher's Weekly, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times bestselling author whose work focuses on American stories and perspectives from the past that resonate today. Her areas of expertise include the lives and viewpoints of older Americans. In addition to writing eleven books, she has worked as a consultant and advisor on Broadway and for film.
"Wherever Amy Hill Hearth turns her attention, history comes alive," wrote Peter Golden, author of Nothing Is Forgotten.
Amy's first book was Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, a groundbreaking work of oral history and a New York Times bestseller for 117 weeks. The book was adapted to Broadway and for an award-winning film. Amy was an advisor and consultant for historical accuracy and authenticity on both productions (1994-1999).
Raised in a family that had a number of elders who lived into their nineties and beyond, Amy developed a lifelong interest in what she calls Elder Wisdom. A fascination with centenarians was sparked, especially, when Amy, as a college senior, shared an apartment with her paternal grandmother, who lived to age 101.
Amy has won multiple awards, including a Peabody Award, a Septima Clark Book Award from the National Council for the Social Studies, and two "Notable Book" citations from the American Library Association. Her books have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Czech, Finnish, and Hungarian
Known as an unusually versatile author who writes fiction as well as nonfiction, and books for adults as well as young readers, Amy has said she believes it's important for authors to "get outside their comfort zone" and try new genres. "I like to challenge myself as a writer," she told an interviewer in 2019. "I think I do my best work when I'm trying something new."
Her newest work, Silent Came the Monster, is her first historical fiction thriller. Published in May 2023, the book tells the story of a series of unprecedented shark attacks at the Jersey Shore in 1916 with an emphasis on the way that people and the media of the time responded. The book won an AudioFile magazine Earphones Award. In addition, it was an Audible and Goodreads Summer 2023 pick and was selected as an Audio.com and Crimereads fan favorite.
Amy's interest in American history was encouraged from childhood by her father, a history buff whose ancestry included Revolutionary War soldiers as well as members of a Lenni-Lenape (Delaware) tribe in New Jersey. While assisting her father in genealogical research, Amy met the tribal matriarch of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation and subsequently wrote an oral history, "Strong Medicine" Speaks. In 2010, Amy was given the name Smiling Songbird Woman by the matriarch and other tribal leaders.
Amy's books have been published by Simon & Schuster, Random House, HarperCollins, Doubleday, Blackstone, and Kodansha, among others. She has been represented by William Morris Agency (now William Morris Endeavor Entertainment) since 1991.
In addition to eight works of nonfiction, Amy is the author of two works of fiction set in the early 1960s in Naples, Florida, then a sleepy Southern backwater. Known as "the Miss Dreamsville novels," the books have been categorized variously as Southern fiction, feminist novels, humor, and social commentary. Inspired by her late mother-in-law, the novels concern the challenges and escapades of a middle-aged wife and mother of three who has difficulty adjusting to the small town when her family relocates there from Boston.
Amy's work also includes Streetcar to Justice, the first biography of Elizabeth Jennings (Graham), an early Civil Rights activist in New York City. Amy had been researching the topic as a hobby for decades. The book, published in 2018, won the inaugural Septima Clark Book Award from the National Council for the Social Studies, among other awards.
Amy began her career as a newspaper reporter in Florida, Massachusetts, and New York. While in New York, she was a reporter under contract at The New York Times for three years. It was while working as a Times reporter that her career pivoted to book author when she followed several leads and located a reclusive and little-known pair of centenarian sisters living quietly on a deadend street in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. The daughters of a man born into slavery in the American South, Sadie and Bessie Delany were groundbreaking career women who had lived together all of their lives. As centenarians, they still lived independently, and, as Amy recalls, they were "brilliant, funny, and fascinating." She wrote a feature story about them, published in the Times on Sunday, Sept. 22, 1991.
The response to Amy's newspaper story was unbridled enthusiasm. Among those who read the story was a book publisher in New York who contacted Amy and asked if she would be interested in writing a full-length book on the sisters. Amy and the sisters agreed to go ahead with the project. For almost two years, Amy interviewed them at their home to gather the material and write the book, which they decided to call Having Our Say. Published in 1993, the book was a New York Times bestseller for 117 weeks.
In 1995, the book was adapted for Broadway by the playwright Emily Mann, with Amy as a consultant and advisor to the producers. The play earned three Tony Award nominations including Best Play. The play enjoyed a very successful run, with 317 performances (source: Broadway World) at Broadway's famed Booth Theater beginning in April 1995.
In 1999, the book was adapted for a telefilm directed by Academy Award-winning director Lynne Littman. Amy was again a consultant and advisor to the producers. For her contribution to the film, Amy received a Peabody Award, as did the producers and director.
When Amy first heard about the mysterious Delany Sisters in 1991, it was her love of history and older people that sparked her interest in locating them and asking for an interview. The interview almost didn't happen, however, as Amy told The New York Times in a story published April 2, 1995:
"They didn't think they were important enough to be in The New York Times. I had to convince them and gave this little impromptu speech - that I thought it was very important that people from their generation be represented, especially Black women who hadn't had much opportunity. I guess my enthusiasm rubbed off."
The sisters loved to tell visitors that they had been "discovered" by Amy and that it was quite an exciting surprise to become famous at the ages of 100 and 102. They often said that meeting Amy had given them a renewed sense of purpose. The three women became close friends.
Born in Pittsfield, Mass. on April 10, 1958, Amy is the youngest of four children. She was raised in Pittsfield; Niskayuna, N.Y.; Columbia, S.C.; and Westchester County, N.Y. She attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, then transferred to the University of Tampa, Fla. where she enrolled in the Writing program. She earned a B.A. in Writing/English in 1982. She lives at the New Jersey seashore with her husband and their two rescue dogs, a Boston Terrier and a mixed-breed puppy named Oliver Twist.
Credits (other than published books):
Advisor/Consultant to the Producers, theatrical adaptation of Having Our Say, 1994-1995
Advisor/Consultant to the Producers, film adaptation of Having Our Say, 1995-1999
PRINT MAGAZINES include:
Smithsonian magazine, "Bessie and Sadie: the Delany Sisters Relive a Century"
American Heritage magazine article on the Delany Sisters
Publisher's Weekly magazine, "You Can Fool Mother Nature," essay
ONLINE MAGAZINES include:
"Having Their Say: Strong Voices from the Marginalized Majority," NWSAction, the online magazine of the National Women's Studies Association
"'Strong Medicine' Speaks," Smithsonian.com
"Searching for Abraham," Tampa Review, Volume 23
ACADEMIC (PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLE WITHIN EDITED VOLUME):
"The Delany Sisters: 'We Are North Carolinians,' " article included in edited volume North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, Volume II, (July 1, 2015) part of a series published by the University of Georgia Press called, "Southern Women: Their Lives and Times"
PROFESSIONAL PUBLICATIONS include:
"You Only Need One," ASJA Monthly, magazine of the American Society of Journalists & Authors
Writer for a national nonprofit organization, anonymously and as needed.
Founding President, Board of Directors, Native American Advancement Corp., 2010-2013
Founding Trustee, Board of Directors, New Jersey Center for the Book/Library of Congress, 2002-2003
Inaugural event with author Michael Connelly, University of Tampa's Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, 2012
With Tribal Council approval, designed and taught "The Wisdom Project: Strengthening the Bonds between Youth and Elders through Oral History" for the youth and elders of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation at their private retreat, Cumberland County, New Jersey, Summer 2007.
UNIVERSITY GUEST LECTURER/VISITING AUTHOR
University of Tampa: Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing guest lectures
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale: Anthropology lectures
Kansas University: Journalism, Black History lectures
College of New Rochelle: Annual Women's History Month lecture
Cumberland County (NJ) College: Annual author visit and journalism lectures
"ONE CITY, ONE BOOK" VISITING AUTHOR
New Rochelle, New York
Columbia, South Carolina
Cumberland County, New Jersey