Christine Kenneally is an Australian-American journalist who writes on science, language and culture. Trained as a linguist, she has written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, Slate, New Scientist and Australia's Monthly, among other publications. She is a great-granddaughter of JJ Kenneally, an early popularizer of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly.
Her first book, "The First Word," was an L.A. Times book prize finalist and has been translated into Korean and Spanish.
In the early 1990s, while at the University of Melbourne, she attended an introductory lecture in linguistics. When she asked the lecturer where language came from, the lecturer responded that linguists do not really explore that topic, or even ask the question, because there is no definitive way to answer it. This always stayed with Kenneally, and when she became a writer, the question became the basis of her first book.
After living in Iowa City for three-and-a-half years to spend time in the Midwest where her husband was born, they moved to New York City where she started writing for Feed, the Internet's first magazine, founded by Stephanie Syman and Steven Johnson, among other publications.
Her science articles include one about new field of epigenetics, the study of the forces that act on and effect alterations to DNA (not caused by change in sequencing) and another about the sensory abilities of animals that may have allowed them to have survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami for Salon. Her work for the New Yorker include a feature on hemispherectomy, the most radical form of brain surgery, where half of the brain is removed, and coverage of 2009's Black Saturday bushfires, the deadliest series of brushfires in Australia's history. Her work for the New York Times includes science articles centered around language's impact on perception, news and cultural reportage from Australia and numerous book reviews—covering everything from essay books by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins, to a book about proto-Indo-European language to a work of fiction for 9- to 12-year-olds set in Victorian England.
Her writing for the Monthly includes a feature on the Forgotten Australians, the 500,000 Australians that received institutionalized or other care in the 20th century, and another about questionable real estate news coverage. Her story about digital archiving for politics and arts publication won her Australian Society of Archivists' Mander Jones Award. Her work for the New Scientist includes an article about the debate about the impact of the Human Genome Project and the unspecialness of being human.
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