James Fallows

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

James Fallows: Tiger Jim

  • Leaving home photo album, #2

    -- From my dad's driveway, a vista I will think of not only in Beijing but eventually in Washington and anywhere else. The San Bernardino mountains, where my dad often rode horses, as they looked this morning after the past few days' big storms.


    -- From the photo archives, a picture I had never seen until it was discovered and digitized by my brother-in-law Bryan. My mother and father in Philadelphia General Hospital, one day after I was born there. He was 24 and just beginning his service as an intern at the hospital. She was 21, one year out of Tufts, one year into what would be her 55 years of married life.


    We'll think of them too. End of this theme.

  • Fresh Air update, concluding family comments

    Webcast of yesterday's interview on Fresh Air available online here.

    After we'd discussed the People's Bank of China, RMB/$ exchange rates, the "financial balance of terror" between China and the US, and similar worthy topics, Terry Gross asked me in the closing moments about the deaths of my parents. Specifically, why I'd written on this site about my father's death two months ago today. (My mother died unexpectedly, and relatively young, in her sleep nearly five years ago.)

    I didn't know she would ask this but in retrospect am glad that she did. As I fumbled to explain in real time, part of my instinct in making a private matter public was the sense that people with the virtues of my parents -- talented, loving, curious, hopeful people who poured their heart and effort into the betterment of their small community and the well-being of their family -- deserve more celebration than they typically get, precisely because they have chosen not to operate on a broad public stage. My parents were very well known in our home town but unknown outside of it. It gave me heart to think that people who had never encountered them might hear something about the lives they led.
    As my siblings have taken turns cleaning out our dad's house, they have come across hundreds of pictures that none of us had ever seen before. Parents are always old to their children. When parents have lived to an objectively advanced age and then physically run down, as my dad did, it is startling to be reminded how vigorous and, yes, beautiful they had once been. My mom and dad's youth is what we are discovering after their deaths.

    Thus, and as the real end to this commemorative series, three pictures I had never seen while my parents were living, part of a huge collection that my brother-in-law Bryan Neider is digitizing from old, brittle prints. The first are of my parents in the late 1940s, around the time of their wedding when she was 20 and he was 23. (His wedding ring is visible in the second shot.) Then, one of the rare pictures of my dad in which he's not smiling. Here he is wearing his game face, as the four-quarters, every-play offensive and defensive lineman known as Tiger Jim. These are people we never knew and are meeting now.

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  • James A. Fallows, 1925-2008

    This has been a good week for America but a rough week for certain Americans. Barack Obama's grandmother. Michael Crichton, and the book critic John Leonard. Many others, but of importance to me: my father, James A. Fallows, yesterday, November 7.

    After the jump, an obituary prepared for his hometown newspaper (and my first journalistic outlet), the Redlands Daily Facts. His son-in-law, Jack Tierney, paid him an eloquent tribute here, and I previously posted a letter from one of his former patients, here. Below, images of the active, enthusiastic, joyful man I will remember, engaging in two of his favorite activities: camping out while trail-riding in the California canyons, and winning a tennis point.


    Formal obituary below.

    More »

  • Non-political, highly personal: my dad

    On Election Day, I am at the bedside of my father, James A. Fallows MD, who is nearing the end of his extraordinary life. Six months ago, when he first seemed mortal, I was grateful for the opportunity to talk about him at the college he attended for two years -- before being rushed straight to medical school for service as a Navy doctor -- and from which he received his honorary bachelor's degree 60 years later.

    Just now I have received a note that expresses more vividly than I could what a life well, fully, and joyously lived can mean. I share it now, with the writer's permission, at a time when my dad himself can no longer appreciate it but while it is not yet purely retrospective.
    The note begins:

    My name is Erin Cox-Holmes, and I'm a fan of the Atlantic ...As I was trolling sites today, waiting through the nail-biter until the results came in, I happened upon your site. And, as I always do when I see your name, I thought of your dad.

    It continues below:

    More »

  • Father's Day evening tribute to my own dad

    A month ago I made a crazed out-and-back trip from Beijing to the U.S. East Coast, stopping in LA, to fulfill an obligation many years in the making. This was to give a commencement speech at Ursinus College, outside Philadelphia. I mention it, on this Father's Day, because it directly concerned my father, and because some of the homilies involved were rounded up in today's NYT selection of "the future lies ahead"-ish thoughts from Commencement speeches. Pensees of mine are nestled in there between those of Clarence Thomas and Jessica Lange.

    Here is a transcript of the whole thing, in its 11-minute entirety. Happy Father's Day!


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