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Malcolm Gladwell


gladwell_hpthumbMalcolm Gladwell is the author of four New York Times bestsellers: “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference” (2000), “Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking” (2005), “Outliers: The Story of Success” (2008) and, his most recent work, “What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures” (2009). Born in England and raised in Canada, Gladwell came to the U.S. after receiving his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, Trinity College. From 1987 to 1996, he worked as a reporter, covering business and science for the Washington Post, and was then appointed as the newspaper’s New York City bureau chief. Since 1996, Malcolm has been a staff writer with The New Yorker magazine. In 1999, his profile of Ron Popeil won a National Magazine Award, and, in 2005, Gladwell was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People.”

Malcolm’s family tree includes ancestors of West Indian, English, Jewish, Irish and Scottish heritage. He is the son of a white English father and Jamaican mother. At the time of his parents’ wedding, interracial marriage was still illegal in some American states, but not in rural Ontario, where the family made their home. An elusive European ancestor of Malcolm’s arrived in Jamaica as early as the mid-17th century and started a long line of privileged mixed-race Jamaicans, the Fords. On his paternal side, Gladwell’s great-great grandparents Thomas Adams and Jane Wilson left England and Ireland, respectively, to take part in the Castlemaine gold rush in Victoria, Australia in the 1850s.

  • Theresa

    I’ve just begun reading your book with plans to share some of your points with my writing group. I particular love the way you connected “Hush Puppies” to what we can do to create our own positive epidemics. I could only laugh when you reviewed the segment on “yawning”… that is,right after I yawned. Thanks for the insight.

  • JoeBorn

    This is really extraordinary, I was listening to a Studs Terkel interview with Mahalia Jackson done some 40 some years ago and the views on race were so extraordinarily different than what you typically hear today. Now there are certainly many differences beyond just the difference in time, but thats clearly the dominant one. I really feel that history hundreds of years from now will view our generation as one that underwent basically a step change in racial relations, that in a single generation our views on race basically snapped from what was, to a large extent, a set of views held almost from the start of human history, to a new set of views that is quite different, I think 9/11 was something of a catalyst for this in the US and I wrote about it here:

  • CANelson

    I have read the first three books of Malcolm’s and absolutely love them!!! Need to get “What the Dog Saw”

    He does a magnificent job of telling the story about his characters or people groups. I highly recommend “Outliers” to anyone that ever wonder why people get ahead and others don’t; why people behave a certain way in crisis situations; or how different ethnic groups view the importance of family.

    Bucket List – sit down with Malcolm and have a serious converstion about people, society, and life in general.

  • Scot LaVelle

    These books are so insightful, so engaging!

    In addition to having the ability to connect-the-dots, every one of your books weaves kernals of truth with the fabric of everyman’s experiences. The interviews on PBS just confirm that Malcolm Gladwell’s genius is based on a humility and gratitude that few journalists have. After conveying the brilliance of his writing to a professor of journalism at a local college, she began preparations to incorporate his works into her curriculm.

    Having known a number of brilliant people in my life, I can only imagine how much fun it would be to engage Malcolm on topics of relevance today. Thanks for the great literature!

  • Martin

    One of the best writers of my generation!

  • lulubee

    Malcolm rocks! It’s that simple!

  • Anne

    I adore this man.

  • Zach

    While he’s no doubt an exception writer and deserves recognition, it’s silly to do a focus on him in “Faces of America” when he was born and raised in Canada (and repeatedly identifies himself as a Canadian in his books).

  • Denise

    I also thought it was weird to cover him in a special about Americans since he’s Canadian. However, I believe he has been living in the US for a number of years now. So maybe he relates more to the American culture than Canadian. There’s always a joke that says Canada is the 53rd state, although Canadians hate hearing that, in many instances it’s true and this further goes to show that. Either way, I’m very happy that he’s included and can’t wait to hear what he has to say. After reading his book I actually realized that there’s a strong possibility that he and I are related, so I’ll be all ears to learn more about my heritage as well.

  • Alana

    I love the way Malcolm Gladwell thinks!

  • Wendy

    Canada is part of North America. We should not think that being an American means the same as being a citizen of the United States. The “Americas” are also Central and South America, yet, we do not often think of people from those areas as “Americans.” We have a very narrow definition of what an American is if we think it only means being in the United States. All of the individuals featured in this series are Americans in my estimation.

  • Kathie George

    I own all your books, the most recent on my new Kindle. I love learning about new ways to think of things. The old ways just didn’t always work for me. People who know me find it interesting that I am so into your writing, but of those who have listened to my description of your books have purchased, borrowed and enjoyed as well. I call you one of our first 21st century philosophers. Keep going! I will keep buying!

  • Lover of History

    I was intrigued by what I learned about Malcolm Gladwell in this special. Jamaican mother, English dad? Very cool. It’s so true when he stated that West Indian people don’t see color. It’s only in the US where racism is prevalent. However, what i have learned is that most West Indians tend not to identify with their African roots? Why is that? I would like to see Dr. Gates to do a story on the triangular slave trade and explain the differences and similarities between the Africans that were dropped off in the caribbean and those in the Americas. Another home run Dr. Gates. Thanks for the history lesson!

  • Kelli

    Dear Lover of History –

    I am sorry to argue that racism is only prevalent in the U.S. As a Consultant for Healing Racism, I have worked in Helsinki, Berlin, Valencia, London, Granada, St. Lucia, Brazil, Belize, Colombia, Paris, Nice, Lille and South Africa and I can tell you definitively that racism exists all over the globe. The players may have changed, but the game is still the same. There was an oppressor and an oppressed and the people are still dealing with the residue of conquered, colonized, enslaved cultures hundreds of years later both internal and external to their own cultures. I hope you continue on your quest for history because there is so much more to learn from the world about race and the impact of racism.

  • Di’allo

    i was really intrigued and can relate to this peice. I came here (NY) in the 90s and felt the same as I have come to discover of my own ancestors that came through Ellis Island. I simply did not view myself as black.. and its not because everyone else is black .. its simply because we knew we were more than African (black). And it should also be mentioned that I was treated as a Jamaican as opposed to a ‘brother’ or ‘cousin’ by the African-
    Americans living here.

    It is not that we dont identify with our African heritage (West Indians), in fact, with out it we know as Jamaicans we wouldnt be who we are today. The motto of Jamaica is ‘Out of Many, One People’ , meaning without our unique ancestry in Asia, Africa and Europe… the slight ancent that relates to the Irish-Scottish-English ancestry, our cuisine of Asia & Middle East.. curry, chutney, flat bread, sweets and many more and our NAMES..our NAMES is truly where you see our ancestry.. Sephardic heritage, the true black Irish, Swiss-Germanic names

    we simply are a culture to our selves

    I have been grateful to view records of my ancestors attending Cambridge University (with AFRICAN blood) even before slavery was abolished in the colonies. To see them travel around the globe, in the face of adversity.. and that has been the story of many Jamaicans. We simply relate to the struggle of all our ancestors not just the West Africans brought to our country

    my family I have found consists of West African, Sephardic-Ashkenazi Jews, Scottish & Irish, Maroons (slaves of the Spanish). I have cousins who have North African, Southern Indian, Swiss, Dutch.. and I could go on.

    Having spent half my life here I still feel like the same proud Jamaican teenager that came here, however I have come to recognize that all this simply has to do with nurture. Who your parents are, and the type of society one grows up in.

  • Shirley

    Dear Lover of History:
    You stated that “However, what i have learned is that most West Indians tend not to identify with their African roots? Why is that? I would like to see Dr. Gates to do a story on the triangular slave trade and explain the differences and similarities between the Africans that were dropped off in the caribbean and those in the Americas.”
    I am a West Indian and I find that we identify with our African heritage more than the African American. I was moved a 10 years ago to write a poem about this..because I thought African American were not as proud of their African roots as we were:
    In the end, just people, no better than, no less than
    Simply equal to, just human, just people

    Can’t deny the force
    Can you hear the drums of a distance past?
    Africa is calling us back to recognition and acceptance of self

    Black people throughout the Diaspora rise up and claim your greatness
    Some of us were forced out, driven out from our homeland
    Some of us left by choice

    This poem is dedicated to the Africans that were driven out
    Do you hear your homeland calling?
    Do you miss your homeland?
    Do you think of your homeland?
    How do you feel as a black person in America, in the Caribbean, in South America?

    This is where they took us …they took us to these new lands which became our new homes, they could not destroy our culture, it’s in our DNA, in our cell memory.

    Feel, Feel, Feel

    We are still Africans
    Great Africans

    Study your homeland
    Visit your homeland
    See the land of your birth
    Reclaim it and know that you came from a great land, great people

    Oh Africa!

    Just people, just people
    Humans, humans, no better than, no less than
    Feel, Feel, Feel

    As Peter Tosh says, “no matter where you come from as long as you’re a black man, you’re an AFRICAN”.

    I also wanted to address the second part of your comment and that is the difference between the Africans who were dropped off in the Caribbean and North & South America. This is a great question and one that I have thought about a great deal and wanted to write a screen play about. The Africans that were delivered to Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, Barbados, USA, Brazil etc….are very different and I believe the difference has to do with the parts of Africa were taken from and the tribes they belonged to. Anyway enough said….

  • Newman

    Although Malcolm Gladwell clearly identifies himself as Canadian, (he even said he couldn’t vote here in one of his articles), I think the unique mix of having Jamaican mom and an English dad, raised in Canada and became famous working/writing in the US fit appropriately with the original intent of this program.

    However the colloquial name America usually refers to the US. “Americas” is used in the context you refered to above.

  • Tom Nocera

    Malcom has indicted the likelihood of having a family tie to Colin Powell. Is anybody looking into confirming that possibility?

  • beny dictus

    verry good,,,

  • sabrina

    is canada not part of the americas? since when??

  • Ann marie

    always a joy listening to Malcom…he is soooo insightful

  • Leah

    My husband and I are hooked on Gladwell’s books! My husband will actually tell me about the chapter he’s reading as he reads it because the material is so interesting and discussion worthy! Who knew ketchup had the perfect flavor?! LOL! It is so rare to find someone who is scholar, researcher, AND storyteller wrapped up in one! If Malcolm is teaching, I want to be in the front row!

  • Leah

    Do it Shirley! That would be such an interesting topic for a screen play. Be careful when comparing pride though, I don’t know that that is as interesting as the cultural differences. ;)

  • A.D. Powell

    Gladwell should really identify himself as a white Anglo-Jamaican. He was foolish to feel shock when he discovered that one of his “free colored” ancestors was a slave owner. So what? It’s idiotic to think that the Free Mulatto class should feel some kind of “brotherhood” with blacks and slaves. Blacks and liberals like Gates don’t like it when the Mulatto Elite identify with whites, but they want to force an identification with blacks.

    Also, Gladwell should have criticized Gates and The New Yorker for their denunciation of the late New York Times book critic Anatole Broyard as “black” (actually descended from mixed-white Louisiana Creoles).

  • Anne Hassan

    I love to listen to Gladwell talk, but I think he was one of the poorest choices for this program. First, he is through and through Canadian; he is not even able to relate to the experiences of a half British/half American guy who moved to the US as a child. The series focuses on citizenship and how it affected the family in so many instances, that the “ïsn’t Canada in the Americas thing is not an excuse”. Also, none of this info was likely a mystery to Gladwell, particularly since he delved deep into his own geneology on Charlie Rose( NOTE TO SKIP GATES: Charlie Rose would have been a great choice for this series!) less than a year ago, and made many direct connections between his white Jamaican roots and his own success. Shame on you, Henry Gates, another “typical protestant white guy” who had no idea, beyond thinking he “might be part Irish or German” would truly have been a rounder in this series. In the African American series–much more interestingly representative of a diverse community–the folks actually learned something about their famlies’ American legacies. Contrary to the sentiment articulated in African American Lives, however most white Americans–those who are not members of distinct ethnic communities (Greek, Italian, Syrian for instance) have no clue about their family histories beyond their Grandparents. I personally have grandparents from four distinct nationalities, each of whom had parents from different “groups” within that nationality. I think that someone like me is a more typical white American.

  • m.

    Time to wash a litlle dirty laundry…I know Prof .Gates and others who study ,Africans in the diaspora (outside of the African continent) know this. COLOR does matter in the Caribbean and and everywhere else that African (darker,kinkier haired ,broader featured ) were sent as chattel .

    The caste system idea of closer to whiteness is still a problem. Light skinned ,non kinky hair can still be a preference of families throughout the islands but it’s not announced as often as it use to be. They may not call themselves Brownies anymore or similar names in Spanish,Portugese,French,but discrimination is still a big problem if you are dark skinned without good hair.

    It happens in Cape Verde and Louisiana. Brazil and Peru. Even young Indians (from India and America) who love light skinned Bollywood stars ,are trying bleaching products “to be more beautiful”.Lets tell the truth .There are people of color still filled with some self hate, It’s a problem that is just quietly kept.

    Race may not have been a issue to Malcom Gladwell but his less european looking family members,as in the case of the journalist A. Broyard life ,and forgive me Mariah Carey (be happy ,be free ), may have stayed away so, that he might have a chance to suceed.

  • Grace

    Mr. Gladwell is a brilliant thinker.

  • damien wan

    “You can take the boy out of Jamaica but you can’t take the Jamaica out of the Boy.”

  • Obese Mouse

    A.D. Powell: mr. gates is actually a mullato himself. he had a genetic test done on himself and it revealed that he was half white(irish)and half black.

    but ur kind of right. they could identify themselves as black or white.

  • Eric Bagai

    Just because “American” and “America” are terms used by citizens of the United States of America to refer exclusively to themselves and their nation does not mean that the citizens of the other thirty-five nations of the Americas (look it up!) are not equally Americans. Is it really that difficult to say “US,” or “USA,” or “US American” when referring to themselves or their country?

  • Ellen Robert

    We don’t have nearly enough public intellectuals today, but Malcolm Gladwell certainly is one of the finest. The fact that at one time he had 3 books simultaneously on the New York Times best seller lists gives me hope. We can still appreciate brilliant writing and incisive, original thinking. We’ve not all been reduced to sound bytes and ranting. I teach sociology and frequently assign one of his essays. At the end of the quarter, it is always Gladwell’s ideas to which students return. It was such a pleasure to hear his thoughtful responses to Prof. Gates’ questions. As in his essays, he takes his time and gives a subject its due. Thank you, Mr. Gladwell

  • Alex Ferrar

    Malcolm Gladwell is the most insightful writer I’ve encountered, and I am richer for having read his books and essays. We are often told to think for ourselves, but for those of us who need to be led, no one else tell us HOW. Nothing has opened my eyes to anything the way he has. Since reading his three books and applying the knowledge imparted, I have become a successful restauranteur and art gallery owner, and I eagerly await the next batch of instructions.

  • RavenMaven

    Who are you to tell someone who they should and shouldn’t identify with? If you want to identify primarily with your white side (judging by many of your asinine commentaries), then that’s you. You are nothing but the equivalent of the repulsive, self-hating CONservative Ward Connerly. Pathetic.

  • Rob

    Aaaaghhh wtf I am baffled by how American can be suckered by Ottawa Valley Twang accented Canadians

    Marshall McLuhan
    Malcolm Gladwell

    dammit I gotta move south , get a green card and start printing money

  • Frances

    While I admire and love Malcolm Gladwell’s intellect and writing, I too questioned his being profiled in this series, since he’s Canadian and the title of the series is “Faces of America.” However, I find his family history fascinating and wish they would have featured more of it. He was barely in the first 3 installments.

  • MJ

    Malcolm I heard about you from your aunt. I read your mom’s memoir, but I have never
    read your books, now I am ready to start.
    I must say you look liked you needed a dip “inna some fresh Jamaican riva wata ” to revive you but you were still brilliant.

  • Shanel

    It’s pretty obvious what “America” refers to in the title. If they meant the continents I’m sure it would have been “Faces of the Americas”.

  • Ann MJ

    My friends told me about this show because I am trying to trace my ancestors. I just watched it. Malcolm – I wonder if we are related!!! I was born in England, my father was born in St. Eliz, JA and his grand parents and cousins are “Nations”!! Interesting! I would love to see your family tree!

  • A.D. Powell

    You’re projecting your own sins. YOUR “race” is the one constantly claiming people who don’t belong to it in order to practice “ethnic rape” (You boast that you will force yourselves on the Anatole Broyards of the world in order to claim their accomplishments and “superior” DNA. Get over your inferiority complex. YOU are “self-hating” and jealous because you don’t believe in yourselves and want “white blood” to represent you. You wanted Anatole Broyard and others to hate his European ancestry and identify with YOU in order to make you look better than you are.

    Why don’t you characters try claiming the Hispanics, since they are nearly all at least “tarbrushed” or worse? But that would take some courage, so you will show respect by not even mentioning the fact. All non-Hispanic mixed-whites and mulattoes should know that claiming white ancestry is self-love and identifying with blacks is self-hatred.

  • Patrick

    While I agree broadly that people in the Americas do have a common bond, people from these other nations do not self-identify as “American.” If you ask a Canadian, Mexican, Argentinian, Brazilian, etc. to define themselves I highly doubt you will hear the word American. However, if you ask someone from the United States it would likely be one of the first words you hear, even if connected with a different ethnic group (i.e. Mexican-American, Italian-American, etc.). Obviously it is an issue of semantics, but if we are talking about American faces (or American politics, American literature, etc.) we are not talking about Canadians, Mexicans, or Chileans.

  • black irish

    It fascinates me that our history can find a positive way to define us; I grow up in Jamaica with two wonderful parents my brothers and sisters, my parents thought us to accept ourselves and embrace our heritage. These words only came into perspective when I relocated to Europe. I left a predominantly black multicultural society majority from African descendants. I found myself in a country predominantly white where I was seen as an ethic minority and where the word racism became a new word expressed with negative actions and connotations. At first I could not understand this word racism it never existed in Jamaica although my friend and family were of white, Indian, black and Chinese background we embraced the national motto ‘out of many one people’. We lived in unity and peace, yet in the society I now live in is full with hate, intimidation, injustice and Sinicism just to mention a few. I am completely baffled by the way society perceives blacks or brown as I was seen in Jamaica. MARTIN LUTHER KING prayed for a world where we as black people would not be defined by the colour of our skins and BOB MARLEY noted that until the philosophy that holds one race inferior and another superior is finally and permanently annihilated there will always be war.

  • Public_enemy

    Racism only prevalent in the USA? Breaking news…… has been present since people have been assembling and looking for ways to segregate. Look at Egyptian hieroglyphics, slaves are usually depicted as darker pigmented. I realize that is largely a relict of the populations preyed upon for slave labor, but that was long before caucasians entered the equation.

  • Public_enemy

    Hey, SHirley,

    While I totally respect your right to be black and proud, weren’t we all African about 200K years ago? I’ve always wondered what really constitutes our nature, race seems like an archaic construct that will one day be viewed as naive. I wish we were closer to that point, or at least more pragmatic as a society in what it means to be “human”. I also realize I operate from a position of racial and gender power so I may not be as objective as I’d like to think I am ;-).


    Get over it! The term race is just a construct! All life began in Africa read the works of Richard leakey and Spencer Wells. Get overthei race mixingthing. it’s nonsense. What weare realy talking about when we talk about it the melanin in someone’s organ. We aretalking about the colour of someone’s organ, for christ sakes! It’s a shame how we put so much emphasis in making our identities confrom to some dumb notion of hues of skin. damn shame. So what if you are mixed up, so to speka. We all came from Africa anyway! Get out of your nonsese!

  • Max

    53rd State? Is this ‘always told’ joke told by complete idiots? There are only 50 states. “Canadians always hate hearing that” – yes most people hate being reminded that we are living under the smug soft-imperialism of the USA, including the Canadians, British, French, etc., etc.

  • Joyce Edwards

    This is my first time reading one of the Malcolm Gladwell. I am a high school graduate, with no formal education, clerical worker that really enjoy reading. Blink was one of the books being read as a training tool at the company I work. The executive that I worked with sometimes screen books through me. I would read them and give her my feedback. I usually take away something from most books I read but I thought this was a real eye opener and to remind some of us of our filtering / thin slicing, can keep us from hiring a Julie Landsman or even worse mind-blind us to only see the switch on the wall. So many examples of our blind society. I will read the Outliers next.

    I didn’t really get the replies about why he is on “Faces of America” . I guess it is the word “America”.

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  • Barbara

    I just saw this episode as re-presented on PBS. In it, Mr. Gladwell’s observations and experiences of racism (in the United States) vs. acceptance (in Canada) were certainly germane to the topic of “Faces of America”, and to the experiences of millions of people in the United States. He speaks from a unique position to address both.

  • skitty poop

    Awesome writing style!

  • Dr. J Gray

    First i want to thank Dr. Gates for his extraordinary research and for what that has meant to all americans. Im writing this the day after the thanksgiving holiday 2012 in louisiana after having recently discussed my grandfathers scottish irish ancestry with my mother today. I had the DNA analysis done a while back and found out about my west african heritage and tribal heritage there as well. I agree with Mr. Gladwell and smiled when he said that the broader our definition of who we are the harder it is to pin us down. I noticed many years ago that when i am not in the United States and am in south america, colombia, asia, etc etc I am rarely confronted with the question of what color i am or what my affiliation is. The heritage as many of you know, in louisiana, is extremely diverse. I myself have a west indian grandmother, european ancestry as stated, west african ancestry, and native american ancestry. Obviously growing up in the south i was simply labeled as ” black”. My mother found out years ago humorously enough that she is related to the family of the ex state senator she has worked for many years. My point is that i feel being a part of the human race and not one particular color broadens the definition of who i am and gives me options socially, and spiritually more importantly. I hope in the future i get to read some of Mr. Gladwell’s books as well as some books on the Serrer tribes of west africa which thanks to Mr. Gates i now know i herald from many generations later. Happy holiday to all from the land of were stilling becoming free in many ways still.. :) I enjoyed this video respite as my mother fed us our Kosher post holiday meal on the sabbath in our ” black” southern household. Haha.. Peace to all.

  • sorrywhore

    i have a bump on my face

  • Raymond Ladebo


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    Johnny Williams, a debonair likeable young graduate student, raised by a loving adoptive elderly couple started his life journey as an abandoned one day-old, in a basket left at a Westchester church-front. His birth mother was a teenage blond blue-eyed student who returned to her university in California; unable to find peace, even later as a professional magazine editor. Due to Johnny’s hair being peculiarly tangled from birth, he’s forced to permanently keep his hair in braids and to adopt the name DADA because he firmly believes his birth mother must have been from West Africa. His university degree course in Social Anthropology may have been subconsciously driven by his burning desire to find the mother that abandoned him at birth. His fascination with the Yoruba culture leads him on some adventurous travels with many twists and turns while he is also privileged to meet and make friends with some elderly intellectuals along the way.
    JOURNEY OF HOPE OR DESTINY adopts Yoruba philosophical worldview to narrate a story that reflects the global influence of race and social construct on different cultures.

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  • alexis


  • alexis

    u is ugly

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  • Donn Valtierra

    Hi Stephen Elliot. I just got a letter dated 1/19/12 from Lorelie Lee in an envelope from you. I’ve no idea whatsoever how I got on your list. But I’ll write Lorelie back again (a real letter, even), because it was pretty fucking brave of her to write that.

  • Herschel Rupar

    IDNX is something that has been missing for sometime now. Very good looking out, Thies Lindenthal

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