McKay Jenkins is a journalist, nonfiction writer, and scholar of American studies, specializing in environmental studies and the history, journalism, and literature of race relations and social justice. The Cornelius Tilghman Professor of English, Journalism, and Environmental Humanities, he has been writing about people and the natural world for 25 years.
Jenkins is the author of What’s Gotten Into Us: Staying Healthy in a Toxic World (Random House, 2011), which chronicles his investigation into the myriad synthetic chemicals we encounter in our daily lives, and the growing body of evidence about the harm these chemicals do to our bodies and the environment.
His other books include Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness and Murder in the Arctic Barren Lands (Random House, 2005), the true tale of a pair of French Catholic missionaries who were murdered in the Arctic by a pair of Inuit hunters, and the trial and troubling cultural consequencs of this strange and fascinating event. His book The Last Ridge: The Epic Story of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division and the Assault on Hitler’s Europe (Random House, 2003) tells the story of America’s most famous mountain soldiers. It recounts the division’s exploits training at high altitudes in Colorado and its heroic missions in the mountains of Italy during World War Two. The White Death: Tragedy and Heroism in an Avalanche Zone (Random House, 2000) is the true story of five young mountaineers who, after setting out to make the first winter ascent of the highest peak in Montana’s Glacier National Park, were killed in a massive avalanche that led to one of the country’s largest search and rescue missions. The South in Black and White: Race, Sex, and Literature in the 1940s (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1999) explores the influence of racial history and sexual mores on the literature of the American South in the decades immediately preceding the Civil Rights Movement. Jenkins is also the editor of The Peter Matthiessen Reader (Vintage, 2000), an anthology of the American nature writer’s finest and most enduring nonfiction work.
Jenkins holds degrees from Amherst College, Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and Princeton, where he received a PhD in English. A former staff writer for the Atlanta Constitution, he has also written for Outside, Orion, The New Republic, and many other publications. He teaches classes in nonfiction writing, nature writing, the journalism of genocide, the journalism of terrorism, and twentieth century American literature. He is a recipient of the College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award.