5 Questions With Peter L.W. Osnos & Evan Osnos

Father and son authors and foreign correspondents Peter L.W. Osnos and Evan Osnos – both Miami Book Fair 2021 presenters – sat down with us to talk about their respective work, and their relationship. 

The holidays are around the corner and I’m imagining what the table talk might sound like at family gatherings – do you often find yourselves discussing your respective work and projects when you spend time with each other during non-work-related occasions? 

Peter: By now we can communicate in what probably sounds like shorthand on most topics. Table talk progresses from the joys and challenges of Lego and remote-control cars to the fate of civilization.

Evan: Talk of writing and reading and publishing has been the lingua franca in our family. One or another of us is always in the stage of conceiving a project or hashing out the fine points or doing a postmortem, so it’s always bubbling away.


Evan, can you recall how old you were when you started to realize what it was your dad did for a living? And when did you start to think to yourself, “Yeah, I want to do that, too”?

Evan: When I was little – maybe 6 or 7 years old. I remember my father talking about journalism as a kind of passport of its own, a way to gain access to parts of human experience you might never otherwise get to see up close.

Peter: I sensed he would be a writer at about the age of 12. He didn’t just see things around him, he could describe them with color and humor.


The two of you have done a few events discussing An Especially Good View already – are you able to continue to discover new insights about the work, new lenses through which you examine it?

Peter: The reality is that these conversations are always fun, and each is enlightening in its own way. Think of these as father-son encounters that start with backyard banter and playing catch and progress accordingly.

Evan: One of the reasons I love my father’s book is that it’s like a Matryoshka doll – stories within stories. I expect he and I will be talking about it for years to come.

Peter, what’s a particularly proud moment you’ve experienced regarding Evan’s work, something that really stands out for you?

Peter: When the editor for Evan’s first New Yorker article wrote to him in 2008 and said, “you nailed it.”

There are parallels to your work and careers, but where and how do you think your experiences diverge most?

Evan: Early on, my father made the switch from writing to editing and publishing, so I grew up with him thinking in those kinds of strategic terms about the overall effect of a project. For me, I get more of a thrill from the reporting and writing itself, which means I get to be the beneficiary of his thinking without having to do it myself.

Peter: At Evan’s level now, being a journalist is much more visible than it used to be and can be much more controversial than when you were mainly a newspaper byline. These days there is social media, cable news, book fairs. Staying grounded as a person (as a dad, husband, pal, and son) is harder when you ascend to the high wire. 

Interview by Elisa Chemayne Agostinho

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