Sarah Vowell
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Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell
Vowell standing onstage in front of a microphone holding papers
Vowell in 2007
Born (1969-12-27) December 27, 1969 (age 51)
EducationMontana State University, B.A.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, M.A.[1]
OccupationAuthor, journalist, essayist, social commentator, actress
Years active1987-present

Sarah Vowell (born December 27, 1969) is an American author, journalist, essayist, social commentator and actress. Vowell has written seven nonfiction books on American history and culture. She was a contributing editor for the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International from 1996 to 2008, where she produced numerous commentaries and documentaries and toured the country in many of the program's live shows.[not verified in body] She was also the voice of Violet Parr in the 2004 animated film The Incredibles and its 2018 sequel.

Early life and education

Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Vowell moved to Bozeman, Montana when she was eleven.[2] She has a fraternal twin sister, Amy.

Vowell earned a B.A. from Montana State University in 1993 in Modern Languages and Literature,[3] and an M.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999.[4]



Vowell's articles have been published in The Village Voice, Esquire, Spin Magazine, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and SF Weekly.[5][6][7][8][9][10] She has been a regular contributor to the online magazine,[11] and was one of the original contributors to McSweeney's, participating in many of the quarterly's readings and shows.

Vowell's first book, Radio On: A Listener's Diary (1997), which featured her year-long diary of listening to the radio in 1995, caught the attention of This American Life host Ira Glass, and it led to Vowell becoming a frequent contributor to the show.[] Thereafter, segments on the show became the subjects for many of her subsequent published essays.[] Vowell's first essay collection was Take the Cannoli (2000), which was followed by The Partly Cloudy Patriot (2002).

In 2005, Vowell served as a guest columnist for The New York Times during several weeks in July, briefly filling in for Maureen Dowd.[12] Vowell also served as a guest columnist in February 2006.[13] Her book Assassination Vacation (2005) describes a road trip to tourist sites devoted to the murders of presidents Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield and William McKinley.[14] Vowell's book, The Wordy Shipmates (2008), analyzes the settlement of the New England Puritans in America and their contributions to American history.[15] Also in 2008, Vowell's essay about Montana appeared in the book State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America.

Vowell wrote Unfamiliar Fishes (2011), which discusses the Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the Newlands Resolution.[16][17] In April 2011, the book became a New York Times Bestseller.[18] In her Los Angeles Times review, Susan Salter Reynolds wrote that Vowell's "cleverness is gorgeously American: She collects facts and stores them like a nervous chipmunk, digesting them only for the sake of argument."[16]Allegra Goodman, writing in The Washington Post, describes the work as "a big gulp of a book, printed as an extended essay... Lacking section or chapter breaks, Vowell's quirky history lurches from one anecdote to the next. These are often entertaining, but in the aggregate they begin to sound the same..."[17] Goodman also wrote that "Vowell tells a good tale" with "shrewd observations", but that she found that "the narrative wears thin where casual turns cute and cute threatens to turn glib."[17]

Her most recent book is Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (2015), an account of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat who became George Washington's trusted officer and friend, and afterward an American celebrity.[19][20] In a review for The New York Times, Charles P. Pierce wrote, "Vowell wanders through the history of the American Revolution and its immediate aftermath, using Lafayette's involvement in the war as a map, and bringing us all along in her perambulations... and doing it with a wink."[19]NPR reviewer Colin Dwyer wrote, "It's awfully refreshing to see Vowell bring our founders down from their lofty pedestals. In her telling, they're just men again, not the gods we've long since made of them."[20]

Public appearances and lectures

Vowell signing books after a lecture at Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas, 2010

Vowell has appeared on television shows such as Nightline, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,[21]The Colbert Report, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Show with David Letterman, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.[22][better source needed]

In April 2006, Vowell served as the keynote speaker at the 27th Annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference.[23] In August and September 2006, she toured the United States as part of the Revenge of the Book Eaters national tour, which benefited the children's literacy centers 826NYC, 826CHI, 826 Valencia, 826LA, 826 Michigan, and 826 Seattle.[]

Vowell also provided commentary in Robert Wuhl's 2005 Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl HBO specials.[24]

Voice and acting work

Vowell provided the voice of Violet Parr, a shy teenager, in the 2004 Pixar animated film The Incredibles, and returned to her role for the film's sequel, Incredibles 2, in 2018.[25][26] Vowell also voiced the character in various related video games, and for Disney on Ice presentations in the years following the film's release.[27][28] The makers of The Incredibles discovered Vowell in an episode of This American Life,[29] "Guns", in which she and her father fire a homemade cannon.[30] Pixar made a test animation for Violet using audio from that sequence, which was included on the DVD of The Incredibles.[31] Vowell also wrote and was featured in a documentary included on the same DVD, entitled "Vowellett--An Essay by Sarah Vowell", in which she reflects on the difference between being an author of history books on assassinated presidents and voicing the superhero Violet, and on what the role meant to her nephew.

Vowell was featured prominently in the 2002 documentary about the alternative rock band, They Might Be Giants, entitled Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns, and she appeared with band members John Linnell and John Flansburgh in the DVD commentary for the movie.[32] She also provided commentary for the April 2006 episode, "Murder at the Fair: The Assassination of President McKinley," one of ten in the History Channel miniseries, 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America.[33]

In September 2006, Vowell appeared as a minor character in the ABC drama Six Degrees.[34] She appeared in an episode of HBO's Bored to Death, as an interviewer in a bar, and in 2010, appeared briefly in the film Please Give, as a shopper.[35][36] Vowell also appeared on The Daily Show as a Senior Historical Context Correspondent.[37]

Personal life

Vowell is part Cherokee (about 1/8 on her mother's side and 1/16 on her father's side). According to Vowell, "Being at least a little Cherokee in northeastern Oklahoma is about as rare and remarkable as being a Michael Jordan fan in Chicago." She retraced the path of the forced removal of the Cherokee from the southeastern United States to Oklahoma, known as the Trail of Tears, with her twin sister Amy. In 1998, This American Life chronicled her story, devoting the entire hour to her work.[38] She is unmarried and has never had children.[39]

Vowell is on the advisory board of 826NYC, a nonprofit tutoring and writing center for students aged 6-18 in Brooklyn.[40]

Vowell is an atheist, though she describes herself as "culturally Christian."[41] In an interview with The A.V. Club, when asked if she believed in a god, she stated, "Absolutely not."[42]

Selected published works

  • 1997--Radio On: A Listener's Diary, ISBN 0-312-18301-1.
  • 2000--Take the Cannoli: Stories From the New World, ISBN 0-7432-0540-5.
  • 2002--The Partly Cloudy Patriot, ISBN 0-7432-4380-3.
  • 2005--Assassination Vacation, ISBN 0-7432-6003-1.
  • 2008--The Wordy Shipmates, ISBN 1-59448-999-8.
  • 2011--Unfamiliar Fishes, ISBN 1-59448-787-1.
  • 2015--Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, ISBN 1-59463-174-3.



Year Title Role Notes
1987 End of the Line Diner Waitress Uncredited
1999 Man in the Sand Herself Documentary
2002 Gigantic Herself
2004 The Incredibles Violet Parr Voice
2010 Please Give Shopper
2011 Hit So Hard Herself Documentary
2013 A.C.O.D. Lorraine
2018 Incredibles 2 Violet Parr Voice


Year Title Role Notes
2006-2007 Six Degrees Edie 2 episodes
2006 The Colbert Report Herself 1 episode
2009 Bored to Death Journalist
2010 Lafayette: The Lost Hero Herself Documentary
2011 Jimmy Kimmel Live! Herself Special guest
2011, 2013, 2015 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
2011 Last Call with Carson Daly
The Tavis Smiley Show
2015 Conan
2016 Well Read V

Video games

Short film

Year Title Role Notes
2005 Vowellet - An Essay by Sarah Vowell Herself, writer, archive footage Included as a bonus feature to The Incredibles on home media; details Vowell's voice work during the film while also writing Assassination Vacation and how her This American Life writing/narration earned her the role of Violet.


  1. ^ "Sarah Vowell Visits SAIC as Distinguished Alumni Lecturer" (Press release). Chicago: School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ Vowell, Sarah (April 3, 2001). Take the Cannoli. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0743205405.
  3. ^ Schmidt, Carol (April 30, 2010). "Vowell's constant". Montana State University. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ "Sarah Vowell Visits SAIC as Distinguished Alumni Lecturer". School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 2020.
  5. ^ "Sarah Vowell | Authors | The Village Voice". Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ VOWELL, SARAH. "How to Get Ketchup Out of a Bottle | Esquire | NOVEMBER 2000". Esquire | The Complete Archive. Retrieved 2020.
  7. ^ "Wilco, Summerteeth (Reprise) SPIN". Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ Vowell, Sarah (May 17, 2020). "Opinion | How Democrats Win in My Red State (and They Do Win)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020.
  9. ^ Vowell, Sarah (January 10, 1999). "The Incredible Vanishing Act of an American Icon". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020.
  10. ^ Vowell, Sarah (August 28, 1996). "Suspicious Minds". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2020.
  11. ^ "Sarah Vowell". Retrieved 2015.
  12. ^ Vowell, Sarah (July 23, 2005). "Lock and Load". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ "Sarah Vowell, Guest Columnist". The New York Times. February 3, 2006. Retrieved 2020.
  14. ^ Woodward, Richard B. (May 15, 2005). "'Assassination Vacation' by Sarah Vowell". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (November 28, 2008). "Mayflower Power". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020.
  16. ^ a b Salter Reynolds, Susan (March 26, 2011). "Book review: 'Unfamiliar Fishes' by Sarah Vowell: The 'Partly Cloudy Patriot' author takes on American imperialism and exceptionalism". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011.
  17. ^ a b c Goodman, Allegra (April 1, 2011). "Sarah Vowell's 'Unfamiliar Fishes,' a quirky history of Hawaii". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020.
  18. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers". The New York Times. April 10, 2011. Retrieved 2020.
  19. ^ a b Pierce, Charles P. (November 17, 2015). "Sarah Vowell's 'Lafayette in the Somewhat United States'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016.
  20. ^ a b Dwyer, Colin. "'Somewhat United' Brings Lafayette Down From His Pedestal". Retrieved 2016.
  21. ^ North, Anna (October 6, 2009). "Sarah Vowell, Jon Stewart, And The Freedom of the Bowl Haircut". Jezebel. Retrieved 2015.
  22. ^ "Barnes & Noble Biography: Meet the writers - Sarah Vowell". Steven Barclay Agency. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012.
  23. ^ "Women Writers Conference Announces Creative Nonfiction Contest". University of Kentucky. October 11, 2005. Archived from the original on December 20, 2012.
  24. ^ Sandomir, Richard (April 1, 2006). "Robert Wuhl Is a Teacher on HBO's 'Assume the Position With Mr. Wuhl'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  25. ^ Celestino, Mike (June 11, 2018). "INTERVIEW: Acclaimed author and "Incredibles 2" star Sarah Vowell on superheroes, Disney, and America". Inside The Magic. Retrieved 2020.
  26. ^ Ching, Albert (July 14, 2017). "D23 Expo: Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios--The Upcoming Films". Retrieved 2017.
  27. ^ 219.852.4329, MOLLY WOULFE. "Disney on Ice unmasks 'Incredibles' ice show". Retrieved 2020.
  28. ^ "Sarah Vowell". IMDb. Retrieved 2020.
  29. ^ Litman, Juliet (June 14, 2018). "The Making of Violet Parr in 'The Incredibles'". The Ringer. Retrieved 2020.
  30. ^ Glass, Ira (host, exec. prod.), Vowell, Sarah (guest writer/presenter) et al. (October 24, 1997). This American Life ["Guns" (episode 81)] (archived audio). Chicago, IL: Chicago Public Media. Event occurs at unknown time. Retrieved 2015.
  31. ^ "The Incredibles DVD Review". Retrieved 2020.
  32. ^ "Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2020.
  33. ^ "Ten Days That Unexpectedly Changed America" Murder at the Fair: The Assassination of President McKinley (TV Episode 2006) - IMDb, retrieved 2020
  34. ^ Six Degrees (TV Series 2006-2008) - IMDb, retrieved 2020
  35. ^ Bored to Death (TV Series 2009-2011) - IMDb, retrieved 2020
  36. ^ Please Give (2010) - IMDb, retrieved 2020
  37. ^ "Sarah Vowell comes back to WBEZ". WBEZ Chicago. March 9, 2012. Retrieved 2020.
  38. ^ "107: Trail of Tears". This American Life. July 3, 1998. Retrieved 2015.
  39. ^ user52. "Sarah Vowell - Freedom From Religion Foundation". Retrieved 2020.
  40. ^ "826NYC About". Retrieved 2020.
  41. ^ Vowell, Sarah (January 21, 2008). "Radical Love Gets a Holiday". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015. I am a culturally Christian atheist the same way my atheist Reform friends are culturally Jewish...
  42. ^ Thompson, Stephen (October 9, 2002). "Is There A God?". Retrieved 2015.

External links

External audio
audio iconConsonant Vowells: Sarah Vowell on This American Life and Hearing Voices
audio iconHow A French Teenager Helped Save Us From 'The Fatal Tendency Of Disunion', John O'Brien, KUOW, November 12, 2015

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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