Courtney E. Martin - Author / Speaker / Blogger
Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive DO IT ANYWAY: The New Generation of Activists Project Rebirth: Survival and the Strength of the Human Spirit from 9/11 Survivors The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream
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“Engrave this upon your heart: there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you heard their story.”
Mary Lou Kownacki

Courtney has two lifelong obsessions: storytelling and solutions.

She has been called “one of our most insightful culture critics and one of our finest young writers” by Parker Palmer, and her writing has been described as “varied, transformational, and necessary for us all” by Jane Fonda and “a hardcover punch in the gut” by Arianna Huffington.

Courtney is a weekly columnist for On Being, a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation, podcast, and Webby Award-winning website. Her newest book, The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, explores how people are redefining the American dream (think more fulfillment, community, and fun, less debt, status, and stuff).

In fall 2010, Beacon Press published Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, in which Courtney profiled eight young people doing social justice work on the ground. She spoke on feminist and activism at the inaugural TEDWomen Conference in December 2010 and her talk was subsequently published on Courtney’s first book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women was awarded a Books for a Better Life nomination and was called “smart and spirited” by The New York Times.

Courtney has surprised herself by co-founding a series of status quo bucking enterprises: the Solutions Journalism Network, popularizing the practice of rigorous, compelling reporting about responses to social problems, FRESH Speakers Bureau, diversifying and disrupting thought leadership, #femfuture, creating more sustainability in the online feminist world, and Valenti Martin Media, making social justice organizations more effective in movement building and strategic communication.

Courtney also does ongoing strategy work with TED and the Aspen Institute. (For more on her ideas about strategy work and journalistic integrity in the new media landscape, go here.) She is on the Council of Advisors of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Family Story, a new national communications hub dedicated to shifting the conversation about families from one of judgment to one of broad celebration.

Courtney is an Editor Emerita at, which won the Hillman Prize for Blog Journalism and the Columbia Journalism Review calls “head and shoulders above almost any writing on women’s issues in mainstream media.”

Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Christian Science Monitor, The American Prospect, The Nation, Glamour, Mother Jones, Utne, and a variety of anthologies, among other publications. Courtney has appeared on Good Morning America, The TODAY Show, The O’Reilly Factor, CNN, and MSNBC, among other major media outlets. She is also a widely sought after speaker, who gives several dozen lectures and speeches annually, at universities and events across the U.S.

Courtney’s other books include: Project Rebirth: Survival and the Strength of the Human Spirit from 9/11 Survivors, released in conjunction with a documentary film, called Rebirth, by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jim Whitaker, CLICK: When We Knew We Were Feminists, co-edited with J. Courtney Sullivan, and The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive, the life story of AIDS activist Marvelyn Brown.

The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy, which Courtney founded in 2006, has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Courtney is a recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics and has or will hold residencies at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, Hedgebrook, and the Santa Fe Art Institute.

Courtney earned her Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, in political science and sociology from Barnard College, and her Master of Arts in writing and social change from the Gallatin School at New York University.

When she isn’t working, she is hanging with her neighbors in Temescal Commons, a co-housing community in Oakland, riding bikes with her husband and collaborator, John Cary, and her daughter, Maya (named after all the visionary Mayas like Maya Lin and Maya Angelou), ravenously reading, watching depressing documentaries, or creating unselfconscious dance parties with her amazing friends.

2016 TED Talk


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