Jane Fletcher Geniesse

Jane Geniesse

Jane Fletcher Geniesse, a former reporter with the New York Times, is the author of two biographies and a novel. A graduate of Radcliffe College and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Mrs. Geniesse has contributed articles to many publications and is frequently invited to speak on her books and on the Middle East.

In 1982, her husband Robert J. Geniesse, previously the Chief Appellate Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was asked by his law firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, to open an office in Washington, DC. By this time Mrs. Geniesse, who had written The Riches of life, a novel, had left the New York Times where she was reporter for the Home Section, in order to work on another novel. When the couple moved to the nation's capitol, her editor at Random House suggested she try her hand at biography.

Mrs. Geniesse's brother, Harvard Professor Joseph F. Fletcher, Jr., was a very influential figure in her life and had stimulated an abiding interest in Middle East affairs. Tragically however, in 1984, at the peak of his career as a Sinologist conversant in 17 languages, head of the Yenching Institute, and authority on Central Asia, Professor Fletcher died of colon cancer. In her grief, Mrs. Geniesse began a serious study of the Middle East. Eventually she settled on writing the life of Freya Stark, the colorful explorer and travel writer famous for exploring the valleys of the ancient Assassins of Persia, the most effective terrorists in history. The biography, Passionate Nomad, published in 1999, was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Pen/Martha Albrand Award.

During her travels in the Middle East, Mrs. Geniesse became interested in the legendary American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, once the grand mansion of American utopians who went to the Holy City in 1881 because, they predicted to their followers that the Messiah would descend on the Mount of Olives that year. The hotel has long enjoyed a reputation for neutrality in the highly-polarized Holy City and is still owned by the founder's descendants. Its fascinating story, told by Mrs. Geniesse in American Priestess and published by Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday in June, 2008, illuminates 19th Century revivalism, how it encouraged Zionism and the creation of the Jewish state of Israel, and the impact that has had on the people of Palestine.

Mrs. Geniesse has been an environmental activist, and served for many years on the board of the Environmental Defense Fund. Currently, she serves on the Executive Committee of the American Center of Oriental Research, Amman, Jordan. She grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her father, the late Professor Joseph F. Fletcher, author of Situation Ethics, was a pioneer in Biomedical Ethics. Her mother was a poet.

Mrs. Geniesse and her husband live in Washington DC, Boca Grande, FL, and Fishers Island, NY. Their son and daughter are both married, and they have three grandchildren.

Mrs. Geniesse's husband's name is Belgian, and is pronounced “Jen-ness.”