Michele Zack has been a writer/journalist for 30 years. The past 10, she’s focused on California history.
In 2011, Michele joined the The Huntington-USC Instititute on California and the West (ICW) as Senior Advisor, Local History and K-12 Outreach. ICW pairs a great research university (USC) with a great research library (The Huntington) for a number of projects in doctoral education, public outreach, and thematic and innovative investigations of Western History.
Her appointment followed years of work with ICW director Bill Deverell on three federal Teaching American History grants that provide professional development for k-12 history teachers.
“My role is to connect local and California history to broad historical themes, which I will continue to do. Now I have an academic home, and welcome having an even closer affiliation to such a prestigious institution,” she says.
Her book Altadena: Between Wilderness and City was recognized in 2005 for excellence by the American Association of State and Local History, and in 2006 she received the Donald Pflueger Award from the Historical Society of Southern California. Southern California Story (2009) was also honored by the AASLH and received numerous design awards.
Eaton’s Water, a short dramatic film about local pioneers and water development, was adapted from Zack’s story and is used in local classrooms to connect kids to history and the environment. Zack was named “Best Advocate of the Arroyo Seco” by the Council of Arroyo Seco Organizations in 2008 for this work.
In the 1990s Michele lived in Thailand. She worked as an AsiaWeek correspondent, and was a regular contributor to Far Eastern Economic Review. She authored a popular ethnography of the Lisu, a hill tribe in Southeast Asia, and was co-author of Fielding’s Guide to Thailand. Zack has written widely about Southeast Asia, and worked as a speech writer for several Thai Prime Ministers.
In 2014, she’s back on the Lisu trail, updating her ethnography for University Press of Colorado. She is also a local activist and chairman of the board of Altadena Heritage, a non-profit dedicated to architectural, cultural, and environmental preservation. She and her husband Mark live in Altadena, California.