Rising Out of Hatred




In an outstanding work of investigative journalism and literary reportage, Eli Saslow’s Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist is a meticulous journey of how someone can embrace, promulgate, then liberate themselves from a radical ideology based on degradation and violence.

We are familiar with how fear and bigotry can radicalize and curdle into hatred. In Saslow’s book, we learn exactly how this process occurs, through a community of enablers that over a period of years offer unquestioning support and enthusiasm for hateful beliefs, while fostering a sense of uniqueness and belonging. What’s less familiar is how someone can "de-radicalize," or leave such an extremist organization. What are the challenges involved in that process? What happens when someone initiates the first step into a life that isn’t solely defined by prejudice and injustice? Who does that person become? Saslow’s book demonstrates that someone breaking from an ideology isn’t a massive break at all but rather a series of small, consequential steps and gestures, each one nurtured by patience and compassion. In the same way it requires scores of committed people to keep someone tethered to hate, it likewise takes a community of individuals interested in challenging both themselves and others, to help transform and ultimately redeem someone that has known one way of thinking.

It takes an extraordinary effort to help someone dismantle and discard a toxic sense of identity. In an era that has both mainstreamed and rewarded bigotry, fear, and racial hatred, Saslow’s book offers a bold, detailed, and revelatory path for peace making, tolerance, and potential reconciliation, one based on empathy, compassion, and understanding. It is also a sobering challenge to each of its readers, individually and collectively, of the hard work we all must be prepared to undertake to make such a pathway possible. This book is an inspiration and a triumph.

- Brando Skyhorse
2019 finalist judge

Book Excerpt

Few people on his college campus knew that Derek Black had once been the rightful heir to America’s white nationalist movement—the son of Don Black, who founded the internet’s largest hate site, and the godson of David Duke, a former KKK Grand Wizard. Few white nationalists knew exactly where Derek was living now, what he believed, or why he had changed his mind. On the dark corners of the internet, neo-Nazis and skinheads were calling him a traitor and plotting revenge. Derek had separated his life into two parts, a before and an after. . . .

His past was in fact present. Derek said he felt implicated by current events, sometimes even culpable. Maybe he had stopped planting the seeds of hate and division, but they were still growing all around him. “It’s a critical time. My relationship to the cultural moment is now more personal. I imagine I have some things to say bout all of it. Let’s find a time to meet.”

Derek took the greatest risk. Sometimes when we spent time together, he wondered how it would feel to see his old white nationalist talking points printed out again on the page. But his commitment to this project never wavered. If parts of his story traced the country’s path to this contentious racial moment, then maybe the details of his transformation can also point a way ahead.

2019 Nonfiction Winner

Eli Saslow
Click to see acceptance speech video

(Click photo to see acceptance speech at awards dinner.)

Eli Saslow
Rising Out of Hatred

"What I appreciate most about my job as a reporter is it allows me a passport to spend time in places I wouldn’t otherwise go, with people I wouldn’t otherwise meet — and hopefully I get to take the reader along with me. That act feels even more essential at a time when Americans are increasingly isolated into our own bubbles by technology, by class, by ideology, and by geography. The best nonfiction journalism requires thorough investigation, but ultimately it is also an act of understanding, empathy, and peace."

— Eli Saslow                        


In his Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage for The Washington Post, Eli Saslow reveals the human stories behind the most divisive issues of our time. From racism and poverty to addiction and mass shootings, Saslow’s work uncovers the impact of major national issues on individuals and families.

Saslow won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for a series of stories about food stamps and food insecurity in the United States. Collected into the book American Hunger, his stories were praised as “unsettling and nuanced...forcing readers to grapple with issues of poverty and dependency.” Saslow was also named one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing in 2013, 2016 and 2017. His stories in The Washington Post have been recognized with a George Polk Award, a PEN Literary Award, a James Beard Award, and other honors.

His latest book, Rising Out of Hatred, was published by Doubleday in the fall of 2018. It tells the transformational story of Derek Black, who was raised to take over the white nationalist movement before a drastic change of course caused him to abandon everything he was taught to believe. Saslow's first book, Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President, examined President Obama’s daily habit of reading ten random letters from Americans. Booklist called Ten Letters “a testament to the power of the written word.”

Saslow is a longtime staff writer for The Washington Post, where he was initially a sportswriter. He has reported for 42 states and six countries. He covered the 2008 presidential campaign as well as President Obama’s life in the White House. Four of his stories have been anthologized in Best American Sportswriting, and he is an occasional contributor to ESPN The Magazine.

Saslow gives speeches about his books, about the role of journalism in highlighting social and public health issues, the craft of longform journalism, and the human impacts of public policy. He was the T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor of Journalism at the University of Montana, and he has spoken about his work at Princeton, Syracuse University, UNC Wilmington, UVA, Northwestern, USC and elsewhere.

A 2004 graduate of Syracuse University, he now lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and three children.


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