Leila Philip is the author of three books of nonfiction prose and one book of poetry. The Road Through Miyama, (Random House 1989, Vintage 1991, 1992) for which she received the Martha Albrand Citation for Nonfiction in 1990; Hidden Dialogue; A Discussion Between Women in Japan and the United States (Japan Society Public Affairs Publishing Program 1993) and the award-winning memoir, A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm, Three Centuries, Five Wars, One Family (Viking 2001, Penguin 2002). Her writing has been recognized by numerous awards including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Association of University Women, the Deming Memorial Fund and the Futhermore Foundation. She has been the James Thurber Writer in Residence at the Ohio State University and a Granville Hicks endowed resident at Yaddo.
Philip completed undergraduate studies at Princeton University in 1986, where she graduated with a BA in Comparative Literature, with a Fifth-Year Degree in east Asian Studies. At Princeton, Philip was awarded the Senior Thesis Prize in East Asian Studies and honorable mention for the Morris M. Croll Poetry Prize. From 1983-1985, Philip apprenticed to Nagayoshi Kazu, a master potter in southern Kyushu. She worked as a journalist for the Yomiuri Shimbun, then earned an MFA at Columbia University as the Woolrich Fellow in Fiction.
Leila grew up in New York City where she attended P.S. 158 and Hunter High School. When she was fifteen, her family moved to the Hudson Valley to her family’s farm. She graduated high school from the Northfield, Mt. Hermon School in western Mass. After graduation, Leila worked for The Hudson Valley Chronicle, a small newspaper published in Hudson, NY, where she wrote features articles, and profiles. Then she went west, first to City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, then on to Oregon where she worked on a sheep ranch near Coos Bay. When the lambing season was over, she joined a tree-planting cooperative. She earned enough planting evergreen trees in the mountains of southern Oregon to start college and fell in love with the mountains there. Throughout college she returned to Oregon in the summers to work as a Cheetah ranger. After studying Japanese and medieval Japanese literature at Princeton, she headed to Japan where she apprenticed to a master potter in Southern Kyushu. That experience was the subject of her first book, The Road Through Miyama. She has worked as an interpreter (Japanese) and guide (Japan) for the Smithsonian Institution and the New York Japan Society.
Philip’s work has been anthologized in a number of books, among them: Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction, (W.W. Norton, 2015); Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers, (Vintage 1993); Writing Down the River–winner of the Willa Cather Literary Award for Memoir and Essay (Northland Press 1997); Family Travels: The Farther You Go the Closer You Get (Traveler’s Tales 1999); Japan: True Stories of Life on the Road (Traveler’s Tales 1999), A Woman’s Passion for Travel (Traveler’s Tales 1999). She is the author of numerous articles and reviews in newspapers, magazines and journals including The Boston Globe, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, The San Jose Mercury News, The Christian Science Monitor, Ohio Magazine, Winds Magazine, The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Daily Yomiuri.
Her essays have been widely anthologized. Fluent in Japanese, she writes on Japan as well as about art for a variety of venues including Art in America and Art Critical. As of 2016, she began writing for the Opinion page of the Boston Globe, where she is now a Contributing Columnist.
Since 2012, Philip and her partner, the visual artist, Garth Evans, have been engaged in a collaborative art project which has grown from a book with an environmental mission, to a performance, involving the renowned composer Shirish Korde, to a video installation titled “Environment, Memory & Things,” funded by the Ct Commission on the Arts. Water Rising, the book, published in 2015 by New Rivers Press combines eleven of Philip’s poems with twelve watercolors by Garth Evans. As Philip and Evans note in the book’s introduction: “As we looked together, it became clear to us that both the poems and the watercolors are rooted in the place where we live. We began to think about the ways in which art, and especially both literature and landscape painting, had contributed to American environmental activism.” Critics have called Water Rising a, “Magnificent unity!”
One hundred percent of net profits from the sale of the book are being donated to organizations working to promote environmental stewardship. Since its publication, over $5000 have been generated from book sales and donated to environmental causes.
Philip has taught writing and literature at Princeton, Columbia, Emerson College, Colgate, Vassar, Stonecoast, Fairfield University, Ashland University and at the Ohio University. She also holds the title of Honored Visiting Graduate Faculty Mentor in the Ashland University low residency MFA program in Creative Writing. In addition, has taught in low resident MFA and summer writing conferences including Breadloaf, the Chenango Writers’s Conference. In 2004 she joined the English department at the College of the Holy Cross where she is a Professor of creative writing and literature.