As an undergraduate at Yale, Jennifer was featured on CBS Evening News for her Yale Daily News reporting into a shady egg donor agency which was then closed down due to her investigative work.
She began her writing career as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Tobias Wolff selected her first published story, "The Hatbox," for the BEST NEW AMERICAN VOICES 2000 anthology. Publishers Weekly described her story as "the longest and most outstanding entry... an intricate look at the lives of three generations of women and the cumbersome secret that ties them together. The piece exhibits relaxed, old-fashioned storytelling reminiscent of W. Somerset Maugham.”
Her first play, "The Applicant," was staged at the Soho Rep in New York while she was in graduate school.
She has lectured internationally for the US State Department on the craft of writing.
She is a member of the Writers Guild of America East.
She currently serves on the Board of the United States Thalidomide Survivors.
Jennifer Vanderbes is an award-winning novelist, journalist and screenwriter whose work has been translated into sixteen languages.
Her first novel, EASTER ISLAND, was named a "best book of 2003" by the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor. Her second novel, STRANGERS AT THE FEAST, was described by O, The Oprah Magazine as "a thriller that also raises large and haunting questions about the meaning of guilt, innocence, and justice." Her third novel, THE SECRET OF RAVEN POINT, was hailed as “unputdownable” (Vogue) and “gripping” (New York Times), and Library Journal wrote: “the only disappointing thing about this book is that it has to end."
Her non-fiction book, THE GATEKEEPER: Frances Kelsey and the Band of Unlikely Heroes Who Foiled the Greatest Pharmaceutical Scandal of the 20th Century (about the thalidomide disaster of the early 1960s) is forthcoming from Random House and HarperCollins UK and was awarded a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
PRIMATING, Vanderbes's romantic comedy about primatologists at a chimp research station in East Africa, premiered at the Arkansas Repertory Theater in 2021. She also writes regularly for film and television and was recently named a 2022 Athena List Winner for a biopic she wrote for Paramount.
Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and The Atlantic, and her short fiction has appeared in Granta, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Best New American Voices.
She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellowship, a Colgate University Creative Writing Fellowship, and a Truman Capote Fellowship. She was named a 2019-2020 NEH Public Scholar for her work on THE GATEKEEPER.
Vanderbes received her B.A. in English Literature, Magna Cum Laude, from Yale and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
She lives in New York City.
Read "The Evolutionary Case for Great Fiction" in The Atlantic.