Bronwen Dickey


Bronwen Dickey is a contributing editor at The Oxford American and the author of Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016). Her writing has also appeared (or is forthcoming) in The New York Times, NewsweekOutside, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Popular Mechanics, Best American Travel Writing 2009SlateGarden & GunThe San Francisco ChronicleSouthern Living, World Hum, Sport Diver, and The Independent Weekly, among other publications. She lives in North Carolina.


When Bronwen Dickey brought her new dog home, she saw no traces of the infamous viciousness in her affectionate, timid pit bull. Which made her wonder: how had the breed—beloved by Teddy Roosevelt, Helen Keller, TV's "Little Rascals"—come to be known as a brutal fighter. Her search for answers takes her from nineteenth-century New York City dogfighting pits—the cruelty of which helped spark the founding of the ASPCA—to early twentieth-century movie sets where pit bulls cavorted with Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton; from the battlefields of Gettysburg and the Marne, where mascot pit bulls inspired American troops, to desolate urban neighborhoods where the dogs were brutalized. Whether through love or fear, hatred or devotion, humans are bound to the history of the pit bull. With unfailing thoughtfulness, compassion, and a firm grasp of scientific fact, Dickey offers us a clear-eyed portrait of this extraordinary breed, and an insightful view of Americans' relationship with their dogs.





Advance praise for Pit Bull:

“The ‘pit bull’ is a legend, a fear, an exaggeration, a bête noire. Bronwen Dickey does this misunderstood animal the great service of looking beyond the myth. What she finds are dogs who deserve better than we've been giving them.”

—Alexandra Horowitz, author, Inside of a Dog

“Pit Bull tells how ‘America's Dog’ morphed into ‘America's nightmare.’ Ms. Dickey's scrupulous, encyclopedic research pretty well proves that harmless pets have been scapegoated to feed our fears. Pit Bull is a fascinating, complex story of canine genetics, media missteps and an appalling national willingness to kill poor peoples' dogs.”

—Donald McCaig, author, Nop's Trials and The Dog Wars: How the Border Collie Battled the American Kennel Club

“Bronwen Dickey writes so well, with such understated elegance. I spent a lifetime afraid of pit bulls, hating creatures that came to me through newspapers and the media, until I read this book.”

—Pat Conroy, author, The Prince of Tides

"Bronwen Dickey set out to write about a single dog breed, but by investigating what happened to pit bulls she ended up writing about our whole crazy culture. Her quest began almost accidentally, when she acquired a pit bull that was nothing like its vicious stereotype. Curious, she discovered that the breed had once been an American favorite. Remember the RCA Victrola dog? It was a pit bull. So was the lovable mascot Pete the Pup in the immensely popular Our Gang movies in the 1930s. How had this symbol of friendliness and reliability become so feared that people fled when she walked her dog on the street? This beautifully assembled tale of how the pit bull was transformed into a demon perfectly captures a disquieting strain of hysteria in our national life. It's the rare dog story that tells us as much about people as about dogs.”

—Charles Mann, author, 1491 and 1493 

"This is one of best dog books you will ever read. But, it is also about the big stuff – the moral status of animals, the science of nature and nurture, the role of race in our culture. In Pit Bull, Bronwen Dickey weaves tale in which the most divisive of animal issues becomes a metaphor for deep-seated conflicts in American society."

Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals

“The pit bull is truly America's Dog, and few breeds are surrounded with as much mythology, fear and misinformation. Bronwen Dickey has written the first comprehensive explanation of how the bull terrier of the gentry transformed nearly overnight into the chained-up hellhound of the underclass. This book gets to the cultural roots of the 'demon dog' fantasy and helps us understand that the stories we tell about pit bulls are really stories about violence, class and repressed rage. Dickey is a consummate reporter and a brilliant incisive writer who has given us a book about far more than dogs.”

—Tom Zoellner, author, Train: Riding the Rails that Created the Modern World


The Last Wild RiverOxford American, 2008

  • Included in Best American Travel Writing 2009
  • Winner: 2009 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award
  • Listen to an interview about this piece on American Public Media's "The Story with Dick Gordon" 

Southern Enemy Number One: Ralph McGill and the Burden of History | Oxford American, 2009

The Rapture of the Deep: Diving the Sunken South | Oxford American, 2011

Born to Be WildOutside, 2010

Licked to Death by a Pit BullGarden & Gun, 2011



The Emotional Manipulations of Making a Murderer Slate, 2016

The Short List: DogsThe New York Times, 2014

The American MuckSlate, 2014

Hurt Soldier: Coping with Life After CombatThe Independent Weekly

Unsentimental Journeys: Wrestling with Paul Theroux | World Hum

The Water is Wide | World Hum

Chuck Thompson's Smile When You're Lying The San Francisco Chronicle


Travel Features: 

Five Days in Papua New Guinea | Sport Diver, February 2012

Into the Forest (Great Smoky Mountains, NC) | Our State, October 2011

Legacy of Protection (Grand Cayman) | Sport Diver, October 2011

The Surprisingly Complex Science of Sinking | Sport Diver, August 2011

Roanoke Island: Manteo | Our State, July 2011

Paradise in Peril (Maldives) | Sport Diver, December 2010

The Story Hunters | Southern Living, September 2010

Exotic Escapes: Thailand | Scuba Diving, August 2010

Essential Europe: Scotland's Scapa Flow | Scuba Diving, July 2010

What It's Like . . . to Dive an Underwater Cemetery | Scuba Diving, March 2010

Bottom Time Behind the Glass | Scuba Diving, November 2009

Desert Divers (Sea of Cortez) | Scuba Diving, November 2009

Night Stalkers | Scuba Diving, September 2009

Dive Islands: Palau | Scuba Diving, September 2009

Top Dives: Belize | Scuba Diving, September 2009

Belize: Inside, Outside, and Underneath | Sport Diver, July 2009

Palau: Into the Shallows | Islands, Mar/Apr 2008

A Young Artist in Puerto Rico | Garden & Gun, September 2007



















Events and appearances


September 2-5, 2016—Atlanta, ga:

Appearance: AJC Decatur Book Festival

            Atlanta, GA

            Details TBA

June 19, 2016—Saratoga Springs, NY:

Reading & Signing: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (pre-order)

                   Northshire Bookstore

                   4:00 p.m.

June 2, 2016—Durham, NC:

Reading & Signing: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (pre-order)

                   with John Lane, author of Coyote Settles the South (pre-order)

                   The Regulator Bookshop

                   Time TBA


May 28, 2016—Seattle, WA:

Reading & Signing: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (pre-order)

                   The Elliott Bay Book Company

                   7:00 p.m.

may 26, 2016—Portland, Or:

Reading & Signing: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (pre-order)

                   Powell's Books at Cedar Hill Crossing

                   7:00 p.m.

May 21, 2016—Asheville, NC:

Reading & Signing: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (pre-order)

                   with John Lane, author of Coyote Settles the South (pre-order)

                   Malaprop's Bookstore & Cafe

                   Time TBA

May 19, 2016—Atlanta, GA:

Reading & Signing: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (pre-order)

                   Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum

                   (in conjunction with A Cappella Books)

                   Time TBA


May 18, 2016—Athens, GA: 

Reading & Signing: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (pre-order)

                   with John Lane, author of Coyote Settles the South (pre-order)

                   Avid Bookshop

                   Athens, GA 

                   Time TBA

MAY 17, 2016—Spartanburg, SC:

Reading & Signing: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (pre-order)

                   with John Lane, author of Coyote Settles the South (pre-order)

                   Hub City Bookshop & Press

                   Spartanburg, SC

                   Time TBA


May 10, 2016—New york City, NY:

Reading & Signing: Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon (pre-order)

                   The Strand Book Store

                   New York City, NY

                   7:00 p.m.

                   Click here for tickets and more info

march 30-April 3—Los Angeles, CA:

Conference: Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)

            Los Angeles Convention Center

DECEMBER 4, 2015—Durham, NC: 

Reading & Signing: Carolina Writers at Home (Hub City)(Amazon)

                   The Regulator Bookshop

                   Durham, NC 

                   7:00 p.m.

OCTOBER 17, 2015—Chapel Hill, NC:

Reading & Signing: Carolina Writers at Home (Hub City)(Amazon)

                   Flyleaf Books

                   Chapel Hill, NC

                   2:00 p.m.

October 16, 2015—Durham, NC:

Signing: Carolina Writers at Home (Hub City)(Amazon)

         Upfront Gallery

         Durham, NC

         7:00 p.m.