Rod Dreher: Hachette Speakers Bureau

Rod Dreher

Journalist & Conservative Culture Critic who Left City Life to Embark on a Profound Journey Home

Rod Dreher is a veteran journalist and author, most recently, of The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life (April, 2013), a memoir of how the life and death of his younger sister, Ruthie Leming, changed his life, and caused him to return to their south Louisiana hometown of 1,800 people.

In 2010, Leming, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was forty years old, an avid outdoorswoman, beloved teacher, mother, and the happily married to her high school sweetheart. What is remarkable about this story is not that a young mother was diagnosed with cancer, but the way in which she faced her disease and the incredible amount of support she received from her community as they rallied to her family’s side. The response of St. Francisville, Louisiana to Leming’s illness was so extraordinary that it caused her brother to reevaluate his life and move home for the first time in over twenty years.

Dreher had left his hometown to go to college and never looked back. He was an intellectual kid who was teased growing up for not fitting in, and felt like he couldn’t relate to his family’s love of hunting and satisfaction with the slow pace of a small Southern town. Dreher dreamed of a cosmopolitan lifestyle far away from St. Francisville. Leming, on the other hand, was popular in school, an athlete who prized the outdoors, and met the love of her life in high school. Leming started planning her life in the town she grew up in and couldn’t imagine leaving such a tight-knit community.

Dreher became a journalist and moved to Washington, DC, Dallas, New York, and Philadelphia pursuing his passion. But when his sister got sick, everything changed. Dreher and his wife began to see a different path.

After her diagnosis, the first thing Leming decided was that she didn’t want to know how bad it was. She wasn’t going to look up any statistics on survival rates or the success of various treatments. She put her faith in the fact that her fate was out of her hands, that her prayers and those of her community would be answered, and set her sights on the singular goal of witnessing her oldest daughter’s high school graduation.

Dreher began to wonder whether the ordinary life Leming led in Louisiana was actually a path to hidden grandeur, even spiritual greatness, concealed within the modest life of a mother and teacher. To explore this revelation, he and his wife left city life to move back to his hometown to be there for his sister and raise their own children amid the rituals that had defined his family for five generations—Mardi Gras, LSU football games, and deer hunting. As David Brooks poignantly described it in his New York Times column, Dreher and his wife “decided to accept the limitations of small-town life in exchange for the privilege of being a part of a community.”

Dreher’s previous book, Crunchy Cons , was a critically acclaimed exploration of the desire for countercultural conservatives to live a simpler, more authentic lifestyle. He has worked as a writer and editor at the New York Post, National Review, the Dallas Morning News, and other publications. He is now a senior editor at The American Conservative magazine, where he writes a popular blog about culture, religion, and politics. Dreher’s commentary has been featured on NPR, Fox News, CNN, ABC News, and in the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London , and Real Simple magazine.

He is an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and lives with his wife and three children in St. Francisville, Louisiana.

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  • Ruthie’s Little Way: How an Ordinary Life Can Conceal Spiritual Greatness
  • There and Back: How You Can Go Home Again, and Maybe Ought To
  • Heart vs. Head, Ruthie vs. Rod: Why a Mature Christian Needs both Faith and Doubt

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