Jonathan Lerner, born in 1948, grew up in Washington, D.C., with the exception of two years in the late fifties when his father, a Foreign Service officer, was posted to Taipei. That experience, and the journeys there and back which took his family literally around the world, primed a lifelong addiction to travel. It was also the germ for his new novel LILY NARCISSUS.
Lerner matriculated at Antioch College in 1965, but dropped out two years later and immersed himself in New Left activism, joining the staff of Students for a Democratic Society. His early writing experiences were producing SDS publications and contributing to other counterculture and "underground" newspapers. In 1969 he helped found the breakaway SDS faction the Weatherman. That became the clandestine and cult-like Weather Underground, which carried out a campaign of bombings. These experiences—and the challenges of being a young man struggling with his gay identity in a macho group culture—informed both Lerner's novel ALEX UNDERGROUND and his memoir SWORDS IN THE HANDS OF CHILDREN.
"When I stopped trying to be a full-time revolutionary, in the mid-seventies, I embraced my calling to be a full-time writer," Lerner says. His first novel, CAUGHT IN A STILL PLACE, was published in 1989. Meanwhile he had begun establishing what became a successful career as a magazine writer and editor. Early on he wrote mostly travel stories, typically with a design or historic preservation angle. Later he concentrated on topics including architecture, urban planning, and issues of natural resources and sustainability. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Metropolis, The Architect's Newspaper and numerous other publications. He has been a contributing editor at Landscape Architecture Magazine for the last decade.
During the eighties Lerner lived in various parts of Florida, and after that for 21 years in Atlanta. In 2011 he moved to New York's Hudson Valley, to live with Peter Frank, a philanthropist and community activist, whom he married in 2015.