All the Dirt has won the 2018 Green Book Festival Award in the Children’s Books category. These awards, based in San Francisco, honour books that contribute to greater understanding and positive action on the changing worldwide environment. All the Dirt is a real “stinker” of a book for ages 9-12 that takes a light-hearted look at the history of cleanliness. In a move that pleases kids, if not their parents, it sees modern-day cleanliness as possibly unhealthy and definitely over-rated.
The big news for 2018 is the publication of Katherine's first novel, Sophie & Cecelia, on March 31. Set in Sweden at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, it is the story of two marriages between painters and their wives, of the slow growth of an intimate friendship between Sofie and Cecilia, and the women's flowering in old age.
Katherine was interviewed by Sheilagh Rogers on "The Next Chapter," by Gill Deacon on "Here and Now," and by Jamie Portman in the Post Media newspaper chain. She wrote an article about becoming a debut novelist in her 70s for the Toronto Star, and about researching the Jewish roots of her character Cecelia in the Canadian Jewish news. Reviews have been excellent. The best news of all: the novel is on the Globe and Mail bestseller list in the historical fiction category. Sophie & Cecelia is having a great start in life!
Katherine's article "Ah, humbug" — about Dickens and Christmas — was the cover story in the Times Literary Supplement for December 19.
Katherine Ashenburg's All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean has been chosen as one of the Best Books for Kids and Teens 2017 by Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
In her Globe and Mail article "An American in Canada: Why I took the citizenship plunge," published on Canada Day, Katherine shares her experience of swearing allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen.
All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean has been shorlisted for four provincial reader's choice awards: British Columbia's Red Cedar Book Award, Alberta's Rocky Mountain Book Award, Nova Scotia's Hackmatack Award and Ontario's Golden Oak Award.
Katherine’s article on Canada’s Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin, which appeared in Alberta Views magazine, received a Silver award in the Profiles category from the Alberta Magazine Awards.
While in Oaxaca, Mexico, this winter, Katherine tried to follow in the footsteps of D.H. Lawrence and Malcolm Lowry, both of whom stayed in Oaxaca. The resulting essay appears in the Freelance column of the Times Literary Supplement for March 24, 2017.
Katherine’s first novel, Sofie & Cecilia, is going to be part of Knopf Canada’s prestigious series, “New Faces in Fiction,” to be published in the spring of 2018. It is inspired by two famous 19th-century Swedish painters, Karl Larsson and Anders Zorn, but it is really the story of their wives, Sofie and Cecilia — their marriages, their struggles to do meaningful work, and especially their slow-growing friendship with each other, an evolution that takes decades.
Katherine’s first book for children, All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean, was published in October by Annick Books in Canada and the U.S. Based on her book for adults, The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History, the book's for kids aged nine to 12, has been completely rewritten, and charmingly designed and illustrated by the talented folks at Annick.
Katherine’s articles have appeared recently in The Washington Post, Alberta Views and the venerable Times Literary Supplement. Three very different periodicals, three very different subjects. For Alberta Views (September 2016), she profiles Chief Justice Beverley Mclachlin, a native of Pincher Creek, Alberta. For the Times Literary Supplement (July 15, 2016), she writes an essay about searching for Giorgio Bassani, the novelist who wrote The Garden of the Finzi Continis, in his native Ferrara. And for The Washington Post, she was part of their annual Spring Cleaning feature, where writers are invited to write about something that needs to be thrown out. In Katherine’s case, she was told what needed to be thrown out — the idea of the daily shower! (Americans continue to be fascinated by the titillating idea that we are washing too much for our health, and Katherine is regularly interviewed by Flare, Sports Illustrated, Marie-Claire, The New York Times, etc. on the subject.)
As part of a panel called "Are We Too Clean?", Katherine appeared on TVO's The Agenda on December 16, 2014. (Spoiler alert: her answer is Yes.) The panel is available on TVO's website.
Katherine Ashenburg had three magazine articles selected as finalists in three different categories in the 2013 National Magazine Awards. They included two articles in The Walrus, one on the former Alberta premier Alison Redford ("Her Way," The Walrus, April 2013 — also the subject of a < a href="http://thewalrus.ca/podcast-2-her-way/">Walrus podcast) and the other on obesity ("Critical Mass," The Walrus, January/February 2013). Also a finalist was Sad Food," an essay on the foods we eat in mourning, both traditional and modern, which appeared in Maisonneuve (Spring 2013).
In the spring of 2015, The Walrus will publish another article by Katherine, this one about children and sleep.
A children's version of The Dirt on Clean is in the works, to be published by Annick Press. Designed for 9-to-12-year-olds, the book may or may not answer the age-old question of children: "Why do we have to take a bath?" But it's a sure thing that the junior version, as yet untitled, will have plenty of gross stories.
Few living writers are "the solution" to The New York Times' prestigious Sunday acrostic puzzle, but Katherine Ashenburg and The Dirt on Clean had this honour on July 12, 2014, when the acrostic was a long quotation from The Dirt on Clean. In it, St. Thomas Aquinas approves of incense at Mass because it masked the bad smell of the churchgoers! The acrostic questions were centred around the ideas of fragrance and smell, apt topics for The Dirt on Clean.
June 7, 2012 — Katherine Ashenburg wins Gold at the National Magazine Awards for her article “The Long Goodbye,” published in The Walrus (March 2011).
Since Katherine's appearance in a Sunday New York Times Style piece on October 31, 2010, "The Great Unwashed," about the demise of the daily shower, she has been booked to appear on Irish, American and Canadian radio — everyone wants to hear how the woman who styled herself (jokingly) as "Dirty Katherine" still gets invited to dinner parties! Seriously, the article is a good survey of a new skepticism arising in the U.S. about the "gold standard" of a daily shower and deodorant.
Notes from Readers: Margaret Trudeau, in her new memoir, Changing My Mind, writes about The Mourner's Dance as "a book I cherish." Bill Bryson, in his new book, At Home, makes extensive use of The Dirt on Clean (which he describes as "sparkling") in his chapter about the evolution of the bathroom.
Articles by Katherine have been chosen for the anthologies, "Best Canadian Essays 2009" (for an article in Toronto Life magazine, "The New Death Etiquette") and "Best Canadian Essays 2010" (for an article in Vancouver Magazine, "Skin Deep," about the Vancouver doctors who discovered the cosmetic use of Botox). "Best Canadian Essays" are published by Tightrope Books. "Skin Deep" was also a finalist for the 2010 National Magazine Awards.
A handsome Italian edition of The Dirt on Clean, called Storia della Pulizia, has been published by Odoya in Bologna.
There is a new edition of The Mourner's Dance: What We Do When People Die, published by Vintage. It includes a new afterword by Katherine, in which she writes about how the writing of Mourner's Dance affected her mourning for her own parents' deaths.
Clean, as The Dirt on Clean is called in Britain, has been released in paperback, with a charming new cover of a flapper drying her fanny.
Clean was judged one of the 10 best history books by The Independent newspaper.
Historia Brudu, to give the book its Polish title, is a best-seller in Poland, where it has just been published.
The Dirt on Clean was published in Britain in March 2008 and Australia in May 2008 by Profile Books (the prizewinning English publishers who brought you Eats, Shoots & Leaves).
The Portuguese word for "clean" is limpo (think "limpid"). The Dirt on Clean's first foreign-language publication will be in Portuguese, from Larousse in Brazil.
Print: The August 23, 2007 issue of Chatelaine magazine carries an excerpt from The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History. A review appeared in the November 2007 issue of Elle Canada. The book was a Canadian Book of the Month Club and Quality Paperback alternative selection. A feature article on the book appeared in the Life section of the Globe and Mail, October 19, 2007.
Radio: Katherine Ashenburg spoke with Shelagh Rogers on Sounds Like Canada on CBC Radio One on October 17, 2007. The book was discussed on Ian Brown's Talking Books on CBC Radio on November 3, 2007.
In the U.S.: The October-November issue of Orion magazine will carry an excerpt from The Dirt on Clean.
The Book-of-the-Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Clubs will offer The Dirt on Clean as an Alternate Selection in January 2008. A feature article on The Dirt on Clean appears in the New York Times Magazine special on Health and Beauty on October 21.
Features or reviews will appear in Newsweek, Marie Claire, Elle, the New York Times Book Review, San Diego Union-Tribune and other newspapers and magazines.
Sue Barton and Me
Katherine's prize-winning essay, "Sue Barton and Me," about re-reading the nurse books she loved as a child, appeared in the anthology Rereadings, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in