I am a journalist, author, editor, novelist and educator.
I am a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, where I cover race, inequality and health. My 2018 cover story, "Why America's Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis," was a finalist for a National Magazine Award. My 2017 article, "America's Hidden HIV Epidemic," won a National Lesbian and Gay Journalists' award for Excellence in Journalism. That organization inducted me into its Hall of Fame in 2020. My essay on medical myths was included in the New York Times's 1619 Project in August 2019 and is published in the 1619 Project Book which came out in November 2021. I covered the toll covid-19 has taken on black communities in America and the environmental justice movement in Philadelphia in 2020 and wrote about life expectancy in Chicago in 2021. My article on eugenics, a reported excerpt from my book, was published in June 2022.
For several years, I edited the health pages for the New York Times, working on health coverage for Science Times and for the newspaper at large. I was also the executive editor of Essence Magazine—two different times–where I wrote or edited a number of award-winning articles that I am extremely proud of.
I have won lots of awards from organizations, including The American Medical Writers’ Association, The Arthur Ashe Institute, Lincoln University, the New York Association of Black Journalists, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists’ Association and the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.
I am the author or co-author of three books, including Body & Soul: The Black Women’s Guide to Physical Health and Emotional Well-Being. My first (and only) novel, Passing for Black, was released in 2008 and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. My book, Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation was published in June 2022 by Doubleday.
A graduate of the University of Colorado, I also spent a year at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as a journalism fellow. I went back to school several years ago and graduated with a master’s degree in urban journalism/digital storytelling in 2013 from CUNY's Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.
I am a professor and journalist in residence at my alma mater CUNY J School, and I also teach journalism, medicine and Black Studies at The City College of New York in Harlem. I have been honored to train journalists from around the world to better cover the HIV/AIDS epidemic at the International AIDS conferences in Barcelona, Bangkok, Toronto, Mexico City, Vienna, Melbourne and Durban. For two summers, I served as a nonfiction mentor for the Lambda Literary Foundation's Emerging Writers Retreat.
I live in Brooklyn. My mom, Clara Villarosa, is the retired founder of the Hue-Man Bookstore in Denver and Harlem.