For most people, being in the right place at the right time is left to chance. But Jennifer Gould Keil made a calculated career move by making sure she was in Russia when it became a democracy. After earning a bachelor of arts from U of T in 1989 and studying at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York for a year, Gould Keil headed to Russia in January 1992. “I’d read John Reed’s book Ten Days That Shook the World and I thought that was such an incredible time to be in Russia, at the start of the revolution. And here I was, able to go at the end,” she says.
Gould Keil stayed four years and wrote the book Vodka, Tears and Lenin’s Angel: A Journalist on the Road in the Former Soviet Union, which chronicled her adventures abroad as she rubbed elbows with politicians, the nouveau riche and the suddenly homeless. Gould Keil also wrote political commentaries on Russia for several newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the alternative newsweekly the Village Voice and the Toronto Star. Her determination to see events firsthand led her to Chechnya in 1995, when Russian troops were attempting to recapture the region. “It was fundamental for me as a journalist to cover that if I was going to write about the country,” she says.
Since returning to New York, Gould Keil has worked on staff at the Village Voice, made another overseas foray as a correspondent in the Balkans for several publications and been a producer and news reporter for CNN. Now she’s writing political and lifestyle features for the New York Post, working on a second book about her experiences abroad and trying out a new role – as mother to Braden Lewis, who Jennifer and husband Braden Keil welcomed in December 2003.