Professor of English
Area of Study
What do I write? It’s a simple question, but whenever I’m asked, I find myself hesitating. My latest book, The Face Tells the Secret, is a novel, and early on, fiction was all that interested me as a writer, but to say “I write fiction” doesn’t seem exactly right, since Face was a return to fiction after a long hiatus.
For more than a decade, I wrote screenplays, alone and with a partner. I left that world awhile back for reasons familiar to many prose writers and now describe myself as a lapsed screenwriter. I turned to memoir, using what I’d learned as a fiction writer to shape events from my own life into stories I thought would be meaningful to readers. Around that same time, I began to write essays, too. The essay is very natural form for me, since I’m a ruminator, and essays are a way to probe and circle around a question or situation that vexes me. For me, fiction starts with characters; essays begin with a problem. As for the children’s book I cowrote with my daughter: that came about because of a little dog whose family brought her from Southern Siberia, disguised as a baby on one leg of the journey. Whenever I saw her alone in their family’s backyard, I imagined her feeling uprooted, exiled far from home. I thought many children could relate to such a story.
The Face Tells the Secret was published in Fall 2019, and my essays have appeared in such places as The New York Times Magazine, Narrative, Fourth Genre, The Sun and Creative Nonfiction. My essay, “Still Running” was selected to be in Best American Sports Writing 2018, and Gina from Siberia, the children’s book I cowrote with my daughter, was named a PJ Library selection and will be translated into several languages and reissued in 2022.
My grants and awards include two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in Creative Writing, and a Fulbright Fellowship. I’ve been a member of the Creative Writing Program since 1991, teach courses in fiction, creative nonfiction, and screenwriting, and find it a great pleasure to introduce students to notable works in the genres that engage me as a writer.
- MFA, Columbia University
- BA, New York University
The Face Tells the Secret, Regal House Publishing, 2019.
Rachel in the World, University of Illinois Press, 2007.
Bereft - A Sister's Story, North Point Press, 2000.
"Ellen," Cagibi, 2019
"Seizures," Crazy Horse, 2017.
“Joe: How I Helped Tell a Soldier's Story," LitHub, 2016.
"The Marrying Kind," Creative Nonfiction, 2016.