Visiting Authors

André Aciman

André Aciman, photo credit Sigrid Estrada

André Aciman is the author of Out of Egypt and False Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory. He has also co-authored and edited The Proust Project and Letters of Transit. Born in Alexandria, he lived in Italy and France. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and has taught at Princeton University and Bard College and is currently the chair of The Graduate Center's doctoral program in Comparative Literature and the director of The Writers' Institute. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a fellowship from The New York Public Library's Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. He has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and The New Republic.
His novel, Call Me by Your Name, will be published in January 2007

June Cross

June Cross

June Cross is an associate professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She is an Emmy-winning producer with thirty years of news  and documentary experience. She has worked for PBS’s Frontline, CBS News, and PBS’s MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.  She  is currently in production on a documentary tentatively titled “To Have Not and to Hold”. This film documents a year in the life of one extended family from New Orleans. Her first book, a memoir titled “Secret Daughter,” (based on her Emmy-winning documentary) was published by Viking in May 2006. Her most recent series, This Far by Faith: Stories from the African-American Religious Experience” aired nationally on PBS in June 2003.  She was a senior producer for This Far by Faith during production. When its producer, Blackside, Inc., ran out of money in 2001, Cross raised nearly a million dollars to assure completion. Her reporting for the NewsHour on the US invasion of Grenada won the 1983 Emmy for Outstanding Coverage of a Single Breaking News Story. She has also won two duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards. Cross’s production credits include: Ashes of the Cold War; Showdown in Haiti; The Confessions of RosaLee; and A Kid Kills (winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award.). Cross currently teaches broadcast news and documentary journalism at the Columbia School of Journalism. She is also the faculty adviser for the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Black Documentary Collective, Docuclub, NY Women in Film and Television, the Writers’ Guild, East; the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists. She lives with her husband, jazz trumpet player Waldron Ricks, in New York City.

Carlos Eire

Carlos EireCarlos M. N. Eire was one of 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children airlifted to the United States in the early 1960's. After living for three and a half years in a succession of foster homes, he and his brother were finally reunited with their mother in Chicago in 1965. His father was never allowed to leave Cuba. He is now the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University. Before joining the Yale faculty in 1996, he taught at St. Johns University and the University of Virginia, and was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton for two years. He is the author of War Against the Idols (Cambridge, 1986), From Madrid to Purgatory (Cambridge, 1995), and Reformations: Early Modern Europe 1450-1700 (forthcoming, Yale, 2006). He is also co-author of Jews, Christians, Muslims: An Introduction to Monotheistic Religions (Prentice Hall, 1997). His memoir of the Cuban Revolution, Waiting for Snow in Havana (Free Press, 2003), won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2003 and is being translated into several languages.

Helen Epstein

Helen EpsteinHelen Epstein is the author of five books of literary non-fiction including Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From: A Daughter's Search for her Mother's History—a family memoir and social history of 200 years of Central European Jewish life. Those, and her biography Joe Papp: An American Life were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

Born in Prague in 1947 and brought to the U.S. as a baby immigrant in 1948, Epstein grew up in New York City and graduated from Hunter College High School (1965), Hebrew University/Jerusalem (1970), and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism (1971). She became a journalist while still an undergraduate caught in the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968; her personal account was published in the Jerusalem Post, where she subsequently worked as a reporter. Following journalism school, she taught writing at New York University, where she became the first tenured woman professor in the journalism department and for the next two decades freelanced for the Sunday New York Times and other national publications. Her profiles of cultural figures such as art historian Meyer Schapiro and musicians Vladimir Horowitz, Leonard Bernstein and Yo Yo Ma have received various awards. She continues to teach writing as a guest at MFA writing programs and in Jewish Studies, Women's Studies and European Studies.

Ms. Epstein lives with her husband in Massachusetts. She has recently written two "Amazon Shorts" and a full list of her publications and activities can be found on her website.

Samuel Freedman

Samuel Freedman

Samuel G. Freedman is an award-winning author, columnist, and professor. A columnist for The New York Times and a professor at Columbia University, he is the author of the six acclaimed books, most recently Who She Was: My Search for My Mother's Life (2005) and Letters To A Young Journalist (2006). His previous books are Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students and Their High School (1990); Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church (1993); and The Inheritance: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond (1996) and Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry (2000).

Jew Vs. Jew won the National Jewish Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2001 and made the Publishers Weekly Religion Best-Sellers list. As a result of the book, Freedman was named one of the "Forward Fifty" most important American Jews in the year 2000 by the weekly Jewish newspaper The Forward.

Small Victories was a finalist for the 1990 National Book Award and The Inheritance was a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize. Upon This Rock won the 1993 Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. All four books of Freedman's books have been listed among The New York Times' Notable Books of the Year.

Freedman was a staff reporter for The Times from 1981 through 1987 and currently writes the column "On Education," as well as frequent articles on culture. His education columns for the The Times won first prize in the Education Writers Association's annual competition. He is also a regular columnist on American Jewish issues for the Jerusalem Post. He has contributed to numerous other publications and websites, including USA Today, New York, Rolling Stone, Salon, and BeliefNet. In broadcast journalism, Freedman has served on occasion as a correspondent to Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on PBS.

A tenured professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Freedman was named the nation's outstanding journalism educator in 1997 by the Society of Professional Journalists. His class in book-writing has developed more than 35 authors, editors, and agents, and it has been featured in Publishers Weekly and the Christian Science Monitor. He is a board member of Institute for American Values and the Jewish Book Council. He has spoken at the Smithsonian Institution, Yale University, and UCLA, among other venues, and has appeared on National Public Radio, CNN, and the News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

Freedman lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

Fenton Johnson

Fenton JohnsonFenton Johnson was born ninth of nine children into a Kentucky whiskey-making family with a strong storytelling tradition.  He is the author of two novels, Crossing the River (1989) and Scissors, Paper, Rock (1993), as well as Geography of the Heart:  A Memoir (1996).  His most recent book Keeping Faith:  A Skeptic's Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks (2003) draws on time spent living as a member of the monastic communities of the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky and the San Francisco Zen Center as a means to examining what it means to a skeptic to have and keep faith.  Keeping Faith weaves frank conversations with Trappist and Buddhist monks with a history of the contemplative life and meditations from Johnson's own faith journey. It received the 2004 Kentucky Literary Award for Nonfiction and the 2004 Lambda Literary Award for best GLBT nonfiction.

Johnson has served as a contributor to Harper's Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, and many literary quarterlies, and has received numerous literary awards, among them a James Michener Fellowship from the Iowa Writers Workshop and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in both fiction and creative nonfiction. His writing also received a Northern California Book Reviewers nomination for best fiction (for Scissors, Paper, Rock) and the American Library Association and Lambda Literary Awards for best creative nonfiction (for Geography of the Heart). He contributes occasional commentaries to National Public Radio and has written the narration for several award-winning public television documentaries. He serves on the faculty of the creative writing program at the University of Arizona. For additional information on Johnson's life and writing, visit

Alice Kaplan

Alice Kaplan, photo credit Penelope MaunsellAlice Kaplan was born in Minneapolis in 1954, the youngest of three children. She studied at Vassar College and at the University of California, Berkeley, and received her Ph.D. in French from Yale University in 1981. Her thesis, Reproductions of Banality: Fascism, Literature, and French Intellectual Life, was published by the University of Minnesota Press in the prestigious Theory and History of Literature series in 1986. In 1987 she published Relevé des sources et citations dans Bagatelles pour un massacre, a book-length critique of Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s first anti-Semitic pamphlet. French Lessons, an autobiographic account of her passion for the French language, became a best-seller for the University of Chicago Press in 1993; The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach, finished on a Guggenheim Foundation grant in 2000, was chosen “notable book of the year” by the New York Times and American Library Association. Both books were nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award; The Collaborator won the Los Angeles Times Book award in History. Her latest book, The Interpreter (2005), was awarded the 2006 Henry Adams Prize by The Society for History in the Federal Government Society.
Kaplan is a professor of Romance Studies and Literature at Duke University. She founded and was the first director of Duke’s Center for French and Francophone Studies. Since 1997 she has served on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. She is a member of the editorial board of South Atlantic Quarterly. She is a translator, most notably of the French writer Roger Grenier’s works Le Pierrot noir, Les Larmes d’Ulysse, and Partita. She divides her time between Durham, North Carolina, and Paris.

Annette Kobak

Annette KobakAnnette Kobak is a writer and broadcaster.

Her first book, about the dramatic life of the traveller Isabelle Eberhardt, was published in several languages and made into a BBC2 film in the series 'Great Journeys'. She also translated Isabelle's only novel, Vagabond, from the French. Annette read her latest book Joe's War: My Father Decoded—described as a 'super-eclectic mix of travelogue, oral testimony, autobiography and historical documents'—as Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4. She has reviewed fiction and travel books for major broadsheets in the USA and UK, and presented the series The Art of Travel on BBC Radio 4. She has MAs in modern languages from Cambridge University and creative writing from the University of East Anglia.  Annette lives in London, and is currently Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Kingston University there. Photo by Jerry Bauer.

Michael Patrick MacDonald

Michael Patrick McDonald

Michael Patrick MacDonald is the author of the national bestselling memoir All Souls: A Family Story From Southie (Ballantine, October 2000), which won an American Book Award (2000) and a New England Literary Lights Award (2000), as well as The Myers Outstanding Book Award administered by the Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America (Dec. 10, 2000). The book has been optioned for a film and Michael is writing the screenplay for director Ron Shelton.

His new memoir, Easter Rising, has just been published by Houghton Mifflin Company and is a Boston Globe Bestseller. While All Souls dealt with his family struggles in South Boston Old Colony Housing Projects, and the bigger issue of race and class in America, Easter Rising, focuses on his teenage years beyond Southie, years of escaping the Old Colony Housing Project. This book will use storytelling narrative to reveal teen struggles with post-traumatic stress from violence and death, and to address ideas around resiliency and healing in the aftermath of personal, family, and intergenerational or historic trauma.

Michael is a long time Boston activist and writer who, from 1990 through 1998, focused his efforts on cross-cultural coalition building to reduce violence in Boston. He is a cofounder of Boston's successful Gun Buyback program (1993 through 1997) which took 2,900 working firearms off Boston's streets, and is the founder of the South Boston Vigil Group, which functioned to give a voice to that neighborhood's survivors of violence and the drug trade.

Michael has been awarded an Anne Cox Chambers Fellowship at the The MacDowell Colony (December 2004 through January 2005), a Bellagio Center Fellowship through the Rockefeller Foundation (February 16, 2005 to March 16, 2005), and residencies at Blue Mountain Center (October 2004) and Djerassi Artist Residency Program (June 2005).

He currently lives in Brooklyn New York, and devotes all of his time to writing and public speaking on topics ranging from "Race and Class in America" to "Trauma, Healing, and Social Change.

D. J. Waldie

D.J. WaldieD. J. Waldie is the author of Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir (1996 and 2005), Real City: Downtown Los Angeles Inside/Out (2001), Where We Are Now: Notes from Los Angeles (2004), and Close to Home: An American Album (2004). He is included in the anthologies Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape (2006), My California (2004), and California Uncovered (2004).

Holy Land received the California Book Award for nonfiction in 1996. Selections from Holy Land were included in the Library of America anthology Writing from Los Angeles in 2003. In 2004, Where We Are Now: Notes from Los Angeles was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

In 1998, Waldie received a Whiting Writers Award from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation of New York.

His narratives about life in Los Angeles have appeared in BUZZ magazine, the Kenyon Review, the Massachusetts Review, the Georgetown Review, Salon, dwell, Los Angeles Magazine, and other publications. He is a contributing writer at Los Angeles Magazine.

His book reviews and commentary have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

D. J. Waldie has been the Public Information Officer of the city of Lakewood since 1978. He received an MA in Comparative Literature from UC Irvine in 1974. He lives a not-quite-middle-class life in Lakewood, in the house his parents bought in 1946.