Pikesville, Maryland (as of mid-June; my wife and three daughters and I just moved from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
Place of Birth:
New York City
Great Neck South High School/Amherst (including junior year abroad on the Williams-Oxford Programme)/Hunter College-M.A. in Theatre/CUNY Graduate Center-Ph.D. in Theatre
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
Because of its peerless reputation as a liberal arts college, spectacular setting, and opportunities to take courses at other colleges in the 5 College Consortium
Most memorable or most influential class at Amherst:
Bob Gross's senior seminar in American Studies, in which we studied sexuality in Victorian America. We read Peter Gay, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and other authors who helped to overturn and complicate my naive view of history.
Most memorable or most influential professor:
Austin Sarat's pre-law courses were an intellectual joyride; he roamed around Converse Hall or the Octagon and, using the Socratic method, singled out individual students to engage in dialogue in front of the whole class.
Jewish food, clothing and shelter in American popular culture, intermarriage between Jews and Christians, and the growing appeal of Jewish rituals and traditions for non-Jews (including Passover seders in churches, Christians getting married under chuppahs, non-Jews studying Kabbalah, and so on)
Awards and Prizes:The Doshisha Ameriacn Studies Prize at Amherst (did my senior thesis, in the form of a play about Jewish life in early 19th century Philadelphia, ever actually get translated into Japanese?). The 2015 National Jewish Book Award, in the field of Jewish Education and Identity, for Pastrami on Rye
I'm returning these days to books that I first read in Dale Peterson's English 11 course. I'm trying to get through all seven volumes of Marcel Proust's spellbinding Remembrance of Things Past.
Perhaps because of her connection to Amherst, I still feel a kinship with Emily Dickinson--is that why I ended up teaching at Dickinson College? (For the record, the college is named after John Dickinson, the "Penman of the Revolution.")
Tips for aspiring writers?
Write until you figure out what you're actually trying to say and then, if you can bear it, start writing all over again--the real trick is having the patience to revise!
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author:
I got interested in doing journalism when I was in middle school; by the time I was in high school I was writing a weekly column for my community's local newspaper, the Great Neck Record. After college, I found my way back to journalism and have been doing it ever since, writing mostly about Jewish theater. Having a regular deadline keeps me writing, and there is almost instant gratification from having the article published within a day or two of writing it!