Thursday, May 16, 2019

Leah Hager Cohen

Leah Hager Cohen was born in Manhattan and raised at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens and later in Nyack, New York. She attended Hampshire College and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The author of five novels and five works of nonfiction, she is the Barrett Professor of Creative Writing at the College of the Holy Cross.

Cohen's new novel is Strangers and Cousins.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve just finished A Simple Story, the 1923 novel by the Nobel Laureate S. Y. Agnon. Should I be embarrassed to say that I’d never even heard of Agnon until recently?

Any simplicity here is deceptive; the title should be taken with a wink. Although the story, set in the fictional Polish town of Szybusz at the turn of the 20th century, unfolds as if a familiar tale (think star-crossed lovers) in a familiar setting (think Isaac Bashevis Singer’s The Fools of Chelm or Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman), it’s anything but.

The experience of reading this book was wonderfully disorienting, as my expectations were repeatedly challenged and ultimately confounded. I might have finished in a huff if not for the excellent afterward by Hillel Halkin, who also translated the novel from the original Hebrew. As it is, I’m left with a complex aftertaste that makes me want to re-read the novel – but even better, leaves me contemplating notions of individuality and community, and how they fit together, and how life should be lived, what we, any of us, are here for.
Visit Leah Hager Cohen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World.

--Marshal Zeringue