May 10, 2005
Hamburger is the author of The View from Stalin's Head (a Violet Quill
Nominee) and Faith for Beginners, a novel due out from Random House this
October. His writing has appeared in publications like The Village
Voice, Poets and Writers, and Out. He currently teaches writing at
Columbia University and has received a fellowship from the Edward F.
Albee Foundation, first prize in the David J. Dornstein competition for
Young Jewish Writers, as well as the Rome Prize from The American
Academy of Arts Letters. This fall he'll begin a year-long residency at
the American Academy in Rome. -- from Saints & Sinners
Faith for Beginners: A Novel (2005) --
Finalist, 2005 Lambda Literary Award for Male Fiction
An acclaimed short-story writer has created a
miraculous first novel about an American family on the verge of a
breakdown–and an epiphany.
In the summer of 2000, Israel teeters between total war and total peace.
Similarly on edge, Helen Michaelson, a respectable suburban housewife from
Michigan, has brought her ailing husband and rebellious college-age son,
Jeremy, to Jerusalem. She hopes the journey will inspire Jeremy to reconnect
with his faith and find meaning in his life . . . or at least get rid of his
It’s not that Helen is concerned about Jeremy’s sexual orientation (after all,
her other son is gay as well). It’s merely the matter of the overdose (“Just
like Liza!” Jeremy had told her), the green hair, and what looks like a safety
pin stuck through his face. After therapy, unconditional love, and tough love
. . . why not try Israel?
Yet in seductive and dangerous surroundings, with the rumbling of violence and
change in the air, in a part of the world where “there are no modern times,”
mother and son become new, old, and surprising versions of themselves.
Funny, erotic, searingly insightful, and profoundly moving, Faith
for Beginners is a stunning debut novel from a vibrant new voice in
The View from Stalin's Head (2004) --
2005 Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; Nominated
2005 Violet Quill Award
The ten stories in The View from Stalin’s Head
unfold in the post–Cold War Prague of the 1990s—a magnet not only for artists
and writers but also for American tourists and college grad deadbeats, a city
with a glorious yet sometimes shameful history, its citizens both resentful of
and nostalgic for their Communist past. Against this backdrop, Aaron Hamburger
conjures an arresting array of characters: a self-appointed rabbi who runs a
synagogue for non-Jews; an artist, once branded as a criminal by the Communist
regime, who hires a teenage boy to boss him around; a fiery would-be socialist
trying to rouse the oppressed masses while feeling the tug of her comfortable
Stateside upbringing. European and American, Jewish and gentile, straight and
gay, the people in these stories are forced to confront themselves when the
ethnic, religious, political, and sexual labels they used to rely on prove
surprisingly less stable than they’d imagined.
As Christopher Isherwood did in
his Berlin Stories, Aaron Hamburger offers a humane and subtly etched
portrait of a time and place, of people wrestling with questions of love,
faith, and identity. The View from Stalin’s Head is a remarkable debut,
and the beginning of a remarkable career.
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