Marvin Neil Simon, who generally publishes as Neil Simon, first published Lost in Yonkers in the United States in 1991. The play, like many of Simon's plays, draws on his experiences growing up in New York City, although many critics think it is not as autobiographical as his other plays. Lost in Yonkers was a critical and popular success and led to a film adaptation in 1993. Although many of Simon's plays had won major dramatic awards before this, Lost in Yonkers was the first Simon play to win the Pulitzer Prize. Many critics consider the play to be Simon's best work and the pinnacle of his career.
The play was very timely. Although it is set during World War II—a setting that plays an important part in the narrative—Simon published the play as America was entering the Gulf War in the Middle East. As a result, the play's main themes—including survival, the importance of one's family, and acceptance—also seem timely, since these themes inevitably arise during any war or other military conflict, when death and other tragedies are likely. Although the play is technically labeled a comedy, it is in fact a hybrid. Critics note both the deep levels of pain that Simon explores in his characters and the humorous dialogue from certain characters, which ultimately helps the play to strike a balance between tragedy and comedy. Lost in Yonkers is available in a paperback version from Plume, which was published in 1993.