Cynthia Ozick Additional Biography


Cynthia Ozick recalls her grandmother telling her stories, invariably conveying a lesson, about girlhood in a Russian Jewish village. From her drugstore-owning parents, she overhead “small but stirring adventures” confided by their Bronx neighbors. “Reading-lust” led her to fairy tales, to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in literature, and to a self-taught education in Judaism’s textual tradition. From these various influences, Ozick creates fiction noted for its range and inventiveness. Her reputation is based largely on her short fiction. Ozick has more than once won the O. Henry Award.

Ozick’s first book, however, was a novel, Trust. It concerns a young woman’s search for identity. A predominant theme in Ozick’s work has been the difficulty of sustaining one’s Jewish identity in America’s secular, assimilationist society. Assimilated, rootless Jews are frequently objects of satire in her fiction. What Ozick proposes, in terms of language, is a New Yiddish, understandable to English speakers yet preserving the tone and inflections of Yiddish, a language that is facing extinction as a result of the Holocaust and assimilation.

For Ozick, the Orthodox Jewish moral code remains the standard against which life and art are measured. America’s materialistic culture, she maintains, is essentially pagan, and therefore hostile to Judaism. This conflict is clearly evident in “The Pagan Rabbi,” a story in which attraction to nature drives the title character to suicide. The idea that the artist competes with God as creator also concerns Ozick. Particularly in “Usurpation (Other People’s Stories),” Ozick intimates that writers are congenital plagiarizers and, more seriously, usurpers of God. The hubris of a person attempting godlike creation is approached humorously in “Puttermesser and Xanthippe,” in which the female protagonist fashions a female golem, first to help with the housework, then to reform New York City. So convinced is Ozick of the pervasiveness of idolatrous ambition that her heroines display an arrogant singlemindedness that feminists usually associate with men. In the story “The Shawl” and its sequel, the novella “Rosa,” Ozick, herself a mother, imagines a woman who idolizes the memory of a daughter murdered by the Nazis.

Ozick’s vigilance against idolatry extends to her narrative style. Postmodernist, self-referential techniques—asides, interruptions, and explanations—alert readers to the illusions of fiction. Ironic in effect, they also deflate authorial claims to being like God.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Many critics consider Cynthia Ozick (OH-zihk) to be among the most talented authors of the second half of the twentieth century. She certainly ranks high among women authors and Jewish authors, although she disclaims the first category as demeaning and meaningless. Born in New York City on April 17, 1928, to pharmacist William Ozick and Celia Regelson Ozick, Cynthia Ozick showed promise throughout her academic career. She was a Phi Beta Kappa and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English from New York University. She taught from 1949 to 1951 at Ohio State University, where she earned a M.A. Ozick married Bernard Hallote, a lawyer; the couple had a daughter, Rachel. After returning to New York University as an...

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Known primarily for her short stories and novellas, Cynthia Ozick is one of the most celebrated Jewish- American writers of the century. She...

(The entire section is 371 words.)


Cynthia Ozick was born on April 17,1928, in New York City. Her parents, William and Celia (Regelson) Ozick, had come to the United States...

(The entire section is 347 words.)


Cynthia Ozick was born April 17, 1928, in New York City, the second child of Russian immigrants William and Celia Ozick. Her parents owned...

(The entire section is 434 words.)