Francine Prose Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Francine Prose is a versatile and increasingly powerful voice on the American scene. She manages a successful and varied career as novelist, journalist, editor, and teacher. The daughter of Philip and Jesse Prose, both physicians, she graduated from Radcliffe College with a B.A. in 1968 and did graduate work at Harvard University. Since then she has written many books and contributed articles and reviews to most of the major American magazines and newspapers. She has also taught creative writing at Harvard and served on the faculty of the University of Arizona at Tucson, Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. In 1976, she married sculptor Howard Michels; they had two sons.

Prose went through college without any idea of earning a living and applied to graduate school directly after graduation. It was not a successful experience, and she wrote her first novel, Judah the Pious, as a possible way to make some money. Religious tolerance is its theme, and the writing moves easily between the real and the imaginary, the rational and supernatural. It is similar to traditional European fairy tales and creates a fantastic world that sets the tone of much of Prose’s early work. The book won a Jewish Book Council Award in 1973, the first of Prose’s many awards.

Her next four books continue to pursue supernatural ideas, notably Marie Laveau, based on myths surrounding the fabled woman of nineteenth century New Orleans who was reputed to possess gifts of second sight and healing powers. Focusing on magic, spells, and prophetic dreams, Marie Laveau investigates that middle ground between dreaming and waking, when the mind is full of hypnogogic reveries and reality is hard to determine. Hungry Hearts, a novel that won the Edgar Lewis Wallant Memorial Award from the Hartford Jewish Community Center in 1984, tells the story of Yiddish stage star Dinah Rappoport. Dinah appears to be possessed by a dybbuk while performing in a production of Shloime Ansky’s The Dybbuk. She must come to...

(The entire section is 858 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Francine Prose was born on April 1, 1947, in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of two doctors. She received her B.A. degree in English from Radcliffe College in 1968 and an M.A. degree in English from Harvard University in 1969. She taught creative writing at the University of Arizona in 1971-1972. She has been a visiting lecturer in fiction and a faculty member in M.F.A. programs at schools such as Warren Wilson College and Sarah Lawrence College, and was an instructor at the Breadloaf Writers Conference in 1984. She married artist Howard Michels in 1976.

Prose is a professional journalist as well as a fiction writer. She has written articles and reviews for many American magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Harper’s, Redbook, and The Atlantic. She is currently an editor at Doubletake magazine. She has two sons and lives in New York City and upstate New York.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Francine Prose began reading when she was four years old and never stopped. She has told numerous interviewers that the only reason she wanted to become a writer was that she was such an avid reader and that she could not imagine any other career. Born on April 1, 1947, in Brooklyn, New York, to two physicians, Philip Prose and Jessie Rubin Prose, the young Francine grew up listening to her father discuss medical cases with his colleagues. She learned the knack of narrative storytelling from these sessions, and she also learned how to be closely observant of details from her parents. In addition, she developed her keen ear and eye by paying close attention to the lives of her family’s neighbors and to the larger social world in which she grew up.

Prose graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1968 from Radcliffe College. In 1969, she entered an M.A. program at Harvard, but she soon grew tired of the claustrophobic atmosphere there. In 1971, she left the program to travel for almost a year in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where she read the classic novels of authors from Fyodor Dostoevski to Marcel Proust. During that year, she scrapped the autobiographical novel on which she had been working and started writing what would become her first published novel, Judah the Pious. After that novel appeared, her career as a writer was launched, and she never looked back, producing a new book almost every three years and also writing articles and stories.

In 1976, Prose married Howard “Howie” Michaels, an artist and sculptor. The couple’s first son, Bruno, was born in 1978, and their second, Leon, was born in 1982. After Leon’s birth, Prose embarked on a teaching career, and, between 1982 and 1989, she taught at the University of Arizona, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Sarah Lawrence College, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. During these years she continued to write and publish novels, including Household Saints, Hungry Hearts, and Bigfoot Dreams. In 1999, Prose was a director’s fellow at the New York Public Library’s Center for Scholars and Writers, and she has been a fellow of the New York Institute of the Humanities. She continues to teach and has held the position of visiting professor of literature at Bard College. In 2007, she became president of the PEN/American Center in New York.