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.)