Distinguished University Professor
Degree: PhD, Kent State University
Since I am a novelist who teaches at a university, people often ask me whether I see myself primarily as a teacher or a novelist. My answer is, I’m lucky enough to not have to choose. Somedays, I feel more like a writer than a teacher. The next day, that equation changes. But I do think of writing and teaching as part of the same continuum and believe that my writing informs my teaching as well as the other way around. I teach a wide array of courses at Case, ranging from fiction and non-fiction writing workshops to 20th Century American and African-American literature classes. While I have great respect for the canonical writers, it is my personal goal to introduce my students to contemporary literature and to writers who are writing about and reflecting the age that we live in. I am an unabashed believer in the truism that literature can transform lives–I know that it has changed mine. It is my job to demonstrate to my students that literature is a robust, alive, relevant, necessary force that they should welcome into their lives.
When I’m not teaching, I spend my days daydreaming. Occasionally, those daydreams turn into novels. I am the bestselling author of the novels The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, Bombay Time, The Weight of Heaven and the recent The World We Found. I have also written a memoir titled First Darling of the Morning. My books have been translated into over fifteen languages including French, German, Arabic, Dutch and Indonesian. I am also active on the national lecture circuit and enjoy talking to audiences about joys and perils of being a writer. Before I joined Case in 2002, I was a journalist for seventeen years. I still contribute to the book pages of the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. I am the recipient of the 2009 Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature, was a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Beyond Margins award and was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard in 2000. I hold a PhD from Kent State University.