Class of 1957
Vivian Gornick is an award-winning essayist, critic and memoirist whose articles and books on sexual politics starting in the 1960s helped raise the consciousness of the American public and earned her a passionate following. She was a staff writer for The Village Voice, while also contributing articles to such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Many of her books have been autobiographic in nature. One writer called her work “the explosion of American feminist consciousness through the prism of her own experience.” In them, Gornick reflects on being a woman and a Jew, “twice an outsider,” and living in the shadows of anti-Semitism and sexism.
Gornick has also enjoyed an extensive teaching career, starting in the mid-1960s, when she conducted writing classes at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and at Hunter College, and continuing well into the 2000s with assignments at Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Arizona, Penn State, the University of Houston, the University of Colorado and, more recently, the New School for Social Research. For the 2007-2008 academic year, she was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. Her 2001 book, “The Situation and the Story: The Art of the Personal Narrative,” is regarded as essential reading in many M.F.A. writing programs throughout the country.
Gornick was born in the Bronx on June 14, 1935 to Louis and Bess Gornick, Ukrainians she described as “harried, working-class immigrants.” Her father died of a heart attack when she was 13 and she was raised by her mother. Their life together was the basis of her acclaimed 1987 memoir “Fierce Attachments.” It chronicled her conflicted relationship with her mother while coming of age at a time when women stayed at home and experienced “the daily infliction of social invisibility.” Following Gornick’s graduation from City College in 1957 with a B.A. in literature, she earned an M.A. from New York University in 1960. After teaching for a few years, she was hired as a reporter by The Village Voice in 1969 and began writing about the emerging women’s movement. Her first book was published in 1973. It was entitled “Ali Mahmoud: An American Woman in Egypt” and was based on a trip to Egypt to explore the culture of a former lover. It was nominated for a National Book Award. She left the Voice in 1977, but kept writing books, freelancing articles for newspaper and magazines, and lecturing at colleges. Two of her books — “The End of the Novel of Love,” a 1997 essay collection, and “The Men in My Life,” an essay collection published in 2008 — were nominated for National Book Critics Circle Awards. She won a Ford Foundation grant in support of her 1983 book, “Women in Science: Portraits From a World in Transition,” and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1990.
Her latest book, published in 2011, is “Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life,” a study of the famed anarchist, memoirist and lecturer. It was described by The Wall Street Journal as “an intense, engrossing essay written with an allusive, sinuous style that so effectively entwines with the lives of the two women that the reader is not always sure if Ms. Gornick is referring to Goldman or herself.”