My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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Recently published articles

The Oxford Story

When my first book came out, I was confident it would do well. Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin is the only full-length biography of my father’s titanic grandfather, a playwright whose scores of plays, including The Jewish King Lear, were produced on the Lower East Side and then all over the Yiddish-speaking world. The book had been a massive undertaking… But a year later, I’d been greatly disappointed by the reception.

Featured in Queen’s Quarterly

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The Garden of Delight

I’d always thought gardens were a bother. For years, my husband handled all the “yard work,” as he called it. “I’ll be out back taming nature,” he’d say, before going out to cut the grass. Except for a petunia or two, that was the extent of gardening at our house. He tried to keep the edges neat, and I tried to ignore the whole thing. It was hard enough keeping the kids alive and the house livable without adding another great big room — filled with leaves and bugs and backbreaking work — to my chores.

Featured in aconsiderableage

Bright Fragments

I decided to slam together a new book consisting almost entirely of essays that had already, by being published, proven their worth. How easy this will be, I thought. The content was already written. There’d just be compiling and a bit of tweaking. Ha!

Featured in Brevity Blog

Correspondence

Barbara, my childhood pen pal, died in June 1966, at the age of 16. I calculated: it was now February 11, 2008, so I’d been carrying her letters around for nearly 42 years.

Featured in Queen’s Quarterly

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Portrait of the Artist: My Visit with Alice Neel

Nervously dialling the number Dad had given me, I was relieved to find Alice friendly and welcoming. I told her I was Gordin Kaplan’s daughter, an actress on a brief visit to New York. “Kappy’s daughter? An actress?” she boomed. “Come on over—have tea!”

Featured in The New Quarterly

Learning to Speak

So I’m pacing about the room in my respectable suit from Goodwill, incredibly nervous, thinking, Who do you think you are? You’re a fake. This will be a disaster. They’ll hate … And then I stop. I just stop. 

Featured in Brevity Blog

Secret

My friend leaned closer and told me softly that her mother had recently died. “After the funeral,” she said, her face expressionless, “Dad finally apologized to me for what happened during my childhood.” As she took a breath to go on, I knew. I knew what she was going to say.

Featured in Full Grown People

Greater density in the city

Premier Doug Ford, stuff your archaic, environmentally destructive plan. Focus on providing family housing and amenities in this neglected, underfunded, vibrant metropolis.

Featured in Toronto Star

The romance of silver

Deep in my handbag was my mother’s special antique spoon, wrapped in a soft blue cloth.

Featured in The Globe and Mail

The vaccine is a gift

The issue of vaccine skepticism is personal for me. Because my father, first of all, was a scientist who believed with all his heart in the efficacy and power of rigorous scientific exploration and discovery. But also because, just after my first birthday, he nearly died of polio.

Featured in The Globe and Mail

Telling your story

Here are seven tips on how to unearth significant memories and turn them into compelling stories.

Featured in Zoomer

Praise from readers

“What a wonderful essay. I love how your father shines through everything. You sure can write.”
ABIGAIL THOMAS, about Portrait of the Artist
“I loved your essay about your pen pal Barbara who died far too soon. It's a beautiful piece, really struck a chord. The guilt, the sorrow, so beautifully expressed.”
JULIA ZARENKIN, author of Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder, about Correspondence
“Wonderful, fresh, gripping, helpful piece with a dynamo takeaway.”
Brevity editors, about Learning to Speak