- Feminist writer
- Author of the book Fear of Flying
Erica Jong is a novelist and feminist widely known for her best-selling book Fear of Flying.
The middle daughter of Polish and Russian immigrants, Jong was born Erica Mann in New York City in March 1942. Her parents owned a prominent porcelain-doll manufacturing company.
In the 1950s Jong attended New York's public High School of Music and Art, where she demonstrated a particular interest in writing poetry. She went on to attend Barnard College, majoring in writing and literature. While there, she edited a student literary magazine and produced poetry programs for the Columbia University campus radio station. Jong graduated from Barnard in 1963, and went on to receive her M.A. in Eighteenth-Century English literature at Columbia in 1965.
Jong, who has been married four times, based her 1973 novel Fear of Flying partly on her second husband, Allan Jong, a Chinese-American psychiatrist. The book is a fictionalized account of an unpublished poet who, on a trip to Vienna with her second husband, decides to seek sexual and emotional fulfillment with another man. Candid in its descriptions of unattached sexuality, the book became a literary bible to Second Wave feminists and received instant critical acclaim from such writers as John Updike and Henry Miller. The book went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide.
Jong has published a number of additional fiction and nonfiction titles, including: How to Save Your Own Life (1977); Parachutes & Kisses (1984); Any Woman's Blues (1990); Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir (1994); and What Do Women Want? Bread Roses Sex Power (1998). She also has penned many articles about such topics as infidelity, the Holocaust, and politics.
On the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Jong wrote an article titled “Wrapped in the Flag,” in which she said: "I have always had fantasies of New York felled by nuclear bombs, flooded by rising sea level, toppled by meteors if not by terrorists. I always knew our grandeur might well be fleeting…. I have always been able to imagine a crater where New York City used to be. Now everyone else can imagine it too."
In that same article, Jong asserted that President Bush was fortunate to have had 9/11 occur during his tenure in office so that he could pursue war on other countries -- and on the environment -- unimpeded:
"George W. has been truly lucky to have the terrorist attacks happen on his watch. They have provided perfect cover for his environmental depredations and made him seem a hero rather than an inexperienced international leader…. Our spirits are, excuse the expression, flagging and George W.'s popularity is slipping. For the sake of his poll numbers, Bush needs to drop some more bombs on brown-skinned people halfway across the world."
Jong has expressed great admiration for Hillary Clinton, who she deems "stronger than Queen Elizabeth I of England, a greater strategist than Catherine the Great of Russia, braver than Boadicea or the Amazons of old." By contrast, she has denounced President Bush for his alleged inattention to, and poor record on, women's issues during his Texas governorship:
"In 1999, nearly two million women in Texas were uninsured, and half of those over fifty had not had a mammogram and breast exam in the last two years. Women's health care is obviously a low priority in the Longhorn State, and children don't fare much better. . . . Under Bush, Texas also is not a safe place for women. The state ranks thirteenth in the rate of women murdered by men, second in the number of calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline."
An outspoken critic of U.S. military actions overseas, Jong reacted angrily to the Spring 2004 revelations that a few American soldiers had mistreated some Iraqi war prisoners in the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq. In a television interview, she intimated that the scandal represented the death knell of American democracy, even referencing the atrocities of Nazi concentration camps in her condemnation.
In October 2005, Jong was a signatory to a World Can’t Wait ad campaign titled “Drive Out the Bush regime.” Promoting a set of concurrent “protests in cities all across the country,” the ads exhorted Americans to skip work and school in order to participate in demonstrations whose professed objective was to bring “to a halt” the U.S. government's alleged pursuit of “endless wars,” its routine use of “torture,” its indifference to the victims of Hurricane Katrina (in 2005), and its quest to transform the United States into a “theocracy.” Other signatories included Sean Penn, Gore Vidal, Harry Belafonte, Edward Asner, John Conyers, Michael Lerner, Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West, Howard Zinn, Jane Fonda, and Cindy Sheehan.
Jong has received a number of awards for her work, including the United Nations Award for Excellence in Literature; Poetry magazine's Bess Hokin Prize; the Deauville Award for Literary Excellence in France; and the Sigmund Freud Award for Literature in Italy.
Jong has taught writing and literature courses at a number of colleges and universities around the world, including the City University of New York, Bennington College, the University of Maryland's Overseas Division, the Breadloaf Writers Conference in Vermont, the Salzburg Seminar in Austria, and Ben Gurion University in Israel.
In 1996 Jong endowed her alma mater, Barnard College, with a $100,000 fund called the “Erica Mann Jong ’63 Writing Fellows Fund” to support young women writers.
In 2004 and 2006, Jong made donations to the political campaigns of John Kerry (for President) and Hillary Clinton (for Senator).