Michael Chabon was born on May 24, 1963 in Washington, DC, and grew up in Columbia, Maryland. According to Biography.com, Columbia was “a planned community meant to promote socio-economic integration and religious diversity.” After Chabon’s parents divorced in 1975, the boy was raised primarily by his mother. Chabon attended Carnegie Mellon University before transferring to the …
Michael Chabon was born on May 24, 1963 in Washington, DC, and grew up in Columbia, Maryland. According to Biography.com, Columbia was “a planned community meant to promote socio-economic integration and religious diversity.” After Chabon’s parents divorced in 1975, the boy was raised primarily by his mother.
Chabon attended Carnegie Mellon University before transferring to the University of Pittsburgh, where in 1984 he earned a BA in English Literature. He subsequently obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing from UC-Irvine. Chabon’s Master’s thesis was released in 1988 as a novel titled The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and it became a New York Times bestseller. Chabon has since written numerous additional bestselling books. One of those – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. Another – The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – won a Hugo Award in 2008. Four years later, Chabon was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Chabon was a strong admirer of President Barack Obama, describing him as “a literate, cool-tempered, balanced, and subtle man” who “conducted himself with honor.” Moreover, he recalls how Obama’s election in 2008 suddenly made him (Chabon) aware of his own unconscious racism as a white man:
“I think Obama’s rise and his election mirrored the desire that I had been feeling for black people to be more visible in my life…. There are two key days for me in the history of my own racism, my own blindness. One is the day the O.J. [Simpson] [verdict] was announced, when I was living in Los Angeles, and suddenly a million black people became visible to me. The primary thing I felt at that moment was, ‘Why am I so surprised? Why didn’t I know that?’ I should’ve known that this would be the reaction, that this would send people out to the streets celebrating and dancing, and I didn’t. And the reason I didn’t was because I haven’t been paying any attention, because I’ve been cut off from this world, from these people, from this community that I used to be connected to. And then the counterpart of that is the day after Barack Obama was elected president when, again, not just for me but for white people all over America, black people suddenly became visible.”
In stark contrast to his high regard for Obama, Chabon has only contempt for Obama’s successor in the White House, Republican President Donald Trump. In a June 2017 interview on an Israeli radio program, Chabon said the following about Trump: “Every morning I wake up and in the seconds before I turn my phone on to see what the latest news is, I have this boundless sense of optimism and hope that this is the day that he is going to have a massive stroke, and, you know, be carted out of the White House on a gurney. And every day so far, I have been disappointed in that hope. But, you know, hope springs eternal. He’s an old guy, he doesn’t eat well, he’s overweight. He has terrible nutrition. He doesn’t exercise and it is that not that hard to imagine.”
In April 2016, Chabon visited the West Bank on a tour led by Breaking The Silence, an Israeli organization that uses disaffected Israeli soldiers to testify about the injustices that the Jewish state allegedly inflicts upon civilians in the Palestinian Territories. The purpose of Chabon’s trip was to conduct research in preparation for the 2017 publication of Kingdom of Olives and Ash – an anthology of essays about Israel’s 50-year “occupation” of the West Bank – which he and his wife, Ayelet Waldman, were editing.
In an interview which Chabon granted to The Forward during that trip, he lamented that he had witnessed many Israeli authorities “dehumanize” the Palestinians. Further, he claimed that it had been particularly upsetting to visit Hebron and “to see that place being dishonored and made less sacred and less holy by the presence of this incredibly cruel and unjust machinery, some literal machinery and figurative machinery of oppression.” “It offends me,” Chabon stated. When asked if he was concerned that his criticisms of Israel might alienate his “large Jewish readership,” he replied:
“I’m not so worried about that… It is the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life. I have seen bad things in my own country in America. There is plenty of horrifying injustice in the U.S. prison system, the ‘second Jim Crow’ it is often called. Our drug laws in the United States are grotesquely unjust. I know to some degree what I am talking about. This is the worst thing I have ever seen, just purely in terms of injustice. If saying that is going to lose me readers, I don’t want those readers. They can go away and never come back.”
Chabon believes that as a novelist, he can potentially play an important role in changing the status quo in Israel and the Palestinian Territories by raising public awareness about the conditions there: “Without Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, there might not have been a Civil War fought to end slavery in the United States. It was a novel, more than anything else, more than preaching from the pulpits or the reports of travelers or whatever the equivalent of journalism would have been in that day, or first-person slave narratives. Fiction invites the reader into the world of a novel in a way that no other kind of writing does.”
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