Michael Chabon was born on May 24, 1963 in Washington, DC, and grew up in Columbia, Maryland. He attended Carnegie Mellon University before transferring to the University of Pittsburgh, where in 1984 he earned a BA in English Literature. Chabon subsequently obtained an MFA degree in Writing from UC-Irvine. His Master’s thesis was released in …
Michael Chabon was born on May 24, 1963 in Washington, DC, and grew up in Columbia, Maryland. He attended Carnegie Mellon University before transferring to the University of Pittsburgh, where in 1984 he earned a BA in English Literature. Chabon subsequently obtained an MFA degree in Writing from UC-Irvine. His 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. In 2012 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,” and with whom Chabon was “incredibly impressed.” 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: “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 [Trump] 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.”
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, novelist Ayelet Waldman, were editing. In an interview which Chabon granted to The Forward during that trip, he lamented that he had seen many Israeli authorities “dehumanize” the Palestinians by means of “this incredibly cruel and unjust machinery … of oppression.” 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…. [But] 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…. Fiction invites the reader into the world of a novel in a way that no other kind of writing does.”
In August 2017, Chabon and Ayelet Waldman wrote an open letter to fellow Jews in which they: (a) accused President Trump of having appointed, to his administration, one “avowed white supremacist, anti-Semite, neo-Nazi [and] crypto-fascist” after another; (b) claimed (falsely) that Trump had recently “expressed admiration and sympathy for a group of white supremacist demonstrators who marched through the streets of Charlottesville”; (c) characterized Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — a Jew who had been very loyal to the president — as someone whom future generations of Jews would remember as one of their people’s “greatest traitors and greatest fools”; and (d) asserted that “any Jew, anywhere, who does not act … condemn the President, directly and by name, for his racism, white supremacism, intolerance and Jew hatred, condones all of those things.”
For additional information about Michael Chabon, click here.
Further Reading: “Michael Chabon” (Biography.com); “Obama & the Conquest of Denver” (by Michael Chabon, NY Review of Books, 10-9-2008); “Chabon on Race, Sex, Obama” (Salon.com, 9-20-2012); “Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist Michael Chabon Wishes Daily for Massive Trump Stroke” (Newsbusters, 6-23-2017); “Q&A — Michael Chabon Talks Occupation, Injustice and Literature After Visit to West Bank” (Forward.com, 4-24-2016); “Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman Take on Israel — with Stories of Occupation” (Forward.com, 4-24-2016); “An Open Letter to Our Fellow Jews” (by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, 8-17-2017).