A journalist friend told me that feature stories are empathy machines. I couldn't agree more. I work as a journalist and write to walk in someone else's shoes, to see how it feels, to see the world through their eyes.
Though I love venturing out into the quirky and humorous, I also have a love for investigating and writing feature stories about social, food, healthcare, and environmental justice; about conservation and animal welfare; about nuclear culture and nuclear armament; and about art, exile, immigration, and political dissent. And, of course, about book culture.
How it all came to be
I was born behind the Iron Curtain to a family of artists and political dissidents. We escaped when I was still very little, right after the Soviet-backed government declared martial law in Poland. We crossed to Eastern Germany god knows how, crossed Check Point Charlie from East to West Berlin with god knows what papers, got on a train, and defected to the West in Paris. I wore small red rain boots on that journey, with all the money we had in the world inside them. Some of my earliest memories are of the tanks we left behind in the streets of Warsaw, and of the first banana I ever ate, right outside the Gare de l'Est.
I grew up as a child refugee on political asylum in France. I first lived in a refugee camp near La Rochelle, but soon moved to a shelter in Paris, across from the Grande Mosquée de Paris and a few blocks from the Jardin des Plantes. I've experienced and witnessed autocratic rule, military violence, exile, poverty, hunger, discrimination, and injustice. But I also witnessed the generosity and kindness of strangers. I became an immigrant to Canada at age 10.
All in all, I've lived in 11 countries so far — Poland, France, Canada, Mexico, India, Italy, the U.K., Zambia, Hungary, Hong Kong, and the U.S. — and visited over 70 others. I trekked, often solo, through mountains, valleys, and deserts on five continents, and camped all along. Our planet and its inhabitants are, indeed, magnificent, and some. I am fluent in French, Spanish, Polish, English, and Joual. I used to be fluent in Italian, too, though I seem to have lost in the last few years most of my spoken fluency; I do, however, understand and read Italian at native level. I can get by, with caution and at a teeth-grinding slow pace, in Serbo-Croatian, Czech, Portuguese, and German. I tried my hand (and pretty much failed) at Japanese and Hindi.
For people like me, cultural/ethnic identity can be complicated. I've always identified culturally as French, but I don't know how to answer the question, "Where are you from?"
I have a bachelor's degree in philosophy and Latin, a bachelor's in language acquisition, a British research master's degree in sociolinguistics and linguistic human rights, and a British master's in creative writing. I have a master's of fine arts (MFA) in creative and narrative writing from Boston University.
As a writer, I stand on the shoulders of giants. At Boston University, I studied under National Book Award winner Ha Jin; under Leslie Epstein, who was friends with Saul Bellow, took Doris Lessing to a baseball game, and would regularly chat with JM Coetzee; under National Book Award winner Sigrid Nunez, who lived for some time with Susan Sontag and wrote about her; and under Alicia Borinsky, who herself had studied under Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, and Gabriel García Márquez.
I've also taken graduate courses in journalism at Harvard, Stanford, and Berkeley, and have a graduate certificate in editing from the University of Chicago. For a time, and years ago, I taught art history, French and Spanish and their respective literatures, the theory of knowledge (another way of saying the history of philosophy), wilderness survival, and creative writing (nonfiction and fiction).
Today, I live in the high desert and mountains of New Mexico with my husband and our two dogs, Liz Lemon (corgi) and Ringo Starr (super mutt / goat).
Recent awards and honors
Fellow | Leslie Epstein Global Writing Fellowship, Mexico City, 2023
Winner | Editor's Choice Award | Raymond Chandler Short Story Contest, 2020
Winner | Schmuel Traum Literary Translation Award, 2020
Honorable mention | Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction Contest, 2020
Finalist | American Literary Translators Association Travel Fellowship, 2020
Fellow | Boston University Creative Writing Fellowship, 2019–2021