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Epstein was a student at Hebrew University when, during the summer of 1968, she traveled to Prague and was caught in the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia. Her first-person account of the invasion was published in The Jerusalem Post, where she later worked as a university correspondent for two years. Her early work there determined her career in writing non-fiction.
In 1971, she graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and began writing cultural reportage for the New York Times' Sunday edition as well as many national magazines, specializing in profiles of classical musicians including Vladimir Horowitz, Leonard Bernstein and Yo Yo Ma. Several of these are collected in her book Music Talks (McGraw-Hill 1987) and republished as an e-book in 2010.
Epstein is married to consultant Patrick Mehr and has two grown sons, Daniel and Sam. She has been a teacher since 1974, was the first tenured woman professor in New York University's Journalism Department. She currently lectures internationally on literary non-fiction, particularly memoir and family history. She reviews Boston area and Berkshire County cultural events online for [theartsfuse.com] and does occasional book reviewing for the "New York Times" and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In 1979 Epstein published her best-known book, Children of the Holocaust (Putnam), which has since become a much-translated classic on transmission of trauma across generations, used in psychology courses as well as Holocaust Studies. Her sequel to this book is the memoir Where She Came From (Little, Brown 1997) which has also been widely translated, most recently into Spanish, French, and Italian. A 2010 electronic edition with an updated bibliography and new introduction is now available.
Her biography Joe Papp: An American Life was the first full-length biography of the producer. Her profile of art scholar Meyer Schapiro in ARTnews was similarly the first of its kind. Her books have been translated into several languages. Her biographies of Papp and Tina Packer, founder and director of Shakespeare & Company in The Berkshires of Massachusetts reflect her ongoing interest in theater. She is also the translator of Heda Kovaly's Under a Cruel Star, a memoir of life under both Nazism and Stalinism in Central Europe and of "Acting in Terezin" by Vlasta Schoenova.
She has lectured at universities, museums, and religious institutions on three continents, and continues to review cultural events for the New England online arts journal artsfuse.org.