Adina Hoffman

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Adina Hoffman is an American essayist, critic, and biographer. In a 2012 essay called "Imagining the Real," published in the Raritan Review, she described the difficulty of classifying the sort of writing she does, which is at once literary and documentary.[1]


Born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1967, Hoffman grew up in Peterborough, New Hampshire and Houston, Texas, and graduated from Wesleyan University in 1989.[2] She has lived in Jerusalem since 1992 and writes often about the Middle East and its people, especially those who are overlooked in standard journalistic or textbook-styled accounts.[3]

Her first book, House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood (Steerforth Press, 2000, Broadway Books, 2002) consists of a series of linked essays about her North African Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. It was described by Kirkus Reviews as "steadily perceptive and brimming with informed passion."[4] In 2009 Yale University Press brought out her My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century, a life and times of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali. The first biography ever published about a Palestinian writer, My Happiness was awarded Britain’s 2010 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize and was named one of the best twenty books of 2009 by the Barnes & Noble Review and one of the top ten biographies of the year by Booklist.[5] Writing in The Independent, Boyd Tonkin called it "a remarkable book… A triumph of personal empathy and historical insight and a beacon for anyone who believes that ‘more joins than separates us.’"[6] A 2011 Guggenheim Foundation fellow,[7] Hoffman is married to MacArthur-winning poet and translator Peter Cole, and in 2011, she and Cole published a book they wrote together, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (Schocken /Nextbook), which has been widely praised, with Harold Bloom calling it "a small masterpiece"[8] and The Nation describing it as "a literary jewel whose pages turn like those of a well-paced thriller, but with all the chiseled elegance and flashes of linguistic surprise we associate with poetry... Sacred Trash has made history both beautiful and exciting."[9] In the Jewish press, the Chicago Jewish Star called it "captivating, with the drama of any good mystery… it has all the ingredients of a compelling work of fiction. Except that it's true."[10]

In April 2016, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published her new book, Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City,[11] which Publishers Weekly calls "a scintillating study"[12] and Haaretz describes as "beautifully written . . . a captivating detective story . . . a passionate, lyrical defense of a Jerusalem that could still be,"[13]

She is currently writing a biography of Ben Hecht for Yale University Press's Jewish Lives series.[14] According to the publisher's website: "Ben Hecht wrote some of the greatest Hollywood movies ever made.... Yet as he was tossing off the breeziest scripts, he was also becoming a fierce propagandist for pre-state Israel’s terrorist underground. A self-described “child of the century,” the charismatic and contradiction-ridden Hecht came to embody much that defined America—and especially Jewish America—in his time."[15]

Hoffman was the film critic for the Jerusalem Post from 1993 to 2000 and the American Prospect from 2000 to 2002.[16] Her essays and criticism have appeared in The Nation, the Washington Post, the Times Literary Supplement, Raritan, Bookforum, the Boston Globe, New York Newsday, Tin House, and on the World Service of the BBC.[17] She is one of the founders and editors of Ibis Editions, a small, Jerusalem-based press that publishes the literature of the Levant.[18] Hoffman has been a visiting professor at Wesleyan University and Middlebury College, and in 2009 was the Franke Fellow at Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center. During the summer of 2011 she was the Distinguished Writer in Non-Fiction at New York University’s McGhee School.[19] She now divides her time between Jerusalem and New Haven.

Awards and honors[edit]


  • House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood ISBN 0-7679-1019-2
  • My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century ISBN 0-300-16427-0
  • Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (with Peter Cole) ISBN 0-8052-4258-9
  • Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City ISBN 0-374-28910-7


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  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-28. Retrieved 2011-07-10. 
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  10. ^ Gila Wertheimer, "Lost & Found," Chicago Jewish Star, May 27, 2011, p. 7.
  11. ^ Macmillan. "Till We Have Built Jerusalem | Adina Hoffman | Macmillan". Macmillan. Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  12. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City by Adina Hoffman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-3742-8910-2". Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  13. ^ Thrope, Samuel (2016-04-08). "What fractured Jerusalem needs now: Cosmopolitanism, diversity and liberality". Haaretz. Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  14. ^ Hoffman, Adina. "Adina Hoffman". Retrieved 2016-06-14. 
  15. ^ "Jewish Lives | | Books Series of Jewish Biography". Retrieved 2016-06-14. 
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  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-02. Retrieved 2011-07-10. 
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  20. ^ Dorie Baker (March 4, 2013). "Yale awards $1.35 million to nine writers". YaleNews. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  21. ^ "'Sacred Trash' wins Sophie Brody Medal; three honor titles also named | News and Press Center". Retrieved 2015-12-05. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "JQ-Wingate Prize - Jewish Quarterly". Jewish Quarterly. Retrieved 2015-12-05. 

External links[edit]

  • Author website [1]
  • Interview in Bomb Magazine, with Deborah Baker [2]
  • Interview on PBS NewsHour, with Jeffrey Brown [3]
  • Interview on Radio Times, WHYY, with Peter Cole and Marty Moss-Coane [4]
  • Interview in the Jewish Chronicle, London [5]