Leslie Jamison

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Leslie Jamison
Leslie Jamison at the 2014 Texas Book Festival
Leslie Jamison at the 2014 Texas Book Festival
Born1983 Washington DC
OccupationNovelist, essayist, academic
NationalityUnited States
EducationHarvard College (AB)
Iowa Writers Workshop (MFA)
Yale University (PhD)
Period21st century
Notable worksThe Gin Closet
The Empathy Exams

Leslie Jamison (born 1983)[1] is an American novelist and essayist. She is the author of the 2010 novel The Gin Closet and the 2014 essay collection The Empathy Exams. Jamison also directs the non-fiction concentration in writing at Columbia University's School of the Arts.

Early life[edit]

Jamison was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.[1] Her parents are Joanne Leslie, a nutritionist and former professor of public health, and economist and global health researcher Dean Jamison; Leslie Jamison is the niece of clinical psychologist and writer Kay Redfield Jamison.[2] Jamison grew up with two older brothers. Her parents divorced when she was 11, after which Jamison lived with her mother. [1]

Jamison attended Harvard College, where she majored in English, graduating in 2004;[3] her senior thesis dealt with incest in the work of William Faulkner.[4] While an undergraduate, she won the Edward Eager Memorial Fund prize in creative writing, an award also won by classmate, writer Uzodimna Iweala.[5] She was a member of the college literary magazine The Advocate and social club The Signet Society.[1]

Jamison then attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she earned an MFA in fiction,[6] as well as Yale University where she earned a Ph.D. in English literature. At Yale, Jamison worked with Wai Chee Dimock, Amy Hungerford, and Caleb Smith, submitting a dissertation entitled "The Recovered: Addiction and Sincerity in 20th Century American Literature" in May 2016.[7]


Jamison's work has been published in Best New American Voices 2008,[8] A Public Space,[9] and Black Warrior Review.[10]


Jamison's first novel, The Gin Closet, was published by Free Press in 2010.[11] Jamison has described the book as the account of a "young New Yorker [who] goes looking for an aunt she’s never met...and finds her drinking herself to death in a Nevada trailer. They end up building a precarious but deeply invested life together, trying...to save each other’s lives."[4] It received positive reviews by the San Francisco Chronicle,[12] Vogue,[13] and Publishers Weekly.[11]

Jamison's second book, The Empathy Exams, an essay collection published by Graywolf Press, debuted in April 2014 at number 11 on the New York Times bestseller list.[14] The book received wide acclaim from critics,[15][16][17][18][19] with Olivia Lang writing in The New York Times, "It’s hard to imagine a stronger, more thoughtful voice emerging this year."[20] Each essay uses a mixture of journalistic and memoir approaches that combine Jamison's own experiences and that of the people in various communities to explore the empathetic exchange between people.[21]

Jamison's third book, The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, was published in April 2018 from Little, Brown. Publishers Weekly describes the book as "unsparing and luminous autobiographical study of alcoholism."[22] It combines Jamison's memoir of her own alcoholism with a survey of others (some of them famous), with a focus on recovery.[1]


In the fall of 2015, Jamison joined the faculty at Columbia University's School of the Arts.[6] She is assistant professor and director of the non-fiction concentration in writing.[23] Jamison also leads a group of Columbia University MFA students in a Creative Writing Workshop at the Marian House, transitional housing for women in recovery.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Jamison lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Charles Bock,[25] one daughter[1] and one stepdaughter.[26]



  • The Gin Closet (Free, 2010)
  • The Empathy Exams (Graywolf, 2014)
  • The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath (Little, Brown, 2018)

Critical studies and reviews of Jamison's work[edit]

  • Greenberg, Gary (April 2, 2018). "Whiskey and ink : the stories that writers tell us—and themselves—about drinking". The Critics. Books. The New Yorker. 94 (7): 84–89.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barrett, Ruth Shalit (March 18, 2018). "Can Leslie Jamison Top The Empathy Exams With Her Mega-Memoir of Addiction?". Vulture. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  2. ^ https://www.graywolfpress.org/blogs/video-leslie-jamison-and-kay-redfield-jamison-conversation-politics-prose
  3. ^ "Alumni Feature - Harvard University Department of English". Harvard University Department of English. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  4. ^ a b "THIS BE ART: Leslie Jamison GRAD '13". Yale Daily News. April 9, 2010. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  5. ^ "Faculty of Arts and Sciences 2002 - 2003 Student Prize Recipients" (PDF). Harvard.edu. Harvard University. 2003.
  6. ^ a b "WRI An Interview with Nonfiction Professor Leslie Jamison | Columbia - School of the Arts". arts.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  7. ^ "Dissertations | English". english.yale.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  8. ^ Best New American Voices 2008: John Kulka, Natalie Danford: 9780156031493: Amazon.com: Books
  9. ^ Morphology of the Hit : Magazine : This is A Public Space
  10. ^ Jamison, Leslie. "In Defense of Saccharin(e)". Black Warrior Review. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18.
  11. ^ a b "Fiction Book Review: The Gin Closet by Leslie Jamison, Author . Free Press $25 (274p) ISBN 978-1-4391-5321-5". Publishers Weekly. November 23, 2009. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  12. ^ Watrous, Malena (2010-02-28). "A 'River' of secrets". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  13. ^ O'Grady, Megan (February 11, 2010). "Isn't It Romantic". Vogue. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  14. ^ Hertzel, Laurie (2014-04-10). "Graywolf Essay Collection Hits Best-seller List". Star Tribune.
  15. ^ Garner, Dwight (2014-03-27). "'The Empathy Exams,' Wide-Ranging Essays". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  16. ^ McAlpin, Heller (April 3, 2014). "'Empathy Exams' Is A Virtuosic Manifesto Of Human Pain". NPR. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  17. ^ Dillon, Brian (2014-05-30). "The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison – review". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  18. ^ O'Connell, Mark (2014-04-08). "The Flinch". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  19. ^ Tuttle, Kate (April 7, 2014). "Book review: "The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  20. ^ Lang, Olivia (2014-04-04). "Never Hurts to Ask". New York Times.
  21. ^ "'Empathy Exams' Is A Virtuosic Manifesto Of Human Pain". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  22. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison. Little, Brown, $30 (544p) ISBN 978-0-316-25961-3". Publishers Weekly. November 13, 2017. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  23. ^ "Leslie Jamison | Columbia - School of the Arts". arts.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  24. ^ "About". Marian House Blog. 2017-11-26. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  25. ^ Alter, Alexandra (2016-04-03). "In Charles Bock's 'Alice & Oliver,' Cancer Is a Highly Personal Villain". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  26. ^ Jamison, Leslie (2017-04-06). "In the Shadow of a Fairy Tale". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  27. ^ Online version is titled "Leslie Jamison’s 'The Recovering' and the stories we tell about drinking".

External links[edit]