Mary Gordon (writer)

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Mary Gordon
Born (1949-12-08) December 8, 1949 (age 73)
Far Rockaway, New York, U.S.
EducationBarnard College (BA)
Syracuse University (MA)
Notable worksThe Company of Women
SpouseArthur H. Cash

Mary Catherine Gordon (born December 8, 1949) is an American writer from Queens and Valley Stream, New York. She is the McIntosh Professor of English at Barnard College. She is best known for her novels, memoirs and literary criticism. In 2008, she was named Official State Author of New York.

Early life and education[edit]

Mary Gordon was born in Far Rockaway, New York,[1] to Anna (Gagliano) Gordon, an Irish-Italian Catholic mother, and David Gordon, a Jewish father.[2][3] Her father died in 1957 when she was young. She had identified with him and his love for writing and culture, and continued to learn his myths. When she was in her 40s, she began to learn about him, discovering that he had converted to Catholicism as a young man in 1937, before his marriage to her mother.[1] His first name was Israel and he immigrated at the age of six with his family to Lorain, Ohio from Vilna, Lithuania.[4] After his conversion, her father published some anti-Semitic and right-wing journalism. Gordon's search and attempt to reconcile her discoveries with the memory of her father became the basis of her memoir, The Shadow Man: A Daughter's Search for Her Father (1996).[4]

After being widowed, her mother Anna and Mary moved to live with her maternal grandmother, who was Irish Catholic, in Valley Stream, near Queens.[1] Her mother worked as a secretary to support them. Gordon had a very Catholic childhood. She attended Holy Name of Mary School in Valley Stream and The Mary Louis Academy for high school in Jamaica, New York.[5]

Although her mother and her family wanted Gordon to go to a Catholic college, Gordon was awarded a scholarship to Barnard College, and she received her A.B. in 1971. She pursued graduate work, completing an M.A. at Syracuse University in 1973.


Gordon lived in New Paltz, New York, for a time during the 1980s with her second husband Arthur Cash, a professor of English at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist (2007) and was Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at the time of his death in 2016. They have two adult children, Anna and David.

Gordon currently resides in New York City, where she is McIntosh Professor of English at Barnard College, and in Hope Valley, Rhode Island. Novelist Galaxy Craze has said of Gordon as a teacher at Barnard, "She loves to read; she would read us passages in class and start crying, she's so moved by really good writing. And she was the only good writing teacher at Barnard, so I just kept taking her class over and over. She taught me so much."[6]

Gordon published her first novel, Final Payments, in 1978. In 1981, she wrote the foreword to the Harvest edition of Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own."

In 1984, she was one of 97 theologians and religious persons who signed A Catholic Statement on Pluralism and Abortion, calling for religious pluralism and discussion within the Catholic Church regarding the Church's position on abortion.[7]

Literary works[edit]


  • Final Payments (1978) ISBN 0-394-42793-9
  • The Company of Women (1981) ISBN 0-394-50508-5
  • Men and Angels (1985) ISBN 0-394-52403-9
  • The Other Side (1989) ISBN 0-670-82566-2
  • Spending (1998) ISBN 0-684-85204-7
  • Pearl (2005) ISBN 0-375-42315-X
  • The Love of My Youth (2011) ISBN 0-307-37742-3
  • There Your Heart Lies (2017) ISBN 0-307-90794-5
  • Payback (2020) ISBN 1-524-74922-2

Novellas and short story collections[edit]


Prizes and awards[edit]

In 1993, Gordon received a Guggenheim Fellowship.[9] Her other awards include a Lila Wallace–Reader's Digest Writers' Award, an O. Henry Award, and Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[10] The Stories of Mary Gordon won The Story Prize in 2007. In March 2008, Governor Eliot Spitzer named Mary Gordon the official New York State Author and gave her the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction.[11] In 2010 she was inducted as a member of the inaugural class of the New York Writers Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ a b c Don Lee, "About Mary Gordon: A Profile", Ploughshares, Issue 73 |Fall 1997; accessed 14 Aug 2018
  2. ^ Chan, Sewell (March 3, 2008). "Official State Author and Poet Are Named". Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  3. ^ "Biography | Mary Gordon". Archived from the original on September 24, 2016. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  4. ^ a b William H. Pritchard, "The Cave of Memory", The New York Times, 26 May 1996; accessed 10 Aug 2018
  5. ^ "Bill Moyers on Faith & Reason . Bill Moyers and Mary Gordon and Colin McGinn. June 30, 2006". PBS. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  6. ^ "The BEATRICE Interview: 1999". Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  7. ^ Keller, Rosemary Skinner; Ruether, Rosemary Radford; Cantlon, Marie (2006). Encyclopedia of women and religion in North America. Vol. 3. Indiana University Press. pp. 1104–1106. ISBN 0-253-34688-6.
  8. ^ "Prodigal Son < Killing the Buddha". November 9, 2009. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  9. ^ "Mary Gordon". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
  10. ^ "Mary Gordon Author Bookshelf". Random House.
  11. ^ Morias, Betsy (March 4, 2008). "Barnard Prof Named New York State Author". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved September 24, 2016.

External links[edit]