Rachel Kushner

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Rachel Kushner
Born 1968 (age 48–49)
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
Occupation Novelist, Essayist
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Period 1996–present
Genre fiction
Notable works The Flamethrowers (2013), Telex from Cuba (2008)

Rachel Kushner (born 1968) is an American writer, known for her novels Telex from Cuba (2008) and The Flamethrowers (2013). She lives with her husband and their son in Los Angeles.[2]

Early life[edit]

Kushner was born in Eugene, Oregon, the daughter of two scientists whom she describes as "deeply unconventional people from the beatnik generation."[2][3] Her mother arranged afterschool work for her straightening and alphabetizing books at a feminist bookstore when she was five years old, and Kusher says "it was instilled in me that I was going to be a writer of some kind from a young age."[2][4] Kushner moved with her family to San Francisco in 1979.[5]

When she was sixteen she began her Bachelor's in Political Economy at UC Berkeley with an emphasis on U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.[4][6] Kusher lived as an exchange student in Italy when she was eighteen; and upon completing her Bachelor of Arts, Kushner lived in San Francisco, worked at nightclubs, rode a Moto Guzzi, and then decided to become serious about writing.[4] At twenty-six she enrolled in the fiction program at Columbia University and she earned her MFA in creative writing in 2000.[7]



After completing her MFA, Kushner lived in New York City for 8 years, where she was an editor at Grand Street and BOMB. She has written widely on contemporary art, including numerous features in Artforum.[8] She is currently an editor of Soft Targets, praised by The New York Times as an "excellent, Brooklyn-based journal of art, fiction and poetry."[9]


Ms. Kushner decided to withdraw from participating in the gala following PEN nominations in March 2015, wherein PEN American Center gave its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, whose staff had been murdered by Islamists in Paris three months before. She was one of six authors to do so, the others being Michael Ondaatje, Peter Carey, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, and Taiye Selasi.[10] Kushner criticized the magazine’s “cultural intolerance” and support for “a kind of forced secular view,” an accusation that was denounced by numerous commentators.[11][12] Salman Rushdie criticized Kushner and her fellow protesters as "fellow travellers" of "fanatical Islam", saying: “This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non Muslims, into a cowed silence. These six writers have made themselves the fellow travellers of that project.[13] Writing in The Nation, Katha Pollitt pointed out that "Many of the writers targeted by fundamentalists have been Muslim themselves, among them the Bangladeshi writer and feminist Taslima Nasreen, the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi condemned by the regime to 1,000 lashes, and, going back a bit in time, the Nobel Prize–winning Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz, thousands of Algerian intellectuals and doubtless many more. These attacks had nothing to do with supposedly racist insults from privileged white people, and everything to do with perceived deviations from orthodoxy."[14]


Kushner's most recent novel, The Flamethrowers, was published by Scribner in April 2013. Vanity Fair hailed it for its "blazing prose," which "ignites the 70s New York art scene and Italian underground."[citation needed] In The New Yorker, critic James Wood praised the book as "scintillatingly alive. It ripples with stories, anecdotes, set-piece monologues, crafty egotistical tall tales, and hapless adventures: Kushner is never not telling a story... It succeeds because it is so full of vibrantly different stories and histories, all of them particular, all of them brilliantly alive."[15] The Flamethrowers was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award.[16] "The Flamethrowers" was named a top book of 2013 by[17] New York Magazine, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, O, The Oprah Magazine, New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Vogue, Wall Street Journal, Salon, Slate, Daily Beast, Flavorwire, The Millions, The Jewish Daily Forward, and Austin American-Statesman.

Kushner's first novel, Telex from Cuba, was published by Scribner in July 2008. She got the idea for her novel after completing her MFA in 2000, and she made three long trips to Cuba over the six years it took her to write the book.[4][18] Telex from Cuba was the cover review of the July 6, 2008 issue of The New York Times Book Review, where it was described as a "multi-layered and absorbing" novel whose "sharp observations about human nature and colonialist bias provide a deep understanding of the revolution's causes." Telex from Cuba was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award.[19][20] Kushner's editor is Nan Graham.[21]

Awards and honors[edit]


  • Telex from Cuba (2008)
  • The Flamethrowers (2013)
  • The Strange Case of Rachel K (2015)


  1. ^ Ulin, David L. "Rachel Kushner lights a fire in 'The Flamethrowers'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c de Rosee, Sophie. "Author Rachel Kushner talks to Sophie de Rosee about childhood, marriage and Don DeLillo". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  3. ^ Miller, M.H. "Revolution Blues: Rachel Kushner's New Novel Examines Rebellion, Both Real and Staged". observer.com. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d Kunzru, Hari. "BOMB—Artists in Conversation: Rachel Kushner". bombmagazine.org. Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  5. ^ "Telex from Cuba (Kushner) - Author Bio". litlovers.com. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  6. ^ "Rachel Kushner". ndbooks.com. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  7. ^ "Kushner, Rachel". id.loc.gov. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  8. ^ Author Page on Simon & Schuster website
  9. ^ Cotter, Holland (2006-08-16). “At a Group Show in Chelsea, the Art Is Sharp but the Categories Blurry”. New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-06-29.
  10. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer. "Six PEN Members Decline Gala After Award for Charlie Hebdo". nytimes.com. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  11. ^ Pollitt,Katha. "‘Charlie Hebdo’ Deserves Its Award for Courage in Free Expression. Here’s Why. The French satirical publication takes aim at fundamentalism—in all its forms." The Nation [1]
  12. ^ Cohen, Nick. "Charlie Hebdo: The literary indulgence of murder."
  13. ^ "Salman Rushdie slams critics of PEN’s Charlie Hebdo tribute" [2] The Guardian
  14. ^ https://www.thenation.com/article/charlie-hebdo-deserves-its-award-courage-free-expression-heres-why/
  15. ^ James Wood, "Youth in Revolt," The New Yorker, April 8, 2013.
  16. ^ a b National Book Awards - 2013. National Book Foundation. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  17. ^ "Rachel Kushner News". 
  18. ^ Timberg, Scott. "Breathing literary life into '50s Cuba". latimes.com. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  19. ^ a b "National Book Awards - 2008". National Book Foundation. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
  20. ^ Cokal, Susan (July 6, 2008). "Livin' La Vida Local". The New York Times.
  21. ^ "Board of Directors". centerforfiction.org. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  22. ^ Dave McNary, "Rachel Kushner Set as Telluride Film Fest Guest Director", Variety, March 31, 2015.
  23. ^ "The 2014 Folio Prize Shortlist is Announced". Folio Prize. 10 February 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  24. ^ Gaby Wood (10 February 2014). "Folio Prize 2013: The Americans are coming, but not the ones we were expecting". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Kalamazoo College Graduation". 
  26. ^ "Guggenheim Fellow Rachel Kushner". 

External links[edit]