Shalom Auslander (born 1970) is an American novelist, memoirist, and essayist. He grew up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Monsey, New York, where he describes himself as having been "raised like a veal", a reference to his strict religious upbringing. His writing style is notable for its Jewish perspective, existentialist themes, and black humor. His non-fiction often draws comparisons to David Sedaris, while his fiction has drawn comparisons to Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, and Groucho Marx. His books have been translated into over a dozen languages, and are published around the world.
Auslander was born and raised in Monsey, and attended Yeshiva of Spring Valley for elementary school, and then high school at the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy in Manhattan. He lived briefly in Teaneck, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York, before moving to the small town of Woodstock, New York. In 2019, he moved to Los Angeles, "because I'm a schmuck".
Auslander has published a collection of short stories, Beware of God (March 2006), a best-selling memoir, Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir (October 2007), and two critically acclaimed novels. His work, often confronting his ultra-Orthodox Jewish background, has been featured on Public Radio International's This American Life and in The New Yorker. He has also written for Esquire Magazine, Gentlemen's Quarterly, The New York Times, and many others. He was a finalist for the 2003–2004 Koret Jewish Book Award for "Young Writer on Jewish Themes".
In "Foreskin's Lament", Auslander wrote of his mother, "who was the belle of the misery ball", and his father, who was angry and uncommunicative. As a child, he went through the house and destroyed all the pornography he found. As an adult, he rebelled against his religious upbringing.
In January 2012, Auslander published his first novel, Hope: A Tragedy, a finalist for the 2013 Thurber Prize, which envisions a homeowner in upstate New York finding an elderly and foul-mouthed Anne Frank hiding in his attic. It won the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize (2013). In 2020, the novel was named by both American and British critics as "the funniest novel of the past decade".
Auslander wrote and created the Showtime television program, Happyish, which shot a pilot with Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom he met while adapting his novel, Hope: A Tragedy, for the screen. After Hoffman's death on 2 February 2014, it appeared that the TV project would be discontinued. However, it was subsequently re-cast, with Steve Coogan in the lead role, and premiered on 5 April 2015.
His latest novel, Mother for Dinner, tells the story of a family of assimilated Cannibal-Americans, tasked with consuming (as is their tradition) the body of their deceased mother. A dark comedy about the cost of identity and dangers of history, it was called a "riotous dissection of cultural formation" by Publisher's Weekly, and a "brilliant satire on tribalism" by Booklist. In the Wall Street Journal, Sam Sacks wrote: "Everyone has different ideas about what's funny, and for me, the gold standard is dark Jewish humor — the more masochistic and taboo, the better. This sort of joking is scarce today — cultural homogenization and the current moral panic over giving offense have turned it into something like samizdat — but at least we have Shalom Auslander."
Partial list of works
- Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir
- Beware of God: Stories (2005)
- Hope: A Tragedy (2012)
- Mother for Dinner: A Novel (2020)
Short stories / magazine articles
- The Los Angeles Times: This Year, God Should Atone to Us 
- The New Yorker: The Playoffs 
- The New Yorker: Save Us 
- The Guardian: Shalom Auslander's Top 10 Comic Tragedies 
- The Guardian: Interview 
- The 10 Types of Jew, Which One Are You? 
- Washington Post Op Ed: Don't Compare Trump to Hitler (It Belittles Hitler) 
- NPR, All Things Considered: The Groucho Letters 
- Tablet: Consider The Ostrich 
- The Los Angeles Times, Op-Ed: A Proud Fifth Columnist 
- TLS: Book Review, "Hasidism, A New History" 
- Fresh Air with Terry Gross, interview from 2007-10-08
- Death Camp Blues: from The Moth "Death Camp Blues"
- Shalom Auslander reads his true story, "The Blessing Bee." on This American Life
- Pretty Shitty Monkeys: An Interview with Shalom Auslander 
- Jessa Crispin: An Interview with Shalom Auslander 
- Happyish (2015)
- Shalom Auslander, Voicing a Comic 'Lament', Fresh Air, October 8, 2007. Accessed October 9, 2007.
- Auslander, Shalom. "Foreskin's Lament", The New York Times, September 28, 2007. Accessed October 9, 2007.
- Reese, Jennifer (2007-10-05), "Shtick Figure". Entertainment Weekly (957):73
- Bob Minzesheimer (2007-11-01), "Round-up: Non-fiction, in brief." USA Today.
- Brawarsky, Sandee. "An Orthodox 'cast-off' holds God accountable", The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, October 19, 2007. Accessed February 14, 2008. "By the time he was in high school, the Manhattan Talmudic Academy, he was shoplifting the kinds of expensive clothing his classmates wore, smoking dope, and skipping classes to go to museums, bookstores, and porn shops."
- Reese, Jennifer. "Book Review: Foreskin's Lament (2007)", Entertainment Weekly. Accessed October 9, 2007.
- "The Koret Foundation ::". koretfoundation.org. Archived from the original on 24 May 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
- Foley, Dylan. "10 Minutes with Shalom Auslander". October 17, 2007. Religion News Service. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
- Maslin, Janet (January 18, 2012). "Anne Frank, Still Writing In the Attic". New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
- Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize 2013 Archived November 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Sacks, Sam (2020-09-18). "Fiction: Family Meal". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2020-12-17.
- Nellie Andreeva. ""Happyish" Picked Up To Series, "Shameless" Renewed For Season 6 - Deadline". Deadline. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
- McGrath, Charles. "Shalom Auslander: An Orthodox Jewish outsider grapples with his past", International Herald Tribune, October 3, 2007. Accessed October 9, 2007.
- Edwards, Robert (2018-09-10). "Pretty Shitty Monkeys: A Surprisingly Optimistic Conversation with Shalom Auslander". Medium. Retrieved 2019-08-29.