Adina Hoffman

In a land where even the most cautious nonfiction can draw howls of protest, Adina Hoffman combines fastidious listening, even-handed research, and prose so engaged that it makes the long-vanished visible again.

Adina Hoffman is the author of five nonfiction books that expand and enrich our understanding of the modern Middle East through their juxtaposition of personal and political histories. In My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century (2010), Hoffman’s meticulously researched and vividly written biography of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali becomes a window into the fate of the Palestinian people in the wake of the 1948 war and its ensuing displacements. Hoffman divides her time between New Haven and Jerusalem, and House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood (2002) provides an intimate portrait of the divided city. Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (2011), written with Peter Cole, tells the story of the recovery of a trove of Jewish manuscripts in Egypt and the scholars who study it. Hoffman is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her most recent book, a biography of the filmmaker Ben Hecht, was published by Yale University Press in February 2019.

To say that I’m excited by this news is a pointless understatement, but here I go: As a writer for whom archival sleuthing is part and parcel of the imaginative process, I’m especially thrilled to receive a prize administered by the Beinecke. The fact that the shared lives of Donald Windham and Sandy Campbell were grounded in a total devotion to literature and art and the friendships that evolved around them makes this incredibly generous prize all the more meaningful. ADINA HOFFMAN