Michael Chabon was born in 1963, in Washington, D.C. and raised mostly in Columbia, a planned city with utopian aspirations in the Maryland tobacco country. He studied at Carnegie-Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at UC Irvine, and has spent most of the past two decades in California, with brief sojourns in Washington State, Florida, and New York State. Since 1997, he has been living with his wife, Ayelet Waldman, also a novelist, and their children, in Berkeley.
Michael Chabon’s first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), was originally written for his master’s thesis at U.C. Irvine and became a New York Times bestseller. Chabon’s second novel, Wonder Boys (1995), was also a bestseller, and was made into a critically-acclaimed film featuring actors Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire. Michael Chabon believes that three things are required for success as a novelist: talent, luck, and discipline. As he says, “Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.” Chabon’s hope and trust certainly paid off.
Chabon’s third novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, was selected by the American Library Association as one of the Notable Books of 2000 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It won the New York Society Library Prize for Fiction, the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, the Commonwealth Club Gold Medal, and the Pulitzer Prize. The book has also been adapted for the stage by the Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle to rave reviews. Chabon is also the author of two collections of short stories, A Model World and Other Stories (1990) and Werewolves In Their Youth (1999). His young adult novel, Summerland, won the 2003 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His children’s book, The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man was illustrated by Jake Parker. He has also written a number of screenplays, including John Carter (March 2012), and teleplays (sharing story credit for Spiderman 2), and edited The Best American Short Stories 2005. Chabon’s story "Son of the Wolfman" was chosen for the 1999 O. Henry collection and for a National Magazine Award. Chabon’s novella The Final Solution (2004) was awarded the 2005 National Jewish Book Award and also the 2003 Aga Khan Prize for Fiction by The Paris Review. Michael Chabon recently accepted the position of chairman of the board of directors at the MacDowell Colony. In March 2012 he was voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Michael Chabon’s novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, a hardboiled detective novel set in an alternate world where Israel failed to be born and millions of European Jewish refugees took shelter in Alaska , became a New York Times bestseller immediately upon publication and was nominated for an Edgar Award; it also won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2008. In November 2007, his swashbuckling adventure novel, Gentlemen of the Road, serialized in fifteen chapters in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, was published by Del Rey. His novel Telegraph Avenue came out in 2012. In January 2015 Michael Chabon collaborated with acclaimed music producer Mark Ronson as lyricist for Ronson’s album titled Uptown Special. His novel is Moonglow was chosen by the Jewish Community Library of San Francisco to be the centerpiece of their One Bay One Book program for the 2016-17 season, and was awarded the Gold Medal for fiction by the Commonwealth Club of California's 86th Annual California Book Awards. Chabon was presented with the Jewish Book Council's 2016 Modern Literary Achievement Award "for his general contribution to modern Jewish literature, including his most recent work, Moonglow (Harper)." Chabon's essay collections include Maps & Legends and Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures & Regrets of a Husband, Father & Son. He has also edited, with Ayelet Waldman, Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation, a book of essays about 50 years of Israeli occupation in Palestine. In 2018 he will publish a collection of essays about fatherhood entitled Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces (HarperCollins).
Michael Chabon has lectured widely on topics including the art and craft of writing, the tradition of Jewish fiction, and Vladimir Nabokov, to name but a very few. He has appeared before audiences all over the United States and in Russia, Finland, Lithuania, Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany and Canada. He has spoken to the creative teams at Pixar Animation Studios about fantasy and childhood, to the employees of Industrial Light and Magic about the art of storytelling, and to many different literary, Jewish, and corporate organizations about a wide variety of topics.
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Photo Benjamin Tice Smith