About Allegra

I was born in Brooklyn New York in 1967, but I grew up in Honolulu, where my parents moved in 1969. My father, Lenn Goodman taught philosophy at the University of Hawaii. My mother, Madeleine Goodman, of blessed memory, taught biology and directed the Women's Studies program. She also served as Vice President for Academic Affairs. After 25 years, my parents left Hawaii for Nashville Tennessee , where my mother became the first woman Dean of Arts and Sciences at Vanderbilt and my father accepted a position in the philosophy department. He still teaches at Vanderbilt.

In Hawaii, my sister Paula and I attended Punahou, an independent school founded in the 19th century by Congregationalist missionaries. The school is stunningly beautiful with a lush tropical campus and many fine teachers. I remember mine well. Two, in particular, encouraged me to write. Mrs. June F. Briske, my second grade teacher, urged me to write my stories and poems in a notebook she gave me. Mr. William Messer, my high school English teacher instilled in me a love of Elizabethan literature and spurred me to write cogent critical essays.

I began writing short stories in high school, and the summer after I graduated in 1985, I submitted my story “Variant Text” to Commentary magazine. I hoped that the editors there wouldn't realize that I was only seventeen.

On a warm day in September I arrived at Harvard. I brought two suitcases, but no winter clothes, apart from a heavy black coat my mother had worn in the 60s. Stumbling through Harvard Square I made my way to Wigglesworth Hall. The phone rang. My father was calling to tell me that a letter had arrived from Commentary. Marion Magid, the managing editor there, had accepted my story. Years later, Marion told me, “Bubbe, don't forget who discovered you.”

While at Harvard I concentrated in English and philosophy. I took classes on Chaucer with Larry Benson and Derek Pearsall, seventeenth century poetry and Milton with Barbara Lewalski, Henry James with Michael Anesko and a playwriting workshop with Bill Alfred. I wrote my senior thesis on platonism in Paradise Lost under the direction of Barbara Lewalski.

At college I saw snow for the first time, and acquired my first pair of boots. I continued to publish short stories in Commentary, and in my junior year an agent named Irene Skolnick phoned me at Dunster House and asked to represent me. She sold a collection of my stories to Ted Solotaroff at what was then called Harper & Row. Irene and I have been together ever since.

The day I graduated in 1989 was also the day my first book was published. On graduation day, Harper & Row sent me a basket of flowers. My parents flew in from Hawaii and brought me a lei. At commencement, we students wore black arm bands in solidarity with the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. A young Benazir Bhutto spoke about human rights and free elections. That summer I married my classmate, David Karger, and we spent the next year in England, where David studied maths at Cambridge as a Churchill Scholar.

After our return from England, David and I began graduate programs at Stanford where I wrote my second book, The Family Markowitz. Most of the stories in this book were published in The New Yorker.

At Stanford I studied Shakespeare with Stephen Orgel and Pat Parker, and Marlowe and Jonson with David Riggs. I also took courses in Medieval Drama with Seth Lerer, eighteenth century literature with John Bender, English Romanticism with George Dekker and early American literature with Jay Fliegelman. I wrote my dissertation on Samuel Johnson's edition of Shakespeare under the direction of Stephen Orgel and earned my PhD in English literature in 1997.

I love research and literary scholarship. Many people tell me that they have novels inside of them. I am a novelist with a scholarly book inside of me. I hope to write one someday.

When David accepted a job at MIT, we moved back to Cambridge Mass, and have lived there ever since. In Cambridge I completed my novels Kaaterskill Falls, Paradise Park, Intuition, and The Other Side of the Island. I am not currently teaching, but I have taught a writing workshop in the graduate program in Creative Writing at Boston University. My class focused on revision—a subject I know well. I revise my own work extensively on my own, and with the incisive comments of my editor, Susan Kamil at Dial Press. I love scribbling in purple pen all over a typed draft.

These days I write while my four children are at school. At times the year seems like one snow day, sick day, and staff day after another, but somehow, slowly, my work gets done. I love my job. Each book teaches me something new about character and plot and structure. I am dedicating my life to learning how to tell a story.