Dean Carol Becker Releases New Memoir

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School of the Arts Dean Carol Becker’s new book-length essay, Losing Helen, will be published in September by Red Hen Press. The book is a personal meditation on loss, end-of-life care and spirituality, centered around Becker’s relationship with her dying mother and her attempts to ensure that the 98-year-old’s final moments are dignified and meaningful.

Becker will discuss her work with Nonfiction Concentration Director Phillip Lopate on Tuesday, September 20, at Buell Hall, as part of Columbia’s ongoing Complex Issues series.

Losing Helen has already received rave advance reviews from such sources as Kirkus Reviews, which called the work a “powerful evocation of a mother’s death and of the events immediately preceding them,” and Publishers Weekly, which asserted that “this quiet, lovely memoir … deserves a wide audience.”

The New Yorker staff writer and Writing Program Professor Hilton Als shares the sentiment. "Carol Becker's extraordinary transcription of grief and love transcends various forms——memoir, autobiography——to become something else entirely: a work of literature that is entirely sui generis, constantly surprising, real, and, like the truth, beautiful and sustaining,” he wrote. “A book to be treasured, embraced, and learned from." Dr. Mark Epstein, author of Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart and The Trauma of Everyday Life called the work “Brave, honest, and moving,” adding: “Losing Helen is also unexpectedly comforting. It makes it clear that kindness, clarity and insight can arise out of a willingness to face the traumas of our lives." —

Becker, who recently received the Dayawati Modi Award for Art, Culture and Education, has a PhD in English and American literature from the University of California, San Diego, and has received honorary doctorates from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Ireland. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post, the Brooklyn Rail and Art in America, and has published numerous books in the field of cultural criticism, including The Invisible Drama: Women and the Anxiety of Change, which has been translated into seven languages; The Subversive Imagination: Artists, Society and Social Responsibility; Zones of Contention: Essays on Art, Institutions, Gender, and Anxiety; Surpassing the Spectacle: Global Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art; and Thinking in Place: Art, Action, and Cultural Production. Prior to her position as Dean of Faculty at the School of the Arts, she was Dean of Faculty and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Art in Society.

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.