Alumni Spotlight: Aaron Hamburger '01

September 09, 2014

The Alumni Spotlight is a place to hear from the School of the Arts alumni community about their journeys as artists and creators.

Aaron Hamburger '01, who grew up in West Bloomfield, is the author of four books: the story collection The View from Stalin's Head, winner of the Rome Prize in Literature, and the novels Faith for Beginners (a Lambda Literary Award nominee), Nirvana is Here (winner of a Bronze Medal in the 2019 Foreword Indie Awards), and the newly released Hotel Cuba. His writing has appeared in such venues as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Tin House, and O, the Oprah Magazine. He has also won the Jim Duggins PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize from Lambda Literary as well as fellowships from Yaddo, Djerassi, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Edward F. Albee Foundation.


Was there a specific faculty member or peer who especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?

Binnie Kirshenbaum was instrumental in inspiring not only me but also so many of my classmates while I was studying fiction writing at SoA. Her combination of warmth, wisdom, and straight talk helped me to understand where my writing worked and where it needed improvement. And her manner and practice as an educator has continued to inspire me as I have gone on to teach creative writing.

How did attending the School of the Arts impact your work and career as an artist?

In so many ways. My MFA served as a foundation for everything I have learned and done since. The experience of close reading Chekhov and Grace Paley with Richard Locke, or workshopping fiction with Mary Gordon, or working one-on-one with Ben Marcus in an independent study all worked to develop key critical thinking skills. My time at SoA was not so much about the transference of bits of information as it was teaching me how to frame and ask the right questions for whatever I would read and write in the future.

What were the most pressing social/political issues on the minds of the students when you were here?   

Certainly issues related to identity of all kinds were on people's minds

What was your favorite or most memorable class while at the School of the Arts?

I would say all my workshops were terrific, yet the class I keep going back to is 20th Century Non-Fiction and Fiction taught by Richard Locke. Before that class, I read literature as a fan. Richard Locke taught me to read as a fellow practitioner, a necessary mental shift that transformed me from an amateur to a professional.

Read more from the Alumni Spotlight series