R.I.P. ‘Writer’s Writer’ Rhoda Lerman

The critically acclaimed author died on August 30th at age 79 from complications of thyroid cancer, according to her husband, Bob.  She was living in Port Crane, N.Y at the time. Lerman had an extensive career, writing both novels and nonfiction; teaching and lecturing at such colleges and universities as Harvard, Syracuse, and Wisconsin; and, even managing “The Seven”, a New York local rock band, with her husband in the 1960’s. 

Lerman’s work focused on and combined feminism, Jewish moral struggles, history, mythology, and social criticism. She was known for her raunchy and humorous writing, and was referred to as a “writer’s writer” who “produces fascinating plots, and lush, seductive prose in the service of transcendent questions,” by Publisher’s Weekly.

Her first novel, Call Me Ishtar (1973) was published at age 33 and was an immediate critical success.  She went on to write more critically acclaimed and award-winning novels including; The Girl That He Marries (1979), The Book of the Night (1984) and God’s Ear (1980).  She started to explore the relationship between humans and animals, writing Animal Acts (1994) about a Long Island Housewife who embarks on a road-trip to self-discovery with Max, a gorilla.  Her nonfiction piece, Elsa Was Born A Dog, I Was Born a Human…Things Have Changed (2013) was awarded the Merial Special Award for Best Human-Animal Bond work at the Westminister dog show in February, 2014. 

In the late 1990’s, Lerman turned her novel Eleanor (1979), about Eleanor Roosevelt, into a one woman play. The act, starring Jean Stapelton, was well received by audiences and critics for its honest and candid portrayal of the life and struggles of the former first-lady. 

Lerman is survived by her husband Bob Lerman, three children, Jull Nezamek, Julia and Matthew Lerman, and two grandsons.  

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