Ben is a prose writer, working in the forms of novels, short stories, and essays. In all of these forms, he is primarily interested in narrative—both the individual narratives of people’s lives, and the larger cultural and national narratives that inform their lives. Ben’s published works include The Sea Beach Line (Fig Tree Books, 2015), a literary thriller novel inspired by his experiences as a street vendor in lower Manhattan, and the history monograph Punk In NYC’s LES, 1991-1991 (Microson Press, 2014). His short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in publications such as Glimmer Train, Tikkun, Contingent Magazine, Narratively, Jewish Currents, and The Rumpus. He is in the process of completing an archivally-based novel about the afterlives of a union war fought in downstate Illinois in the 1930s. Ben holds an MFA from the City College of New York and a PhD from SUNY Albany. He has taught creative writing courses to students throughout New York State. Currently, he teaches developmental English in the City University of New York’s community college system in the Bronx.
LABA Project Description:
For the past several years, my writing has focused on the relationship between fiction and historiography, and on finding new ways to tell stories about the past. For my LABA Project, I intend to craft stories about Jewish experiences in Late Medieval Central Europe. Jewish life in this area and era was subject to state-imposed restrictions on where Jews could live, how they could live, and sometimes if they could live at all. Aside from external restrictions, Jewish communal life in pre-modern Europe entailed its own taboos on how community members interact with the larger, Christian world. One type of archive I intend to work with as I explore this history through fiction is Medieval “fetchbooks” (or fighting manuals), as some contain references to Jewish fencing or wrestling masters. This opens possibilities to consider how individual Jews used their bodies and related to violence. I am excited to excavate and reimagine individual Jewish lives lived in this particular diasporic context. Further, I am generally excited for the opportunity to consider historical diaspora communities not just as sites of restriction, dislocation, and tragedy, but as sites of agency, resistance, creativity, and cultural production.
What Taboo Would You Like To Break?
I don’t know if this is as much of a taboo as it used to be, but I would like to get my hands tattooed. I am thinking of getting “OPEN BOOK” across my knuckles. I already have “FAITH” and “DOUBT” on my feet, so I think this will be a good addition.