I was born in Flatbush, Brooklyn (NY), as World War II was ending. After the demobilization of my father and cancer death of my grandfather (who had come from Lithuania to open a brewery, closed for Prohibition in 1920), my orphaned parents moved to a housing project in Brownsville, Brooklyn. It ensured a roof over the heads of my brother, sister and me. My favorite childhood hobby was searching for "good places," which eventually led me to Staten Island. However, there are still chunks of Brooklyn deep in my heart, reflected in my comedic sci-fi novel, "Venus Turning."
Sometimes things are so bad, they're good. Such was my alma mater, P.S. 125 in Brownsville. The 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-grade sewing lessons stand out as a particular highlight. The school did not clutter up my head with excessive knowledge, which left more room to do well in college. Down the street from elementary school was a splendid public library, and I read novels non-stop. After all, fiction (and its extensions -- movies and plays and dramatic music) is for most of us the teacher that helps us to make sense of reality itself.
My high school was Thomas Jefferson in East New York, known as the alma mater of Danny Kaye. Though its glory days were over, I was still lucky to be there when I was: my art teacher, Don Fabricant, and creative-writing teacher, Benjamin Goodman, attained some national recognition for their original work, and their colleagues also had high aspirations. My family moved out of Brownsville for my senior year, when I transferred to Tilden High School (still in Brooklyn), and being fifteen, I dreamed intensely about slipping away after graduation. However, the Tilden faculty made sure that everyone applied to the City University of New York; and so, I ended up with having to accept my acceptance at tuition-free Hunter College in Manhattan. Unable to find a summer job, in despair I looked for the summer course at Hunter that promised to be the most fun. To a fiction enthusiast, that was Intensive Russian. So began my careers in translating, researching, and ultimately teaching.
At first, in order to acquire a broad background for teaching -- but later, because I came under a kind of enchantment, -- I remained in graduate school at Columbia's Russian Institute and their Slavic Languages department for seven years.
When finally pried loose from grad school, I taught at William Paterson College (NJ), Pace University (NYC), and Yeshiva University (NYC), where I started up Russian and East-European-related programs. Free at last! I am now retired.
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by Diana Nakeeb
"Venus Turning" is a humorous novel with a sci-fi flavor, about scientists, politicians, plutocrats, and just-plain-citizens trying to jump into the future before it overtakes them. Adult readers will do double-takes, seeing the potential selves of people they already know. Younger readers will be carried along for the fun of it, as they travel with characters of all ages, including their own.
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