Bel Kaufman (10 May, 1911 – 25 July, 2014) was an American author and educator known for her novel Up the Down Staircase (1964).
Fun Facts about Bel Kaufman:
- Ms. Kaufman, born as Bella, in Berlin, Germany to Russian immigrants.
- The family returned to Russia where her father became a physician and her mother wrote books under the name Lala Kaufman.
- The famous Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem is Ms. Kaufman’s grandfather.
- In 1922 the Kaufman family emigrated to the United States, where her father practiced medicine in Newark, NJ.
- Because she couldn’t speak English, the 12 year old Bella was placed with first graders at the public school, however she credits the teacher who helped her learn English in elementary school for her love of English Literature.
Putting a 12 year old with first grade students is a disgraceful and distasteful act which could have had a devastating lifetime effect (not a fact, just my take).
- Eventually Ms. Kaufman graduated from Hunter College, and got a Master’s degree in literature from Columbia University.
- Ms. Kaufman worked as a high school teach in New York City while writing part-time under the nom de plume “Bel” Kaufman.
- The author’s first novel, Up the Down Staircase (1964) told the story of…. an idealistic young English teacher, working in a New York City high school, and the gritty realities of the job. Not surprisingly, it was based on Ms. Kaufman’s experiences.
- Up the Down Staircase because a huge hit, it spent 64 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, was turned into a movie (which kept the name) and over 100 stage productions (including Broadway).
- When she was 99 year old, Hunter College hired Ms. Kaufman to teach a course on Jewish humor.
Zohar – Man of la Book
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