Hazleton, Lesley 1945–

views updated

Hazleton, Lesley 1945–

PERSONAL:

Born September 20, 1945, in Reading, England; immigrated to the United States, 1979; became an American citizen, 1994. Education: Manchester University, B.A. (with honors), 1966; Hebrew University of Jerusalem, M.A., 1971.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Seattle, WA. Agent—Gloria Loomis, Watkins-Loomis, Inc., 133 E. 35th St., Ste. 1, New York, NY 10016. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer and psychologist. Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem, Israel, features writer, 1968-73; Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, lecturer in psychology, 1970-72; Jerusalem Experimental High School, Jerusalem, founding teacher and counselor, 1972-75; Time-Life Inc., Jerusalem, reporter, 1973-76; Pennsylvania State University, visiting professor in creative nonfiction, 1989-93. Distinguished writer in residence at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, 1986; lecturer. Fellow at MacDowell Colony, 1980, 1982, and 1986; guest of Corporation of Yaddo, 1981, 1983, and 1986; appeared on radio and television programs, including "Today" and "The Phil Donahue Show."

AWARDS, HONORS:

Washington State Book Award Winner, 2005, for Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother; American Jewish Committee Nonfiction Book Award, 1987, for Jerusalem, Jerusalem.

WRITINGS:

Israeli Women: The Reality behind the Myths, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1978.

Where Mountains Roar: A Personal Report from the Sinai and Negev Desert, Holt (New York, NY), 1980.

The Right to Feel Bad: Coming to Terms with Normal Depression, Dial/Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem: A Memoir of War and Peace, Passion and Politics, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1986.

England, Bloody England: An Expatriate's Return, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Confessions of a Fast Woman, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1992.

Everything Women Always Wanted to Know about Cars: But Didn't Know Who to Ask, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1995.

Driving to Detroit: An Automotive Odyssey, Free Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.

Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including On Being a Jewish Feminist, edited by Suzannah Heschel, Schocken, 1983; Psychology and Personal Growth, edited by A. Arkoff, Allyn & Bacon, 1987; Diamonds Are Forever: Writers and Artists on Baseball, Chronicle Books/Smithsonian Institution, 1987; Ladies, Start Your Engines, edited by Elinor Nauen, Faber and Faber, 1997, and The New Millennium Reader, edited by Stuart and Terry Hirschberg, Prentice Hall, 2002.

Contributing editor to Harper's, 1980-82, Lear's, 1989-94, and Self, 1994-96. Author of "Hers" column in New York Times, 1986, of monthly column for Fame, 1988-89, and of weekly car column for the Detroit Free Press, 1996-2000. Contributor to periodicals, including American Heritage, Esquire, Harper's, Vanity Fair, Geo, Connoisseur, Vogue, New York Times Magazine, Nation, New Republic, New York Review of Books, Artforum, Tikkun, Money, Town and Country, Mirabella, Time, Salon, and Science Digest.

SIDELIGHTS:

A former psychologist and journalist, Lesley Hazleton has written widely about religious, social, and cultural issues in such works as Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen and Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother. Hazleton has also established a reputation as one of the few female authors to write seriously about cars. An automotive columnist for several years, she has penned a number of works about the subject, including Confessions of a Fast Woman, Everything Women Always Wanted to Know about Cars: But Didn't Know Who to Ask, and Driving to Detroit: An Automotive Odyssey.

Hazleton's first book about cars is Confessions of a Fast Woman, published in 1992. In this title Hazleton chronicles some of the experiences that she sought out as a columnist when she wanted to understand cars and car culture more concretely. In possibly the most dramatic example, Hazleton studied to become a race car driver, and successfully drove at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. Hazleton writes not only about the necessary steps she needed to take to learn to drive race cars, but also about the feeling of driving one—the freedom of flying along at those speeds, and the contrast with the values she learned as a child, when women were not expected to undertake such dangerous, physically challenging activities. The tale "is a pleasure to read," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

In Everything Women Always Wanted to Know about Cars, Hazelton examines women's attitudes about automobiles and offers advice on purchasing and maintaining a vehicle. Using research gathered from a series of focus groups, the author determined that reliability was the single most important factor women consider when choosing a car. She also learned that women—just like men—form strong bonds with their vehicles. "What struck me about the groups was the intimacy, the honesty with which the women talked about cars as part of their lives," Hazleton told Seattle Times contributor Sherry Stripling. "While cars mean the same thing to women as they do to men—power, freedom, control—the fact is power, freedom and control means much more to women than to men because it's still relatively new to them." Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, called Everything Women Always Wanted to Know about Cars "a practical but nonetheless hugely entertaining car handbook for women."

Hazleton's automotive adventures continue in Driving to Detroit. This story follows Hazleton as she spends six months driving from her home in Seattle, south to Texas, and then north to Detroit for the annual North American International Detroit Auto Show. Along the way she stops off at the Bonneville Salt Flats, where she takes a spin in her Ford Expedition (on loan from the Ford Motor Company) and muses about the irony of the fact that the salt flats are disappearing because of all of the pollution in the cars' exhaust. She spends a shift working on the assembly line at a Saturn plant in Tennessee and helps to crush cars at a junkyard in Texas. She also attends a conference about car crashes in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stops to chat with a Catholic priest-turned-mechanic who fixes up old cars for poor families, and visits a company that builds armored cars for politicians and other dignitaries. This varied itinerary helps Hazleton to paint "a vivid portrait of the bizarre and hidden aspects of American car culture," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Although Hazleton likes cars, she is aware of the harm that they can do, both to the environment and to human beings, and this "conflict … gives depth and resonance to her entertaining chronicle," Donna Seaman commented in Booklist. New York Times Book Review contributor Laura Mansnerus echoed this comment, noting that, "most satisfying, at least to the urbanite who abhors them, is [Hazleton's] commentary on sport utility vehicles."

Hazleton's 2004 publication, Mary, is in many ways a return to her roots. Hazleton, who describes herself in the introduction to this book as "a Jew who once seriously considered becoming a rabbi, a former convent schoolgirl who daydreamed about being a nun, an agnostic with a deep sense of religious mystery though no affinity for organized religion," lived in Israel for many years, writing about the religion and culture of the Middle East for a series of English-language periodicals. She draws on those experiences in Mary (as well as in her future works on religious topics), in which she uses her knowledge of Jewish history to create unconventional, but historically plausible, recreations of individual lives.

"I wrote this book to honor Mary in her reality—and out of a deep sense of respect," the author remarked in an interview on the Mary Life Web site. "The woman who emerges seems to me far more worthy of our admiration and even awe than the meek and mild figure we have been asked to believe in all these years. Instead of the pale, frail figure we are used to seeing in Renaissance art, we see a vibrant Middle Eastern woman, her face lined by hard work and harder experience. Her humanity is what makes her real—and inspiring." Reviewers noted that theologically orthodox Christians were likely to find Hazleton's speculations objectionable, but they also praised the depth of her research and the breadth of her tale. She "takes readers through an impressive array of historical, cultural, literary, and spiritual topics," Sandra Collins wrote in Library Journal, and a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Hazleton "has clearly done her scholarly homework."

In Jezebel, Hazleton examines the life of the Phoenician princess whose name has become synonymous with female decadence. The wife of King Ahab, Jezebel angered the prophet Elijah with her polytheistic beliefs; she suffered a brutal death after being thrown from a window and torn apart by dogs. According to Seattle Times critic Kimberly Marlowe Hartnettis, the author "challenges us to see the story in ultramodern terms, arguing that it is the original blame-the-victim case and a crucial lesson for us in this time of war and torture carried out in the name of God and freedom." "Hazleton pieces together her entertaining version of Jezebel's story with reportage from biblical locales, close readings of the Hebrew, bits of history, and asides about everything from the myths surrounding sacred prostitution to how dogs have been regarded in the Middle East through time," observed Wilson Quarterly reviewer Sarah L. Courteau, who added: "She attacks the project with the interpretive certitude necessary to contradict everything we think we know about the painted lady who spurred Israel's downfall and was the prototype for the Whore of Babylon in the book of Revelation." "Replete with apt comparisons to modern Middle Eastern conflicts, this revisionist portrait is equal parts fun and sobering," remarked a critic in Publishers Weekly.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Hazleton, Lesley, Where Mountains Roar: A Personal Report from the Sinai and Negev Desert, Holt (New York, NY), 1980.

Hazleton, Lesley, Jerusalem, Jerusalem: A Memoir of War and Peace, Passion and Politics, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Hazelton, Lesley, England, Bloody England: An Expatriate's Return, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Hazleton, Lesley, Confessions of a Fast Woman, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1992.

Hazleton, Lesley, Driving to Detroit: An Automotive Odyssey, Free Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Hazleton, Lesley, Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of Everything Women Always Wanted to Know about Cars: But Didn't Know Who to Ask, p. 23; October 1, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Driving to Detroit, p. 304; September 15, 1999, Brad Hooper, review of Driving to Detroit, p. 224; February 15, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Mary, p. 1006.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2004, review of Mary, p. 24; July 15, 2007, review of Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen.

Library Journal, September 1, 1998, Harold M. Otness, review of Driving to Detroit, p. 205; March 1, 2004, Sandra Collins, review of Mary, p. 83; October 1, 2007, Darby Orcutt, review of Jezebel, p. 76.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 10, 1988, review of Jerusalem, Jerusalem.

Maclean's, September 10, 2007, Brian Bethune, "Not Your Grandma's Jezebel: Inspired by Dan Brown, New Revisionist Books Rethink Some Biblical Icons," p. 89.

Ms., July, 1980, E.M. Broner, review of Where Mountains Roar, p. 32; July, 1984, Felicia H. Halpert, review of The Right to Feel Bad: Coming to Terms with Normal Depression, p. 104.

Nation, June 21, 1986, Arthur Hertzberg, review of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, p. 864; December 27, 1986, review of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, p. 744.

National Review, September 12, 1986, review of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, p. 46.

New Republic, May 9, 1981, John E. Mack, review of Where Mountains Roar, p. 38.

New Yorker, August 11, 1980, review of Where Mountains Roar, p. 91.

New York Times Book Review, February 26, 1978, review of Israeli Women: The Reality Behind the Myths, p. 12; September 14, 1980, Paul Zweig, review of Where Mountains Roar, p. 15; June 22, 1986, Cynthia Samuels, review of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, p. 27; February 18, 1990, Vicki Weissman, review of England, Bloody England, p. 21; October 11, 1998, Laura Mansnerus, review of Driving to Detroit, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, July 27, 1992, review of Confessions of a Fast Woman, p. 55; January 26, 1994, review of Mary, p. 249; August 10, 1998, review of Driving to Detroit, p. 376; July 23, 2007, review of Jezebel, p. 62; October 29, 2007, Kimberly Winston, "Rethinking Jezebel: Lesley Hazelton," p. 14.

Seattle Times, September 14, 1995, Sherry Stripling, "What Women Want in Wheels—It's Simple, According to Seattle Researcher Lesley Hazleton: A Car That's Reliable"; October 26, 2007, Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, "‘Biography’ of Jezebel Mixes Scripture, History and a Vivid Imagination."

Time, June 18, 1984, John Leo, review of The Right to Feel Bad, p. 91.

Wilson Quarterly, autumn, 2007, Sarah L. Courteau, "Was the Lady a Tramp?," p. 92.

Women's Review of Books, January, 1999, Linda Niemann, review of Driving to Detroit, p. 11.

ONLINE

Chicago Center for Literature and Photography Web site,http://www.cclapcenter.com/ (December 20, 2007), review of Jezebel.

Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen Web site,http://www.jezebelbook.com/ (July 1, 2008), Marsha Pincus, "Interview with Lesley Hazleton."

Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother Web site,http://www.marylife.org/ (July 1, 2008), "Q&A with Lesley Hazleton."

More Online,http://www.more.com/ (July 1, 2008), Thelma Adams, "The Real Sins of Jezebel."

Seattle Stranger Web site,http://www.thestranger.com/ (October 10, 2007), Charles Mudede, "She Lives on Lake Union but Lesley Hazleton's Mind Is in the Desert."