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Raphael, Lev 1954-

RAPHAEL, Lev 1954-

PERSONAL: Born May 19, 1954, in New York, NY; son of Alex and Helen (Klaczko) Steinberg. Education: Fordham University—Lincoln Center, B.A., 1975; University of Massachusetts—Amherst, M.F.A., 1978; Michigan State University, Ph.D., 1986. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES: Home—4695 Chippewa Dr., Okemos, MI 48864. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Michigan State University, East Lansing, instructor in education, 1983–85, assistant professor of American thought and language, 1985–88; scholar and writer, 1988–. Adjunct instructor, Fordham University—Lincoln Center, 1976–80, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, 1979. Intern with Teacher Development and Organizational Change Project, Institute for Research on Teaching, 1984–86; associate editor in College of Education, 1985–86; educational consultant to numerous municipal and state offices in Michigan.

AWARDS, HONORS: Harvey Swados Fiction Prize, University of Massachusetts—Amherst, 1977; Reed Smith Prize, Amelia, 1988, for "The Life You Have;" Lambda Literary Award, 1990, for Dancing on Tisha B'av; International Quarterly Prize for Innovative Writing, 1995.

WRITINGS:

(With Gershen Kaufman) Dynamics of Power: Building a Competent Self, Schenkman (Cambridge, MA), 1983, revised edition published as Dynamics of Power: Fighting Shame and Building Self-Esteem, 1991.

Dancing on Tisha B'Av (short stories), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.

(With Gershen Kaufman) Stick Up for Yourself: Every Kid's Guide to Personal Power and Positive Self-Esteem, Free Spirit Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1990, teacher's guide (with Gerry Johnson and Gershen Kaufman), 1991.

Edith Wharton's Prisoners of Shame: A New Perspective on Her Neglected Fiction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Winter Eyes: A Novel about Secrets, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.

(With Gershen Kaufman) Coming Out of Shame: Transforming Gay and Lesbian Lives, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1996.

Journeys & Arrivals: On Being Gay and Jewish, Faber (Boston, MA), 1996.

The German Money, Leapfrog Press (St. Paul, MN), 2003.

Secret Anniversaries of the Heart: New and Selected Stories, Leapfrog Press (St. Paul, MN), 2006.

NICK HOFFMAN MYSTERY NOVELS

Let's Get Criminal, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

The Edith Wharton Murders, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

The Death of a Constant Lover, Walker (New York, NY), 1999.

Little Miss Evil, Walker (New York, NY), 2000.

Burning Down the House, Walker (New York, NY), 2001.

Tropic of Murder, John Daniel and Co., (Palo Alto, CA), 2004.

OTHER

Work represented in anthologies, including Men on Men 2, edited by George Stambolian, New American Library, 1988; Certain Voices, edited by Darryl Pilcher, Alyson, 1991; and The Faber Anthology of Short Gay Fiction, Faber, 1991. Contributor of short stories and articles to scholarly journals, popular magazines, and newspapers, including Reconstructionist, Redbook, Christopher Street, Evergreen Chronicles, Commentary, American Imago, Tikkun, and Journal of Popular Literature. Detroit Free Press, mystery columnist; National Public Radio, book critic.

SIDELIGHTS: "The dual identity of being gay and Jewish is [Lev] Raphael's grand theme," according to Ray Olson in Booklist. Raphael has written of this theme in such nonfiction titles as Coming Out of Shame: Transforming Gay and Lesbian Lives and Journeys & Arrivals: On Being Gay and Jewish. In his mystery novels featuring Nick Hoffman, a gay academic, Raphael pokes fun at the pretensions of university life.

In Coming Out of Shame, Raphael and coauthor Gershen Kaufman "explain how one emotion—shame—affects, overwhelmingly negatively, the lives of homosexuals," as Olson noted in Booklist. According to Marny Hall in the Lambda Book Report, the authors find the remedy for shame to be "a healthy dose of self-awareness." Olson concluded that Coming Out of Shame is "a singularly intelligent example of the psychological self-help game."

Journeys & Arrivals gathers together a number of Raphael's writings, including autobiographical essays first published in magazines. Olson believed that "any of these essays may well become a future anthology piece, for each is that perspicacious and artful, whatever the particular subject." Eric A. Gordon in the Lambda Book Report called the collection "a knowing and loving, if fractionary, autobiography," especially praising Raphael's "poetically sketched portraits of his emotionally deficient father and (later) clinically withdrawn mother."

In his mystery novels, Raphael writes of the fictional State University of Michigan, where Nick Hoffman teaches English. Based in part on Raphael's own experiences teaching at Michigan State University, the Hoffman mysteries revolve around academic rivalries. Let's Get Criminal finds Hoffman investigating the murder of a fellow teacher known for his shady past and unscrupulous methods. The critic for Publishers Weekly found that Raphael "delivers literate, witty, mildly suspenseful goods." In The Edith Wharton Murders, Hoffman is drawn in when the rivalry between factions in the Wharton academic camp leads to murder. Whitney Scott in Booklist called the novel "a witty, fast-paced gay mystery that is also a hilarious send-up of academia at its quietly snarling worst."

Raphael continues with his series featuring Nick Hoffman with The Death of a Constant Lover. Here the amateur sleuth witnesses the death of the son of one the college's department heads, but up for tenure, Hoffman might risk such security by following his inclination to investigate the incident. A hate crime complicates matters in this "delight for Nick's confirmed fans and new fans alike," according to Whitney Scott, writing in Booklist. Rex E. Klett, reviewing the same title in Library Journal, praised the "author's often witty insight," and Scott also commended the manner in which Raphael "elegantly skewers ivorytower pretension." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the same work "sneaky, subversive fun." Raphael's fourth Nick Hoffman novel, Little Miss Evil, again involves campus politics when a best-selling female author gets an endowed chair and a hefty salary. The rest of the English department turns green with envy, and Nick's lover, writer-in-residence Stefan, is less than impressed with the new author on campus. When the female author is killed—albeit three-fourths of the way through the novel—Nick and Stefan delve into the mystery. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly thought "this satire of academia is an enjoyable diversion, despite its uneven, late-developing plot." Likewise, Scott, writing in Booklist, complained of the "dubious plotting that flies in the face of murder mystery traditions." Richard Auton, writing in Lambda Book Report, was more positive in his assessment, however. He called the novel a "convivial read," and one "loaded with spry, humorous characterizations and biting side comments."

Nick makes another appearance in Burning Down the House. Academic politics are worse than ever in this installment, and now Nick and Stefan may be headed for a break up as Nick comes to the aid of colleague Juno Dromgoogle, the object of a stalker, and soon also the object of Nick's confused affections. Here, as Scott noted in Booklist, Raphael seems to follow the technique of plot arc developed in Little Miss Evil, in which the murder happened late in the course of the novel. However, with Burning Down the House, "the corpse never shows up," as Scott observed. A contributor for Publishers Weekly felt that such a device was questionable, as "Raphael doesn't generate enough narrative momentum or suspense to hold the reader's interest." Similarly, for a contributor to Kirkus Reviews, the novel was "all complication and scant resolution." There is a murder in Tropic of Murder, though once again it comes late in the book. Nick and Stefan are escaping the chill of Michigan at the tropic resort of Serenity, which does not live up to its name. Worst of all, Nick is dogged there by a student from his university. When a staff member of the resort is found dead in the swimming pool, Nick and Stefan swing into action. In the course of the mystery, Raphael also manages to take ironic swipes at favorite topics from campus politics to resorts and the world of publishing and literary celebrity. In fact, for Robert Taylor, reviewing the work in Lambda Book Report, such "romps are what made this ride worthwhile." Scott, writing in Booklist, also noted that Tropic of Murder was not the usual mystery, commenting that "some mystery fans may feel let down," while still others will "cheer it." A further mixed review came from a Kirkus Reviews critic who concluded that "Raphael's wit is sharp as ever, though his complicated plot yields a solution far too pedestrian for its build-up."

Raphael takes a break from campus politics and mayhem with his 2003 novel, The German Money, an "unconventional Holocaust novel," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In this novel, Paul, a librarian from Michigan, becomes the heir to a million dollars, which his just-deceased mother received as reparations from the German government. That Paul is the only heir does not ingratiate him with his other siblings. He also wonders about his mother's death, for she was in good health. The reviewer for Publishers Weekly commended the "sharpness of the family portrait and the appeal of the romantic subplot, [which] make this an engaging read." On a less positive note, a critic for Kirkus Reviews found the same novel a "constricted tale of unresolved mourning," but also felt it was "partly redeemed" by Raphael's surprise ending. Roberta Johnson, writing in Booklist, had a higher assessment of The German Money, calling it a "heartfelt departure from [Raphael's] brittle, clever mysteries."

Raphael once told CA: "I was born and raised in New York City, the son of Holocaust survivors. My success as a writer, my having appeared in documentaries, keynoted conferences around the world, and seen my writing studied in classrooms and analyzed in scholarly journals, is a testament to the drive of the second generation and the freedom of the United States."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 1996, Ray Olson, review of Coming Out of Shame: Transforming Gay and Lesbian Lives, p. 759; February 1, 1996, Ray Olson, review of Journeys & Arrivals: On Being Gay and Jewish, p. 902; April 1, 1996, Ray Olson, review of Let's Get Criminal, p. 1347; September 1, 1997, Whitney Scott, review of The Edith Wharton Murders, p. 66; March 1, 1999, Whitney Scott, review of The Death of a Constant Lover, October 1, 2001, Whitney Scott, review of Burning Down the House, p. 302; September 1, 2003, Roberta Johnson, review of The German Money, p. 61; September 1, 2004, Whitney Scott, review of Tropic of Murder, p. 663.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2001, review of Burning Down the House, p. 1072; July 15, 2003, review of The German Money, p. 941; July 15, 2004, review of Tropic of Murder, p. 663.

Lambda Book Report, July, 1996, Marny Hall, review of Coming Out of Shame, p. 13; September-October, 1996, Eric A. Gordon, review of Journeys & Arrivals, p. 31; February, 1997, Kevin Allman, review of Let's Get Criminal, p. 33; September, 2000, Richard Auton, review of Little Miss Evil, p. 17; October, 2004, Robert Taylor, "A Romp in Paradise," review of Tropic of Murder, p. 28.

Library Journal, March 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Death of a Constant Lover, p. 113; July, 2003, Andrea Kempf, review of The German Money, p. 125.

Publishers Weekly, February 26, 1996, review of Let's Get Criminal, p. 88; March 29, 1999, review of The Death of a Constant Lover, p. 94; April 17, 2000, review of Little Miss Evil, p. 54; August 13, 2001, review of Burning Down the House, p. 288; September 22, 2003, review of The German Money, p. 84.

ONLINE

Books&Bytes, http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (July 28, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Burning Down the House.

Crescent Blues, http://www.crescentblues.com/ (July 28, 2003), Dawn Goldsmith, review of Little Miss Evil.

Leapfrog Press, http://www.leapfrogrpess.com/ (July 28, 2003), synopsis of The German Money.

Lev Raphael Home Page, http://www.levraphael.com (August 24, 2005).

Mystery Reader, http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (October 15, 1999), Cathy Sova, "Meet Lev Raphael"; (July 28, 2003), Jeri Wright, review of The Death of a Constant Lover.

Readers Read, http://www.readersread.com/ (July 28, 2003), Claire E. White, review of Burning Down the House.

Under the Covers, http://www.silcom.com/ (February 26, 1999), Harriet Klausner, review of The Death of a Constant Lover; (April 1, 2000), Harriet Klausner, review of Little Miss Evil.

Writers Write, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (May, 1999), Claire F. White, "A Conversation with Lev Raphael."

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