Anne Bernays’s work as novelist and nonfiction writer is notable for its literary quality and as a running commentary on manners and customs. She comes from a background of high achievement.
Her parents, Edward L. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and Doris E. Fleischman, were successful pioneers in the field of public relations. Anne Bernays was born in New York City on September 14, 1930, and raised in privileged circumstances. Bernays attended the Brearley School from 1939 to 1948 before going on to Wellesley College and graduating in 1952 from Barnard College, which she favored for its urban setting and social diversity. During these years she developed a critical distance from her parents’ confidently articulated opinions. After college, she worked briefly for Town and Country and then as managing editor of Discovery, a magazine of new writing. This brought her into contact with the literary and social culture of Greenwich Village and defined her subsequent career.
In 1954, she married biographer Justin Kaplan; they had three daughters and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1962, she published Short Pleasures, the first of her eight novels. In Professor Romeo (1989), Bernays applied her eye and idiom to the subject of sexual harassment. The New York Times Book Review featured it on page one and listed it as a notable book of the year. In Bernays’s fifth novel, Growing Up Rich, she wrote about being Jewish in America. Its young, orphaned hero traverses the vexed territory between “Our Crowd” and Russian Jewry, New York’s Upper East Side and suburban Brookline, Massachusetts, and the opposed policies of assimilation and separateness they represent. Growing Up Rich received the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for its contribution to American Jewish life. By this time, Bernays had come to reject her father’s claim that to be Jewish was purely elective. Although far from religiously observant, she has been increasingly active as a board member of such ventures as the Vilna Center for Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Film Festival, both based in Boston.
In addition to her novels, Bernays has written dozens of reviews, travel and opinion essays for national publications, as well as two nonfiction books: What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers (1990, with Pamela Painter) and The Language of Names (1997, with Justin Kaplan). She has taught at several institutions, from 1992 to 1995 at the College of the Holy Cross as Jenks Professor of Contemporary Letters and, more recently, at Boston University’s College of Communications. Active in the literary and artistic community, she founded and for many years served on the executive board of PEN/New England. She is on the advisory board of the National Writers Union and has also been chair of the board of trustees of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, near her summer home in Truro. She is a member of the Century Association in New York.
Bernays is a dedicated swimmer, walker, traveler, singer and player of word games as well as an enthusiastic grandmother. She has managed to resolve many of the tensions of being a Jew, a woman and a writer in America.
SELECTED WORKS BY ANNE FLEISCHMAN BERNAYS
Growing Up Rich (1975); The Language of Names, with Justin Kaplan (1997); Professor Romeo (1989); Short Pleasures (1962); What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, with Pamela Painter (1990); Trophy House (2005).
Contemporary American Authors; Who’s Who in America.
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How to cite this page
Kaplan, Justin. "Anne Fleischman Bernays." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 7, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/bernays-anne-fleischman>.