Who is Jonathan Lethem?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Jonathan Lethem, born Jonathan Allen Lethem in Brooklyn on 19 February 1964, is an American writer. His father, Richard Brown Lethem, is a painter. Jonathan’s mother, Judith Lethem, who died of a brain tumor when he was thirteen years old, was a political activist. As a college student at Bennington College in Vermont, Lethem trained to be an artist. However, in the middle of his sophomore year, he dropped out and hitchhiked to California where he devoted his time to writing. The death of his mother and his upbringing in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn before it was gentrified are two major influences on his writing.

Lethem has published novels, short stories, essays, and even a comic book. He is known for bending genres. Gun, with Occasional Music, Lethem’s first novel, blends together aspects of science fiction and crime novels. Many of his novels have been very well received by critics. Motherless Brooklyn, for example, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Fortress of Solitude was a New York Times Best Seller. Critics have touted Lethem as a writer who can blend literary fiction and popular fiction. It is this blend that has allowed the writer to receive positive reviews from the critics and climb to the top of the sales charts.


The author has been married three times. His first marriage, in 1987, was to Shelley Jackson, a writer and artist. That marriage lasted approximately one decade. His second marriage, which took place in 2000, was to Julia Rosenberg. Rosenberg is a film executive from Canada. This second marriage lasted only about two years. Lethem is still married to his third wife, Amy Barrett, a filmmaker. Together, they have one son, Everett Barrett Lethem, who was born on 23 May 2007. Lethem currently lives in Brooklyn, quite near where he grew up.

A condensed bibliography of the author’s book-lengths work follows:


  • Gun, with Occasional Music (1994)
  • Amnesia Moon (1995)
  • As She Climbed Across the Table (1997)
  • Girl in Landscape (1998)
  • Motherless Brooklyn (1999)
  • The Fortress of Solitude (2003)
  • You Don't Love Me Yet (2007)

Short Fiction

  • The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye (1996)
  • Men and Cartoons (2004)
  • How We Got Insipid (2006)


  • This Shape We're In (2000)


  • The Disappointment Artist (2005)


  • Omega the Unknown (2007)

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