New Biography by Alumna Susan Hertog Celebrated at Roosevelt House
Hunter College Creative Writing MFA students and faculty gathered at Roosevelt House with friends, family, and colleagues to celebrate the release of Susan Hertog's new book Dangerous Ambition: Rebecca West and DorothyThompson: New Women in Search of Love and Power. The event took place November 8.
Hertog, a Hunter alumna ('65) and a prominent supporter of the College's Creative Writing Program, is a freelance journalist and photographer. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Columbia and is the author of one previous book, Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life. She and her husband, AllianceBernstein Vice Chairman Roger Hertog, established and fund the Hertog Fellowship, which provides Hunter and Columbia MFA students the opportunity to work as research assistants alongside some of the world's most celebrated writers, including Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Franzen, and Richard Ford.
"Susan's books display her brilliance both as a writer and as a historian," Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab said in her introductory remarks. "She understands that we forget history at our own peril, and she certainly has not forgotten her own history. Tonight, we celebrate not only her new book, but also what she is doing for Hunter students now because of what Hunter did for her then."
"My time at Hunter was a watershed moment in my life," said Hertog. "As the daughter of immigrants from Eastern Europe, I had not previously been taken seriously as someone worthy of education. Hunter gave me access to great minds in history, literature, and philosophy, and I owe a great debt to this College."
Dangerous Ambition, published this month by Random House, is a dual biography of the writers Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson, who were among the first to expose the dangers of Nazism.
"This book grew out of my biography of Anne Morrow Lindbergh," Hertog said. "While researching the Lindbergh story, I saw two names crop up, Dorothy Thompson and Rebecca West, more than any others. I wanted to know who these women were and why their bold, uncompromising voices were everywhere."
Thompson and West were born in the 1890s on opposite sides of the Atlantic and were friends for more than 40 years. Among their many common experiences were their tumultuous relationships with famous authors (Thompson with Sinclair Lewis and West with H.G. Wells). Through their journalistic writing, both shaped public opinion, promoted feminist principles, and provided early warnings of the dangers of fascism and communism.
"I wonder if I would have had the courage they had," Hertog said. "I cannot fathom the guts and tenacity it took to fight all of the hurdles they did at a time when women were expected to stay home and give no thought to their own desires."