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Gayle Feldman is currently under contract to Random House for a biography of its cofounder Bennett Cerf - a book whose scope is nothing less than the cultural and social history of modern American publishing.
She was born and raised in Philadelphia (where growing up she watched Cerf every Sunday night on “What’s My Line”), and graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls and the University of Pennsylvania. Although as a girl she dreamed about becoming a foreign correspondent, she never quite conceived of herself publishing countless articles, a well-reviewed memoir, or a much-quoted academic monograph about bestsellers and prize-winning books. She hardly thought she would live for long periods in Europe and Asia as well as America. She never imagined undertaking a biography of one of the key cultural movers and shakers of twentieth-century America.
She took the road less travelled in 1973 when she moved to England, received her M.A. in Modern Languages from Cambridge University, and then taught for a year in Lille, France. She married an Englishman, returned to London and worked as an editor of academic and educational books for seven years. Her travels were helped by grants from the English-Speaking Union and the Sino-British Fellowship Trust.
From 1984-5 Gayle Feldman represented the British Publishers Association on a cultural exchange with the PRC, working in Beijing and Shanghai in Chinese publishing houses. While there she wrote her first articles, a series of monthly “Letters from China” for the London-based magazine The Bookseller, and published one of the earliest Western analyses of Chinese publishing in The China Quarterly (no. 107).
After returning to America and settling in New York City, she did graduate work in Chinese at Columbia University, directed public relations and publications at China Institute in America, and began to write features for Publishers Weekly. In January 1989 Gayle Feldman was named PW’s Book News Editor.
While expecting her son in 1991, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, the disease that had brought early death to her mother and grandmother. In 1994, W.W. Norton published her family memoir You Don’t Have to Be Your Mother, which was serialized in Reader’s Digest and The Ladies Home Journal; published in foreign editions in the U.K., Germany and Brazil; and reprinted by Fawcett.
Gayle Feldman embarked on a freelance career late in 1995, writing medical features for Self and other magazines; giving talks about breast cancer; and writing features about books and culture for The New York Times, The Nation, and other periodicals. Her science articles have been commended by the National Breast Cancer Awareness Awards; reprinted in Taking Sides: Issues in Health and Society (McGraw-Hill, 2003) and several other textbooks; reprinted in medical journals.
She continues as a contributing editor at PW, where she is responsible for a series of profiles about distinguished editors and their books. She became the New York correspondent for the London-based Bookseller in 1999, for which she writes a monthly “Letter from New York.”
Other essays - about her family, China, and books and writers - have appeared in The Times of London, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, The Far Eastern Economic Review, and on the Op-Ed page, in the Science section, and in the Book Review of The New York Times.
After being awarded a Pew-funded National Arts Journalism Program fellowship at Columbia University in 2001-2, Gayle Feldman spent a year and a half researching and writing a hundred-page study of bestsellers and prize-winning books to show how the book business evolved during the last quarter of the twentieth century as well as the directions it is taking early in the twenty-first century. Published by NAJP as a monograph, Best and Worst of Times: The Changing Business of Trade Books was published in March 2003, and has been reported or quoted in The New York Times, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, The Boston Globe, NPR’s On the Media, etc.
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