Erica Jong (b. 1942) was raised in New York City, where she first attracted attention as a poet, winning various awards for two volumes of verse published in the early 1970s. But she is best known for her first novel, Fear of Flying, which struck a chord with a country still reeling from the sexual revolution. Though it initially drew controversy for its frank depiction of female sexuality, it has sold more than eighteen million copies worldwide.
Jong followed her protagonist, Isadora Wing, through three more novels: How to Save Your Own Life, Parachutes and Kisses, and Any Woman's Blues. In addition to continuing to produce poetry, Jong has written historical fiction, most recently Sappho's Leap, and two memoirs, Fear of Fifty and Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life.
Erica Jong is an award-winning poet, novelist, and memoirist, and one of the nation’s most distinctive voices on women and sexuality. She has won many literary awards: the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry magazine (also awarded to Sylvia Plath and W. S. Merwin); a National Endowment for the Arts award; the first Fernanda Pivano Award in Italy (named for the critic who introduced Ernest Hemingway, Allen Ginsberg, and Erica Jong herself to the Italian public); the Sigmund Freud Award for Literature, also it Italy; the United Nations Award for Excellence in Literature; and the Deauville Award for Literary Excellence in France.
Raised by artists in the intellectual melting pot of New York’s Upper West Side, Jong graduated from the High School of Music & Art and Barnard College, where she majored in writing and Italian literature. She then completed a Master’s degree in eighteenth-century English literature at Columbia (1965) and began PhD studies. She first attracted serious attention as a poet, publishing her debut volume, Fruits & Vegetables, in 1971 and her second, Half-Lives, in 1973.
Also in 1973, she published the book for which she is best known. Partially drawing on Jong’s early life, as well as her wild imagination, Fear of Flying, hailed by John Updike as the female answer to Portnoy’s Complaint and The Catcher in the Rye, is about a woman trying to find herself and learn how to fly free of her repressions. Isadora Wing seeks to discover her soul and her sexuality, and in the process, she delves into erotic fantasy and experimentation, shocking many critics—but delighting readers.
While the book’s explicitness inevitably drew controversy, the novel has endured because of its psychological depth and wild humor. Its heroine, Isadora Wing, whose quest for liberation and happiness struck a chord with many readers, galvanized them to change their lives. The novel gathered momentum, eventually landing on top of the New York Times bestseller list. It has since sold over twenty-six million copies in forty languages. It has been as beloved in Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South America as in North America, and has been written about, studied, and taught in universities.
Erica Jong followed Isadora Wing through three additional novels, How to Save Your Own Life, Parachutes & Kisses, and Any Woman’s Blues. She has also published eight award-winning volumes of poetry and written brilliant historical fiction, like Fanny: Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones, a fantasy about what would have happened if Fielding’s Tom Jones had been a woman. She has written a glittering novel about sixteenth-century Venice (where she has spent many summers), Shylock’s Daughter or Serenissima, and an amazing recreation of ancient Greece, entitled Sappho’s Leap. Her moving memoir, Fear of Fifty, and her writer’s meditation on the craft, Seducing the Demon, have also been bestsellers in the United States and abroad. Her most recent publication is an anthology of women writing about the best sex they’ve ever had, Sugar in my Bowl.
Dividing her time between New York City and Weston, Connecticut, Jong lives with her husband, famed divorce attorney Ken Burrows, and a standard poodle named Belinda Barkowitz. Jong’s daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, is also a writer, and the mother of Jong’s three grandchildren, an eight-year-old and four-year-old twins.