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Ann Birstein Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: SCA-0024

Scope and Contents

The Ann Birstein Papers comprise the literary and personal papers of Ann Birstein. Correspondence from Alfred Kazin to Birstein documents their relationship, and includes original greeting cards, and handwritten and typed letters. The collection also includes correspondence from Birstein and Kazin’s friends and colleagues who included authors, editors, writers, and journalists, documenting their social and literary life and providing anecdotal accounts of notable creative figures. Also included in this collection are multiple drafts of handwritten and typed annotated manuscripts, galley proofs, book jackets, and research notes.

Personal memorabilia include Birstein’s teenage diary, appointment book, photographs, and scrapbook pages of newspaper clippings announcing the release of Birstein’s first novel. Some of these newspaper clippings are printed in Yiddish.


  • 1942-2007



Collection is open for research. Staff may restrict access at its discretion on the basis of physical condition.


The Ann Birstein Papers are physically owned by the Queens College Libraries. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assignees. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Queens College assumes no responsibility for the infringement of copyrights held by the original authors, creators, or producers of materials.


Ann Birstein was born to immigrant Jewish parents in New York City on May 27, 1927. Her father, Bernard Birstein, was an orthodox rabbi who opened a small synagogue on West 47th Street in Manhattan to Broadway actors. The small synagogue was transformed into what became widely known as The Actors Temple, and included Milton Berle and Jack Benny among its members. Growing up with the influence of The Actors Temple, Birstein developed many personal contacts with notable Jewish celebrities such as Eddie Cantor and Sophie Tucker.

After graduating from high school, Birstein majored in English at Queens College, receiving a B.A., magna cum laude, in 1948. While in attendance at Queens College, Birstein was encouraged by one of her advisors to enter a literary competition sponsored by a publishing house. On the basis of a novel manuscript for which she had written one chapter per week, Birstein was awarded the Dodd Mead Intercollegiate Literary Fellowship. Included in this award was the publication of her first novel, Star of Glass, in 1950. After her graduation from Queens College, Birstein pursued graduate work at Kenyon School of English in 1950 and in Sorbonne, Paris from 1951 to 1952.

Following the release of her first novel, Birstein’s editor introduced her to New York writer and literary critic, Alfred Kazin, with whom she developed a romantic relationship. With this introduction, Birstein found herself thrust into the height of New York’s literary and intellectual circles with literary giants such as Saul Bellow and Ralph Ellison as their most intimate friends.

Birstein married Alfred Kazin in 1952. From the early 1950s through the 1970s, Birstein and Kazin took various residences in New York, New England, and California to pursue Kazin’s university appointments. During this time, Birstein was awarded MacDowell Colony Fellowships to work on her writing. Birstein divorced Kazin in 1982, and did not remarry.

Birstein taught creative writing and lectured at Barnard, City College, Columbia University, Hofstra University, SUNY at Albany, The Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, The New School, Queens College, and various schools and community centers in the United States and abroad. Birstein’s honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Honorary Alumni Member Phi Beta Kappa, Fulbright Fellowship, and Queens College Scholar.

Birstein is the author of nine books, including seven works of fiction: Star of Glass (1950), The Troublemaker (1955), The Sweet Birds of Gorham (1966), Summer Situations (1972), Dickie’s List (1973), American Children (1980), The Rabbi on 47th Street (1982), The Last of the True Believers (1988) and What I Saw at the Fair (2003). Her short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in the New Yorker, McCall's, the New York Times, Book World, Mademoiselle, and Vogue.


13 Linear Feet (22 Document Boxes, 1 Print Box )

Language of Materials



The papers of Ann Birstein consist chiefly of manuscripts of published fiction and nonfiction works. The collection also includes correspondence, printed matter, photographs, and personal miscellany. The bulk of the correspondence consists of letters and postcards from Birstein’s husband, literary critic Alfred Kazin. Additional correspondence includes letters sent to Birstein from many notable writers, poets, editors, publishers, academics, and critics. Correspondents include Hannah Arendt, Dorothy Baker, Saul Bellow, Carl Bode, Marcel Breuer, Mary Ellen Chase, Joan Didion, Ralph Ellison, Germaine Greer, Erich Heller, David Ignatow, Elizabeth Janeway, Erica Jong, Bernard Malamud, Sophie Tucker, and Elie Wiesel. The collection also includes fan mail sent to Birstein throughout her career.


The Ann Birstein Papers are organized in the following series:

Series I: Correspondence

Series II: Manuscripts

Series III: Research and Notes

Series IV: Personal Memorabilia

Series V: Printed Materials

Each series is further organized into several subseries.


Gift of Ann Birstein, 2007, 2nd acquisition 2011.



Ann Birstein Papers
Processed by Tara Cuthbert, May 2009, 2nd acquisition by Evelyn Leahy, 2011, edited and approved by Alexandra Dolan-Mescal, 2012. Machine readable finding aid created by Dan Brenner, Spring 2014.
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Repository Details

Part of the Queens College (New York, N.Y.) Special Collections and Archives Repository

Queens College Library, CUNY
Benjamin Rosenthal Library RO317
65-30 Kissena Boulevard
Flushing 11367 USA us