Jamaican poet, Times reporter to read work on displaced persons in America

Prize-winning Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison and New York Times reporter Joseph Berger, author of the acclaimed memoir Displaced Persons: Growing Up American After the Holocaust (Scribner, 2001), will give a talk about life  as a refugee in the U.S. at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 24, in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives, 70 Campus Ave. The lecture, titled Exiles in Paradise: Growing Up As a Refugee in America, is open to the public and free of charge.

“The challenge for many of us in the Lewiston-Auburn area is to try to get inside the heads of new immigrants who are coming to Lewiston to understand what they are thinking and feeling. Joe Berger will give us an opportunity to do that,” says James Carignan, dean of the college.

Born in the Soviet Union in 1945 to Jewish refugees from Poland, Berger wrote Displaced Persons about his family’s experience as immigrants in New York City in the 1950s and ’60s. It was selected as a New York Times “notable” book and warmly praised by reviewers in the Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune. Elie Wiesel called the book “a powerful and sweetly melancholic memoir, brilliantly written.” Previously Berger wrote The Young Scientists (Addison Wesley, 1993), a study of the country’s top science high schools and their students.

Berger has been a reporter and editor with The New York Times since 1984. He was a religion correspondent from 1985 to 1987, covering the Pope’s trip to 10 American cities in nine days, and national education correspondent from 1987 to 1990, a period when American school curricula were under attack as too European-focused. From 1990 until 1993, he covered New York City’s schools and colleges, a period when there were bitter controversies over condom distribution and AIDS instruction.

Berger received the1993 Education Writers Association Award for exposing abuses in bilingual education. Also in 1993, he was named Times bureau chief in White Plains, the bureau that covers Westchester and upstate New York. In September 1999, he was appointed deputy education editor, a role in which he helped direct coverage of the changes in national education policy, the firing of one New York school chancellor, the shaky tenure of another and a series on the first year of a new teacher. Since the summer of 2002, he has been a senior metropolitan reporter specializing in feature stories growing out of New York City’s changing neighborhoods and ethnic composition.

Prior to joining the Times, Berger worked as Newsday’s religion writer, where, three times, he won the Supple Award given by the Religion Newswriters Association, its highest honor. Berger also worked at the New York Post, covering such assignments as the 1973 Middle East War and Watergate. From 1967 to 1971, he was an English teacher at a Bronx junior high school.

Berger grew up in Manhattan and the Bronx. He is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, City College and the Bronx High School of Science.

View Comments