About Ruth


Ruth Behar was born in Havana, Cuba, and grew up in New York. She was twenty-six when she received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Princeton University. She is now the Victor Haim Perera Collegiate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. A writer, a cultural anthropologist, and a modern nomad, she has lived and worked in Spain, Mexico, and Cuba. She is known for her humanistic approach to understanding identity, immigration, and the search for home in our global era. Reviewers say her writings “tug at the heart” and reveal an artistry that allows her “to capture and share intimate stories while preserving their tellers’ dignity.”

Ruth’s books include The Presence of the Past in a Spanish Village; Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart; An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba; and Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys. She is co-editor of Women Writing Culture, editor of Bridges to Cuba/Puentes a Cuba, and co-editor of The Portable Island: Cubans at Home in the World. Her personal documentary, Adio Kerida/Goodbye Dear Love: A Cuban Sephardic Journey, distributed by Women Make Movies, has been shown in festivals around the world.

As much a provocative scholar as a creative writer, Ruth is also known for her essays, poetry, and fiction. Her literary work can be found in Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers; King David’s Harp: Autobiographical Essays by Jewish Latin American Writers; Taking Root: Narratives of Jewish Women in Latin America; Burnt Sugar/Caña Quemada: Contemporary Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish; The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry, a Bilingual Anthology; Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios; Sephardic-American Voices: Two Hundred Years of a Literary Legacy, and The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Many of her poems have been published in bilingual Spanish-English editions with Ediciones Vigía, an artisanal press in Matanzas, Cuba.

Her honors include a MacArthur “Genius” Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Senior Fellowship, and a Distinguished Alumna Award from Wesleyan University. She has received an Excellence in Education Award and a D’Arms Faculty Award for Distinguished Graduate Mentoring in the Humanities, both from the University of Michigan. She is also the recipient of a Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award from the Jewish Museum of Florida and was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Much in demand as a public speaker, Ruth has been invited in recent years to discuss her work in universities and public venues across the United States and Canada, and in locations as diverse as Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, Spain, Finland, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Poland, England, the Netherlands, Japan, and New Zealand.