People to Watch Class of 2015
Photographed by Jeffery Johnston
Writer, Author & Associate Professor of English, Tulane University
Zachary Lazar says, like many writers, he fell in love with language and storytelling and decided to try it. One memoir, three novels and, this year, a John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters indicate that this writing thing seems to be working out.
“My favorite thing about writing is learning, through imagining and describing, what other people’s lives might feel like,” says Lazar. “I tend to write about people who are quite different from me and I like the challenge of trying to understand that difference.”
Swiftly putting his 1993 M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, Iowa Writer’s Workshop to good use, Lazar’s debut novel, the coming-of-age tale Aaron, Approximately, published in 1998 and has since collected a cadre of prestigious awards and accolades. In 2007, his second novel, Sway, received the Discover Great New Writers Award at Barnes & Noble and was an Editor’s Choice at the New York Times Book Review. Publishers Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Newsday and others later selected it as a “best book of ’08.” The Chicago Tribune selected the memoir Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder, as one of its a best books of ’09. Lazar then collected another Editor’s Choice at the New York Times Book Review and its 100 Notable Books of 2014 for his third novel, I Pity the Poor Immigrant.
The author currently is working on a novel set at the Louisiana State Penitentiary and in New Orleans.