Hope Edelman is the author of five nonfiction books, including Motherless Daughters; Motherless Mothers; and the recent memoir The Possibility of Everything. Her writing and teaching has garnered her acclaim as a writer, writing instructor, and expert on early mother loss.
Edelman was born in New York City and spent most of her childhood in suburban Spring Valley, New York. The death of her mother to breast cancer in 1981 was a pivotal moment in her adolescence and became the subject of much of her early writing. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Illinois. While living in the Chicago area, she interned at Outside magazine and in 1985 was chosen as an American Society of Magazine Editors summer intern. After graduation, she took an editorial job at Whittle Communications in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she discovered a love for the personal essay. She then attended the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa, where she studied with Carl Klaus, Mary Swander, and Carol Bly, earning a master’s degree in nonfiction writing in 1992.
Edelman’s first book, Motherless Daughters, was started and sold in proposal form to Addison-Wesley when she was still a graduate student at the University of Iowa. It was published in May 1994. A 17-city tour and extensive media coverage followed, pushing the book to the top of bestseller lists in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Motherless Daughters spent a total of 24 weeks on the New York Times list and rose to #1 in paperback. The book has since been published in twelve more countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, China, Korea, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
Moved by the volume and content of thousands of handwritten letters she received from readers, Edelman edited Letters from Motherless Daughters the following year. In 1999 she published Mother of My Mother, an examination of grandmother-granddaughter relationships. Motherless Mothers, an exploration and explanation of how motherless women parent their children differently than the general population, was released by HarperCollins in 2006.
In fall 2009 Edelman published her first full-length memoir, The Possibility of Everything (Ballantine). The book covers a three-month period during early motherhood when Edelman’s three-year-old daughter developed an aggressive imaginary friend and Edelman and her husband made the unconventional choice to bring the child to Maya healers in Belize in search of a spiritual cure. The story details Edelman’s personal journey over those weeks from a “hard-core cynical intellectual” to someone open to the possibility of the unseen. In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly called it “a charming memoir full of self-deprecating humor,” and People magazine lauded is as “an intimate account of the struggles of parenting, partnering and faith.”
Edelman has been teaching nonfiction writing for more than twenty years, most recently as an associate faculty member at Antioch University-LA. She has also taught at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the University of Iowa, and UCLA Extension, as well as at Joyce Maynard’s Write By the Lake workshop in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and upcoming at the Pacific Writer’s Conference in Kauai.
Awards include a Pushcart Prize for Creative Nonfiction and a New York Times Notable Book designation. Edelman has been a board member for PEN USA; Motherless Daughters of Orange County; and Motherless Daughters, Inc.; an advisory board member for Mommy’s Light; a founding member of SheWrites.com; and is currently a member of Northwestern’s Council of 100 group of notable women alumni.