I am an historian and award-winning filmmaker. I have a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Ph.D. in American History from New York University. I was part of the very first class of public historians at NYU and graduated with a degree in American history in 1990. Everything I do today, as a film maker and as an historian, is informed by my training as a public historian.
Currently I am the Director of the Gotham Center for New York City History at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. Our mission is to promote everything and everyone having anything to do with New York City history to the widest possible audience – that includes academics, students, history buffs, curators, archivists, tourists and others.
I lecture, write and consult about New York City history, especially the history of the Lower East Side. I have published widely on topics such as the Great Depression, Jewish nostalgia, housing, restaurant culture, tourism, pushcart peddling, silent films, 19th century saloons and 21st century street fairs. I was an historical consultant on Ron Howard’s, Cinderella Man. I am the co-author of Life on the Lower East Side, 1937-1950: Photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff (Princeton Architectural Press, 2006) which is in its fourth printing.
My 2003 award-winning film, Thunder in Guyana, is about my cousin, Janet Jagan, who became President of Guyana in South America. The film premiered at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center in June, 2003 and aired nationally on PBS as part of the national Independent Lens series in 2005 and Global Voices in 2010. My second film, a short documentary, titled Brooklyn among the Ruins premiered at the Coney Island Film Festival in 2005 and was broadcast on PBS/WNET’s series REEL New York in 2006 and is about a subway buff who built a life-size subway car in his apartment in Brooklyn. My third film is a short documentary, Sweatshop Cinderella, about the Jewish immigrant writer Anzia Yezierska. My fourth documentary about New York City butchers is the award-winning Meat Hooked! It premiered at the New York Food Film Festival in 2012 and was part of the 2012 national PBS series America Reframed. My films have been seen at over 50 festivals and other venues. Sweatshop Cinderella and Thunder in Guyana are distributed by Women Make Movies. I am in pre-production on a fifth film, Children and Their Discontents, about the children of psychoanalysts. (I am one!)