Strangers and Cousins floats on the waters of a society in flux, an America still trying to figure out who we really are. Cohen’s ability to acknowledge the agony of that strife in the context of a modern, loving family makes this one of the most hopeful and insightful novels I’ve read in years.”

– Ron Charles, The Washington Post

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Leah Hager Cohen

Leah was born in Manhattan and raised at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens and later in Nyack, New York. She attended Hampshire College and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The author of six novels and five works of nonfiction, she is the Barrett Professor of Creative Writing at the College of the Holy Cross.




Strangers and Cousins

Out Now

(2019) A wise and joyful novel about what happens when an already sprawling family hosts an even larger and more chaotic wedding: a compassionate and entertaining story about family, culture, memory, community, and the permeable lines that define one’s tribal identity. learn more →

No Book but the World

(2014) At the edge of the woods, on the grounds of a defunct "free school," Ava and her brother, Fred, share a dreamy and seemingly idyllic childhood—a world defined largely by their imaginations, a celebration of curiosity and the natural environment, and each other's presence. Their parents, progressive educators, believe passionately that children develop best without formal instruction or societal constraint… learn more →

The Grief of Others

(2011) The Grief of Others asks how we balance personal autonomy with the intimacy of relationships, how we balance private decisions with the obligations of belonging to a family, and how we take measure of our own sorrows in a world rife with suffering… learn more

Leah Hager Cohen is one of our foremost chroniclers of the mundane complexities, nuanced tragedies and unexpected tendernesses of human connection…

– The New York Times Book Review (cover)

House Lights

(2007) Late in her twentieth year, Beatrice mails a letter on the fly, sparking events that will change her life forever. The addressee is her grandmother, a legendary stage actress long estranged from her daughter, Bea's mother. Though Bea wants to become an actress herself, it is the desire to understand the old family rift that drives her to work her way into her grandmother's graces. But just as she establishes a precarious foothold in her grandmother's world… learn more →

Heart, You Bully, You Punk

(2003) Quirky and moving and exquisitely written, this is a magical book about what we dare ourselves to do when faced with the startling prospect of love. learn more → 

Heart, You Bully, You Punk describes the mysterious, unpredictable, even mutinous ways people's hearts mess with their lives...packed with detail...a lively, thoughtful pleasure.

- The New York Times Book Review

Heat Lighting

(1997) Like Kaye Gibbons' Charms for the Easy Life and Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, Cohen's hauntingly poignant story deals with remarkable women bonded by strength, loss and love. Told in the lyrical and captivating voice of eleven-year-old Mole, Heat Lightning chronicles a magical summer when she and her twelve-year-old sister, Tilly, must come to terms with the steady unraveling of the childhood mythology they created to define an incomprehensible world… learn more →



I don't know

(2013) Too often, we fear that uttering those three little words will diminish us, somehow undermine our status and block our advancement. In fact, though, as Leah Hager Cohen argues, these words liberate and empower. So much of the condition of being human involves not knowing. The more comfortable we become with this truth, the more fully and unabashedly we may inhabit our skins, our souls, and the more able we are to grow… learn more →

Without Apology

(2005) A singular exploration of the world of female aggression.  learn more →

Without Apology is larger than boxing or even tennis. It is about a girl's right to contend in the world with her entire being, no matter what arena she chooses. Leah Hager Cohen is a champion of all women with heart.

– Billie Jean King

The Stuff of Dreams

(2001) In this unique theatrical memoir, Cohen chronicles the ups and downs of a suburban community theater's struggles over the staging of David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly. The project is fraught with problems—the Arlington, Mass., theater and its conservative supporters are reluctant to stage a play that deals daringly with sexuality and race; meanwhile, it proves quite difficult to find an Asian man to play the transgendered lead (who also has a nude scene)—but the show must go on… learn more →

Glass, Paper, Beans

(1997) Once upon a time, we knew the origins of things: what piece of earth the potato on our dinner plate came from, which well our water was dipped from, who cobbled our shoes, and whose cow provided the leather. In many parts of the world, that information is still readily available. But in our society, even as technology makes certain kinds of information more accessible than ever, other connections are irrevocably lost. In Glass, Paper, Beans, Leah Cohen traces three simple commodities… learn more  

Train Go Sorry

(1994) "Train go sorry" is the American Sign Language expression for "missing the boat." Indeed, missed connections characterize many interactions between the deaf and hearing worlds, including the failure to recognize that deaf people are members of a unique culture. In this intimate chronicle of Lexington School for the Deaf, Leah Hager Cohen brings this extraordinary culture to life and captures a pivotal moment in deaf history… learn more →



literary agent:

Barney Karpfinger

The Karpfinger Agency

357 W. 20 St.

New York, NY 10011



Liz Linder Photography