Kai Bird Revealed
- Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
- A. An American expatriate writer from Jerusalem to Kathmandu
- Q. What is your motto or maxim?
- A. "To the Confusion of our Enemies!" (Robert Oppenheimer's favorite toast.)
On Books and Writing
- Q. How did you come to write Crossing Mandelbaum Gate?
- A. Though I spent most of my childhood in the Arab world, as a journalist and historian I have avoided the topic. I admit this was an abdication, but as a young man I learned that the Middle East is an emotional black hole. But then in 1991 I wrote a rather personal Op Ed for the Washington Post, trying to convey my feelings about the region as it plunged into yet another war. My Jewish American wife thought it was the best piece of writing I had ever done. She encouraged me to think about writing this memoir--and I finally got around to it after American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (co-authored with Martin J. Sherwin) came out in 2005--and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. I'm glad I did it--though I learned that a memoir is a very different beast than biography.