“He was like a man who had served a term in prison or had been to Harvard College or had lived for a longtime with foreigners in South America.” — Carson McCullers, describing Jake Blount in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.
I was born in Chicago, graduated from Harvard College and then traveled to Venezuela to work as a community developer in the hillside barrios of Caracas, where I learned a new language and much else (see Building a Stairway). Later I taught in Puerto Rico, earned a PhD in sociology from Northwestern University, and continued research, writing and travel in many parts of Latin America. However, I have so far never served a term in prison.
After a couple of marriages and divorces and teaching at various universities, in 1978 I quit academia and the Midwest to reunite with Susana Torre, Argentina-born architect and feminist I had met in Havana and who was then living in New York City. There I struggled to make a living as a writer, supplementing the meager income from articles in The Nation, the Village Voice, In These Times and other lefty periodicals by part-time teaching, translation and other jobs. And began seriously writing fiction.
I wrote several books (two for HarperCollins, one published by University of Arizona Press, and some for smaller presses), lots of articles — even a couple in big-name publications like The New York Times — and many short stories. For a couple of years, I was co-editor of a monthly publication on Latinos in the U.S., Hispanic Monitor. But mostly I wanted to understand the world through fiction, which for me meant imagining myself into the lives of people like those I’d studied as a sociologist.
Since 2006, Susana and I have been living in Carboneras, a small fishing village on the southeast coast of Spain, where she designed and we built our seaside home. Here I started writing and publishing stories in Spanish, which has been great fun. (You can find them here.) Now, as I approach end of my first 80 years on this planet (scheduled date: 3 April 2021), and doubting that I’ll have more than 20 left, I have to get busy to complete everything on my life-long list. These include (a) publishing Rabble!, my most ambitious novel yet, about workers in the Paris Commune, (b) completing the next one, and (c) bringing my French up to the level of my Spanish and English and also mastering German. And of course generally trying harder to be a decent person.
For most of my life my friends have known me as “Geoff,” but to avoid that silent and confusing “o” I now generally sign with my initials, Gef (for “Geoffrey Edmund Fox”) — simpler, and the same pronunciation.