David Rakoff


David Rakoff : biography

November 27, 1964 – August 9, 2012

Rakoff contributed fiction pieces to the following anthologies:

  • "Sagrada family" in Men on men 5: best new gay fiction (1994) (edited by David Bergman)
  • Interview as a child prodigy in The infant mind transcript/The infinite mind (published by Lichtenstein Creative Media).

Radio essays

Rakoff was a regular contributor to the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International, in which each week writers and performers contribute pieces (some documentary, some fiction) on a chosen topic, usually in the first person.Silverman, Erin, , "Johns Hopkins Newsletter, 2003. Retrieved January 20, 2010. The first was "Christmas Freud", an account of Rakoff’s impersonating Sigmund Freud in the window of Barneys department store during the holidays. The piece appears in Fraud, his first collection published in 2001. He says that This American Life let him have his own take on things and break the bounds of just being a journalist. Most of his radio performances were recorded in the studio, but some were performed live.See, for example, , March 19, 1999. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Rakoff was the first person to host a This American Life episode in place of Ira Glass (the episode being "Like It Or Not"), followed only by Nancy Updike. He appeared in This American Life: Live! (2008) but was cut from 2009 version (the video with Dave Hill is available on the internet.. Rakoff was featured on This American Life’s live broadcast, "Invisible Made Visible" on May 10, 2012 from the Skirball Theater, NYU.. He returned to the Canadian airwaves with his regular appearances on CBC Radio’s Talking Books, hosted by Ian Brown. After that, Rakoff was also frequently heard on the CBC radio program WireTap. The episode of "This American Life" that aired a week after his death was dedicated entirely to his essays on the program. The episode was titled "Our Friend David."


Rakoff adapted the screenplay for the Academy Award winning short film The New Tenants, originally written by Anders Thomas Jensen., Moving Pictures, April 2010. Retrieved April 16, 2010. The director Joachim Back described Rakoff’s role as having "helped me with the dialogue"Frazer, Bryant, , Film&Video, February 11, 2010. Retrieved March 5, 2010. and having "collaborated a lot on the dialogue". He also appears in the film.. The film won the 2010 Oscar for best live action short film. Rakoff has sold what he calls a "meta screenplay", written with Mr Dave Hill, based on a fictitious tour to publicise the book Don’t Get Too Comfortable., psychPEDIA Retrieved January 20, 2010. In a short film based on the same story, Rakoff played a high-maintenance author opposite Dave Hill’s patient, accommodating publicist.

Personal life

David Rakoff was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the youngest of three children. His brother, the comedian Simon Rakoff, is four years older than David and their sister Ruth Rakoff, author of the cancer memoir When My World Was Very Small, is the middle child.Johnson, Sharilyn, , Uptown Magazine, June 6, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2010.Hamson, Sarah. . Globe and Mail, October 22, 2005. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Rakoff has said that he and his siblings were close as children.Rakoff, David, "My sister of perpetual mercy" in A member of the family: gay men write about their families (1992) (edited by John Preston) Rakoff’s mother, Gina Shochat-Rakoff, is a doctor who has practised psychotherapy and his father, Vivian Rakoff, is a psychiatrist., canadaeast.com –TT Life, October 27, 2005. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Rakoff has written that almost every generation of his family fled from one place to another.Rakoff, David, , The New York Times, October 9, 1994. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Rakoff’s grandparents, who were Jewish, fled Latvia and Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century and settled in South Africa. The Rakoff family left South Africa in 1961 for political reasons, moving to Montreal for seven years.Zimmer, Elizabeth, , The Australian, August 16, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2010. In 1967, when he was three, Rakoff’s family moved to Toronto.Rakoff, David, , The New York Times, October 9, 1994. Retrieved January 20, 2010. See also Walters, Juliet, , Montreal Mirror, 2007. Retrieved January 20, 2010. As an adult, he said that he identified as Jewish., May 14, 2001. Retrieved January 20, 2010.

Rakoff attended high school at the Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, graduating in 1982. In the same year he moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, where he majored in East Asian Studies and studied dance. Rakoff spent his third year of college at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and graduated in 1986. Rakoff worked in Japan as a translator with a fine arts publisher. His work was interrupted after four months when, at 22, he became ill with Hodgkin’s disease, a form of lymphatic cancer which he has referred to as "a touch of cancer". He returned to Toronto for eighteen months of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

From 1982, Rakoff lived in the United States (minus his four-month stay in Japan in 1986), first as a student, then as a resident alien. In the early 1990s he was issued a green card, a subject about which he wrote in one of his early newspaper articles. After living in the United States for twenty-one years, Rakoff was motivated by a desire to participate in the political process and applied for U.S. citizenship.Salazar-Rubio, Sofia, , The Daily Californian, February 28, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Rakoff chronicled the experience of becoming an American citizen in an essay published in Don’t Get Too Comfortable. He became a U.S. citizen in 2003, while at the same time retaining his Canadian citizenship.

In 2010, while writing the book Half Empty, Rakoff was diagnosed with a malignant tumor behind his left collarbone and began chemotherapy. on the Daily Show, October 14, 2010 He died in Manhattan on August 9, 2012.