Elissa Altman is an award-winning author of literary memoir, essay, and food narrative, who writes from the place where sustenance, the natural world, the power of the human spirit, and the promise of renewal converge. Born and raised in New York City in the 1970s, Elissa Altman grew up a voracious reader and writer, a guitarist from the age of four trained under Eddie Simon, graduated from Boston University, and attended Cambridge University and the Institute for Culinary Education. A longtime, award-winning executive editor for major publishing houses including Clarkson Potter, Rodale Books, and HarperCollins, she acquired and edited sixteen New York Times bestsellers before devoting herself to writing full-time, and launching her James Beard Award-winning narrative food blog, Poor Man’s Feast, in 2008, which is now a popular Substack.
Her first book, Poor Man’s Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking, was published in 2013 and declared by the New York Times Book Review “the finest food memoir of recent years.” Its critically-acclaimed prequel, Treyf: My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw, was published in 2016. Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing, was published in hardcover in 2019, and released as paperback in 2020, and was a 2020 Lambda Award finalist. The audio edition, produced and directed by Scott Sherratt, was released with the author narrating in 2019. Altman’s new book, On Permission — a meditation on creativity and story ownership based on Altman’s popular memoir workshops at Fine Arts Work Center and Maine Writers and Publishers — is coming from Godine in 2024. Her essays have appeared in publications including Orion, Lion’s Roar, and O: The Oprah Magazine to LitHub, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, where her column, Feeding My Mother, ran for a year. A member of The Environmental Storytelling Studio at Brown University, Altman lives in New England.
- Permission and the New Memoirist: Telling Your Story with Clarity and Truth