The Countershaded Ibex
Born and raised in Bucharest in Communist Romania, Andrew learned the meaning of adversity survival at an early age. By the age of seven, he was already writing stories of hopelessness and escapism reflecting on the life around him. When he was nine, his father was arrested and thrown in one of the regime’s most infamous prisons. During the following five years, his mother, an uneducated yet gutsy woman born in a Transylvanian shtetl, tried desperately to put food on the table through any means she could think of. Her exhausting efforts often left her impatient with Andrew’s obsessive story writing, which drove Andrew to stop writing; in fact he stopped writing for the next thirty-five years. When Andrew was fourteen, his father was finally released from prison, and, for a brief moment, it seemed like his life was going to take on some semblance of normalcy. But the tough years apart left his parents virtual strangers, so a messy divorce quickly followed that turned even messier when, due to extreme housing shortages, his parents were forced to continue to live in the tiny, claustrophobic apartment that Andrew had shared with his mother during his father’s incarceration. Two years later, Andrew and his mother were allowed to emigrate to the West provided they left immediately and only with the clothes on their backs. Their Romanian exit visa specified Paris, France as their final destination, and Andrew allowed himself to briefly fantasize about freedom and endless opportunities. But the harsh realities of an immigrant’s life among the xenophobic French quickly set in. The most incongruous memory of this time was when the homeroom teacher at the day school he was allowed to audit denied him the right to stand with the other students in deference to the fallen French soldiers fighting in the Algerian War of Independence. The following year, he and his mother arrived at New York City’s Idlewild Airport hopeless, penniless, and without even the rudiments of the English language, where they were met by caseworkers from an organization called NYANA who deposited them in a fleabag that, shortly after they moved out, collapsed of its own accord, killing four people. Despite the ominous beginnings, America was good to Andrew. He went to NYU where he first earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and later a Master’s in Environmental Engineering. He married and had two children, Judy and Alex who are still the paradigms of his creative gifts. Unfulfilled with engineering and its confined possibilities, he decided on a whim to start his own engineering consulting firm, thinking that would allow him to choose the more social aspects of the business. To his dismay, the venture turned out to be more successful than he could imagine under the circumstances, which further delayed his return to his childhood passion of writing. But in the early nineties, though still saddled by the business, Andrew cautiously returned to writing and also went back to school to prepare himself for a career as a college instructor of English. In 2001, he sold the engineering consulting firm, which finally freed him to devote himself to full-time writing. Since then, he has written three novels, an extensive collection of short stories, essays, several plays, and countless pages of personal recollections. He also teaches literature and composition writing at two New York-area colleges and runs a creative writing workshop at a senior center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Andrew Warren’s latest book, The Countershaded Ibex is published through Tate Publishing.
Date Recorded: 10/7/2013
Podcast of the interview Download: