Adam Klein is currently an instructor in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at The American University in Cairo.
After receiving an Academy of American Poets Award at age 17 (delivered by the poet Gwendolyn Brooks), Klein went on to study poetry with Marvin Bell at the University of Iowa. He graduated from San Francisco State University, where he studied with Bob Glück and Molly Giles, earning an MA in creative writing. He later received an MFA in creative writing from The New School, where he worked with Robert Polito, Lynne Tillman, Honor Moore, Sigrid Nunez, and Patrick McGrath.
Klein served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh and later taught at the American University of Beirut before beginning his tenure as an assistant professor of English at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. During his academic career, Klein has developed syllabi for courses from “Literature In Extremis,” “Theories of Melodrama and Film Noir,” and “Comedy: From Sitcom to Standup” in addition to conference presentations and workshops in fiction writing. His writing career has been supported in part by residencies at such places as MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Ucross, Caldera, Villa Montalvo, as well as grants from The Norton Family Foundation and The Vogelstein Foundation. He completed his first Fulbright fellowship at the University of Mumbai and North Bengal University and his second at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur.
Klein’s first book, The Medicine Burns, is a collection of short stories that was nominated for a Lambda Book Award; selections from which appear in Best American Gay Fiction and Men on Men 5 which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Fiction Anthologies. He is also the author of the novel Tiny Ladies. In a review The London Observer wrote that Tiny Ladies is “an engrossing and beautifully written book,” and Kirkus Reviews described it as “a bizarre combination of Dostoevsky, Jim Thompson, and Robert Altman.” An early excerpt of Tiny Ladies appeared in the anthology Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache: Adventures in the First Person, edited by Michelle Tea and Clint Catalyst. Both The Medicine Burns and Tiny Ladies are now part of Dzanc Books' rEprint series. His short form work has also appeared in such literary journals as Your Impossible Voice, Pank, Educe, and Fiction International, among others. More recently, his short story “A Hardship Post,” published in Fourteen Hills, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Klein’s nonfiction work and critical literary reviews have appeared in The New York Times, MIT’s Performance Art Journal (PAJ), the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and Essays and Fictions, among other outlets. With poet Thomas Avena, he co-edited the artist monograph Jerome: After the Pageant about the late miniature painter and performance artist Jerome Caja. In 2015 he was invited to join the national board of directors for The Jerome Project; an archival and documentary endeavor dedicated to the artist's work. His essay “The New Eyes” appeared in Life Sentences: Writers, Artists, and AIDS, edited by Avena, which received the 1995 American Book Award.
In the past few years Klein has edited two short story collections. The Gifts of the State: New Writing from Afghanistan, was published by Dzanc Books and features work from students of Klein's open creative writing workshops in Kabul. In her Foreword to the book Eliza Griswold wrote: "The stories collected in The Gifts of the State include some of the most essential written by young Afghans today. Adam Klein’s patient work with each of these writers, render the quality of these Afghan stories in English a rare feat." Pankaj Mishra commented: “this continuously startling and often very moving book opens up a new country. Everyone should read it.” James Lasdun observed that the collection is “not only gripping and beautifully executed, but also possessed of a rare cultural and political urgency.” Finally, Christian Science Monitor correspondent Husna Haq wrote in a review: “The stories are at once poignant and plainspoken, horrific and hilarious, mysterious and straightforward. And for these fiction writers writing in their second or third language, the stories are remarkably visceral, candid, and forthright.” The Gifts of the State is currently being prepared for release in German translation.
To the Country, is an interdisciplinary iBook featuring new writing by Maria Bustillos, Rae Bryant, Brian Evenson, Paul Kingsnorth, J. Robert Lennon, Rick Moody, Jim Shepard, Melanie Rae Thon, Lynne Tillman, and Joy Williams as well as new songs written and performed by Klein and his collaborators in the art rock project The Size Queens. In a review, Liz Wood noted in The Rumpus: “the interaction between song and text is complex and symbiotic, so that the overall experience is that of a kind of resonance machine, whereby one form seems to converse with, but not dictate or explain, the other.”
In the 1980s while living in San Francisco, Klein was a fixture in the local club scene as a performer and was a lyricist and vocalist for the band Chastity. In the 1990s, he began writing and recording with musician Michael Mullen and formed two bands: Glasstown and Roman Evening. Both bands produced two records each; Roman Evening’s second (and last) record was a soundtrack to accompany his novel Tiny Ladies.
Klein and Mullen went on to form The Size Queens in close collaboration with Tim Mooney, former producer and drummer with American Music Club. Following Mooney’s untimely death, the pair began to work with Wally Sound in Oakland, California and continue to work with players associated with Mooney's San Francisco studio, Closer.
Klein describes The Size Queens as a conceptual art project with a focus on political and social issues whose work is disseminated via a diverse set of multimedia platforms and applications. Deftly blending pathos and satire lyrically, recurring themes include the military and prison industrial complexes; economic disparity; environmental degradation; consumer culture; neoliberalism; and late capitalism. The group’s recordings have received enormous attention in art and literary circles. Artforum listed their “Reading Rosalind Krauss” video as a Top Ten Pick in 2009; Rick Moody and Michael Snediker published a lengthy review of their second record in The Rumpus; and more recently they were profiled by Chin-Sun Lee in The Believer.
Over the course of his career Klein has collaborated with noted artists such as Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Fred Tomaselli, and Marco Breuer; musicians including Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, Danny Pearson, Carlos Forster, John Murry, and Hannah Marcus; as well as writers Mary Gaitskill and Laura Albert (aka JT Leroy).
The Size Queens have premiered videos and various interdisciplinary works alongside short stories by Klein on websites such as Pank, The Believer, Paris Review, Electric Literature, Ninth Letter, and The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review as well as an exhibition catalogue published by San Francisco Camerawork. In 2009 they were commissioned by the University of Chicago and Princeton University to record the soundtrack for the academic art conference Our Literal Speed. The band's eighth and final record, Between the Cheeks, was released on Inauguration Day in January 2017.
Klein is currently preparing his second novel, Shine Your Light, as well as his second collection of short stories, House of Songs, for publication.