A twentieth-century American fiction writer, he is best known for his 1939 novel Call It Sleep. His works chronicle the Jewish-American experience during the era of the Great Depression.
His childhood in the Brooklyn and Harlem neighborhoods of New York City inspired his famous novel, Call It Sleep.
He received two honorary doctorates: one from the University of New Mexico and the other from the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.
He married Muriel Parker in 1939.
His novels influenced the work of Philip Roth.