Ruth Behar (born 1956 in Havana, Cuba) is a Jewish Cuban American writer.
After receiving her B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1977, she studied cultural anthropology at Princeton University. She travels regularly to both Cuba and Mexico in search of her own family roots from before their emigration to America after Castro came into power, and to study the lives of women in suppressed societies. Since 1991 her research and writing have largely focused on her native country, Cuba, which she left at the age of four. Her research on the dwindling yet vibrant Jewish community in Cuba is the focus of her film Adio Kerida (2002), which featured camerawork and editing by her son Gabriel Frye-Behar.
Behar is a professor at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Behar's literary work is recognized and highlighted at Michigan State University in their Michigan Writers Series. A writer of anthropology, essays, poetry and fiction, her work focuses around women, and feminism.
She is a feminist, and her personal life experiences as a Jewish Cuban-American woman are frequently an important part of her writing. Her dissertation (1983), based on her first fieldwork in northern Spain, became the basis for her first book.
Her second book, Translated Woman (1993), was based on ten years of fieldwork in a rural town in Mexico. Her controversial book The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart examines the role that the personal can play in ethnographic writing. Jewish Cuba is also the topic of her latest book, An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba (2007).