Stream the PBS documentary about Andrew’s “Books Behind Bars” program.

Andrew D. Kaufman is an author, educational entrepreneur, teaching expert, social justice activist and Russian literature scholar whose work has been featured on The Today Show, NPR, PBS, and as well as in the Washington Post and the Moscow Times.

A nationally recognized expert on teaching innovation and service-learning, Kaufman is currently an Associate Professor and Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Virginia, where he helps faculty across the country create profound learning experiences that change the lives of many through educationally-based social activism. At UVA, he created and teaches a renowned community-based literature course, "Books Behind Bars: Life, Literature and Leadership," in which university students and the incarcerated youth of Virginia have life-changing discussions inspired by the messages conveyed in Russian literature. The program has played a role in juvenile prison reform across the state of Virginia.The course has been featured in the Washington Post, on The Today Show, and on Russian national television, and it is the subject of the feature documentary film, Seats At The Table, which has appeared at film festivals throughout the United States (including SXSW EDU), France, and Great Britain. In 2020 Seats At The Table began to air nationally on PBS.

In addition to his teaching expertise, Dr. Kaufman is a nationally recognized Russian language, literature, and culture expert who has spent the last twenty-five years bringing the Russian classics to life for Americans young and old. Kaufman holds a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Stanford University, and he’s the author of Give ‘War and Peace’ a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times, and Understanding Tolstoy as well as co-author of Russian for Dummies. He was a featured Tolstoy expert for, and has appeared on various national and international TV and radio shows.

Dr. Kaufman is an in-demand keynote speaker who has spoken at TEDx, the Aspen Institute, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Leo Tolstoy Museum and Estate at Yasnaya Polyana, and at book clubs and libraries, corporations, prisons, and colleges and universities across the United States. A professionally-trained actor and long-time college professor, he is an entertaining and inspirational speaker who draws on the wisdom of great books as well as his journey as an educator to offer audiences nourishment for the mind and soul, while also providing them with practical insights that are immediately applicable to their own lives.

To learn more about Dr. Kaufman, please visit his website at

Speech topics

Reclaiming Your Power and Purpose in Troubled Times

Scholar and educational entrepreneur Andrew Kaufman shares inspirational lessons about reclaiming your power and purpose in life’s most challenging moments. Recounting what he learned from the sudden death of his father, encounters with inmates in his prison classes, and his bold decision to abandon a university professorship to pursue a higher passion, Kaufman inspires listeners to dig deep and discover new paths to meaning and fulfillment no matter the circumstances.

Rewrite Your Destiny By Harnessing the Power of Second Chances

Scholar and educational entrepreneur Andrew Kaufman has spent a career working with outcasts, addicts, and incarcerated youth and adults in his prison classes. In this keynote he shares riveting stories from his unique encounters that demonstrate how any of us has the power to conquer past demons and transform our lives for the better no matter where we come from or may have done.

Rewriting Destiny: Harnessing the Power of Second Chances

Literature scholar and social-justice-oriented educational entrepreneur Andrew Kaufman has spent a career teaching books about outcasts, addicts, and misfits and has worked closely with their real-life counterparts: incarcerated youth and adults. What he has learned from his unusual journey is that very few people are truly evil, and most are on a quest for fulfillment and love, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they may have done. In this keynote Kaufman shares riveting stories from his unique encounters to remind listeners that any of us can get beyond limiting judgments about ourselves and others, and that we  have the power to conquer past demons and transform our lives for the better. By harnessing the power of second chances, we can achieve fuller, more joyful lives and help build a more just and loving world.


The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky

An intimate new portrait of the bold and determined woman who saved Dostoyevsky's life—and became a pioneer in Russian literary history.

In the fall of 1866—against the backdrop of Russia's first feminist movement—an independent-minded young stenographer named Anna Snitkina went to work for a writer she idolized: Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The volatile and visionary novelist was already a celebrated literary provocateur, yet Anna found him "terribly unhappy, broken, tormented," sickened by epilepsy, anguished by the recent loss of his wife—and in thrall to a gambling addiction that kept him on the verge of emotional and financial ruin. 

Book out on AUGUST 31, 2021

Understanding Tolstoy 

Understanding Tolstoy recreates Tolstoy’s lifelong artistic and spiritual journey, taking readers to the core of the writer’s world through nuanced close readings of his major novels and novellas.

Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times

From a popular Tolstoy scholar: an entertaining, thought-provoking, and accessible argument for why War and Peace is more relevant to readers now than ever.

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