Photo © Zack Smith Photography.
Jami Attenberg has written about sex, technology, design, books, television, and urban life for The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Lenny Letter and others. In March 2017, HMH Books will release her novel All Grown Up. It will also be published in the UK, Italy, Holland, Poland, France and Germany.
Her debut collection of stories, Instant Love, was published in 2006, followed by the novels The Kept Man and The Melting Season. Her fourth book, The Middlesteins, was published in October 2012. It appeared on The New York Times bestseller list, and was published in ten countries in 2013. It was also a finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and the St. Francis College Literary Prize, and has been optioned by Showtime. A fifth book, Saint Mazie, was published in 2015 in the U.S. and the UK, and in Italy, France and Germany in 2016, and has been optioned by Fable Pictures.
She divides her time between New Orleans, LA and Brooklyn, NY.
What are you reading? What's on your nightstand?
I’m reading Knives & Ink which is this great illustrated oral history of chefs and the stories behind their tattoos and Mister Monkey by Francine Prose. I just finished The Vermont Plays, a collection of plays by Annie Baker, recommended to me by writer Stephen Elliott. I found it to be quite touching and also a great head clearer.
Where do you go to get inspired?
I get inspired every morning when I walk my dog. I leave my phone at home and I walk by a body of water for a good long while. In New Orleans, that’s the Mississippi River, and in Brooklyn, that’s the East River.
Where do you write?
I write at my desk, mostly, but also sometimes in cafes, when I want to get out of the house and away from screens.
What/who makes you laugh? Why?
Oh, I think there are a lot of funny writers out there. Maria Semple’s books come to mind. I think she’s truly witty. Also Emily Flake’s cartoons always kill me, and they’re also so smart and wise.
What do you want readers to know about you and your books?
Just that I work very hard on expressing ideas of empathy and compassion for others in my writing, and if they take anything away from it, I hope it’s that.
What are you working on?
Just writing some essays and contemplating what’s next and needed in a post-Trump era.
"It's a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in her late thirties must be in want of a husband and kids... Told in vignettes that circle around and through one another much like the daily drawings Andrea makes of the Empire State Building, until the view from her Brooklyn apartment is blocked, Andrea's story is stinging, sweet, and remarkably fleshed out in relatively few pages. Attenberg follows her best-selling family novel, The Middlesteins (2012) with a creative, vivid tableau of one woman's whole life, which almost can't help but be a comment on all the things women ought to be and to want, which Attenberg conveys with immense, aching charm."
—Booklist, ***Starred Review***
"VERDICT: Attenberg's novel is layered and deceptive, as is her heroine. You'll enter Andrea's world for the throwaway lines and sardonic humor, but stay for the poignancy and depth. Recommended for readers who like complicated characters à la Jennifer Egan and Maria Semple."
"Verdict: A very enjoyable novel with great character, this work will be of particular interest to fans of women's fiction, fiction set in New York City, and historical fiction set during World War I, Prohibition, and the Great Depression."
"Kinetic with hilarity and anguish, romance and fury, Attenberg seamlessly weaves comedy and tragedy in this warm and engaging family saga of love and loss."
—Booklist, ***Starred Review***
"While the novel focuses intensely on each member of the family, it also offers a panoramic, more broadly humorous, verging-on-caricature view of the Midwestern Jewish suburbia in which the Middlesteins are immersed, from the shopping centers to the synagogues. But as the Middlesteins and their friends move back and forth in time, their lives take on increasing depth individually and together. A sharp-tongued, sweet-natured masterpiece of Jewish family life."