"It's never that hard for me to imagine what it must feel like to be someone else, whether it's an American teenage girl or a Japanese octogenarian man." -- Curtis Sittenfeld
Elizabeth Curtis Sittenfeld (born 1975) is an American writer. She is author of three novels: Prep, the tale of a Massachusetts prep school, The Man of My Dreams, a coming-of-age novel and an examination of romantic love, and American Wife, a fictional story loosely based on the life of First Lady Laura Bush, as well as a number of short stories.
"I don't really have special rituals, but I don't try to write fiction unless I have a minimum of a few hours. For me, it takes a while to settle into a mode where I'm truly concentrating.""I have this theory that the likeability question comes up so much more with female characters created by female authors than it does with male characters and male authors.""People who think my books are autobiographical, which they're not, credit me with having a much better memory than I do. I do, however, have a powerful imagination.""Probably I, like a lot of people, became a writer in imitation of or in homage to the books I enjoyed. When you're so captivated by something, you think, could I do that? Hmm, let me try."
Sittenfeld was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second of four children (three girls and a boy) of Paul G. Sittenfeld, an investment adviser, and Elizabeth (Curtis) Sittenfeld, an art history teacher and librarian at Seven Hills School, a private school in Cincinnati.
She attended the Seven Hills School through the eighth grade, then attended high school at Groton School, a boarding school in Groton, Massachusetts, graduating in 1993. In 1992, the summer before her senior year, she won Seventeen magazine's fiction contest.
She attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York before transferring to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. At Stanford, she studied Creative Writing, wrote articles for the college newspaper, and edited that paper's weekly arts magazine. At the time, she was also chosen as one of Glamour magazine's College Women of the Year. She earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.
Her first novel, Prep, which took her three years to write, concerns a girl from South Bend, Indiana, who goes to an elite boarding school near Boston, Massachusetts (some think a thinly-veiled Groton School, but others say it's based on the two years she spent teaching at St. Albans School in DC.) The plot deals with coming of age and class distinctions in the preppy and competitive atmosphere of the school.
Reviews of Prep were mixed, with views ranging from highly laudatory to those who said that it was a well-written, but weakly plotted story that was buoyed by strong detail and narration. Some saluted the book for its verisimilitude, including Elissa Schappell, who wrote in The New York Times Review of Books that "Sittenfeld's dialogue is so convincing that one wonders if she didn't wear a wire under her hockey kilt." The New York Times named Prep one of their top five works of fiction for 2005.
Less positively, a review in Publishers Weekly stated, "The book meanders on its way, light on plot, but saturated with heartbreaking humor and written in clean prose. Sittenfeld . . . proves herself a natural in this poignant, truthful book." Critics have also questioned how much of the story is pure memoir instead of fiction.
The book has been optioned by Paramount Pictures, which also has an unrelated project with the same name, under its MTV Films umbrella.
The Man of My Dreams
Sittenfeld's second novel, called The Man of My Dreams, was published in May 2006 by Random House. It follows a girl named Hannah from the end of her 8th grade year through her college years at Tufts and into her late twenties. Both in comparison to Prep and other novels, The Man of My Dreams has gathered mixed reviews with much of the same praise and criticism Prep has garnered.
Sittenfeld's third novel, called American Wife (2008), is the tale of Alice Blackwell, a fictional character who shares many similarities with former First Lady Laura Bush. In the novel, Blackwell is an only child who grows up in a Democratic family. As a high school student, Blackwell kills a friend in an auto accident. She also has an illegal abortion and discovers that her grandmother is a secret lesbian. She meets, falls in love with, and marries the wild son of an elite Republican family. Her husband rises in politics to the office of president, and, although Blackwell staunchly disagrees with her husband's politics, she continues to love him.
Articles about Sittenfeld
Reon Carter. "Local college senior makes Glamour's top 10". The Cincinnati Enquirer. September 21, 1996. C2.