Elizabeth Curtis Sittenfeld (born 1975) is an American writer. She is author of four 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; American Wife, a fictional story loosely based on the life of First Lady Laura Bush, and Sisterland, which tells the story of identical twins with psychic powers, as well as a number of short stories.
Background and education
Sittenfeld was born August 23, 1975 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second of four children (three girls and a boy). Her mother, Elizabeth "Betsy" Curtis (Bascom), is an art history teacher and librarian at Seven Hills School, a private school in Cincinnati, and her father, Paul George Sittenfeld, is an investment adviser. Her brother, P.G., is a member of the Cincinnati City Council. She is of "half-Catholic, half-Jewish" background.
She attended 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 frequently vacationed in the small Massachusetts town of Westport in a large house near the ocean. She began writing by chronicling the stories of her family in the guest book which was kept at the house.
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, Lee Fiora, from South Bend, Indiana, who goes to Ault School, an elite boarding school near Boston, Massachusetts. Some think Ault is a thinly veiled Groton School, but others say it is based on the two years Sittenfeld spent teaching at St. Albans School in DC. The plot deals with coming of age, self-identity, and class distinctions in the preppy and competitive atmosphere.
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: "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 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.
Sisterland was published on June 25, 2013. The book's protagonist Kate is an identical twin.
- Curtis Sittenfeld (May 19, 2014). "Confessions of a Prep-School Feminist". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
- The Ten Best Books of 2005," The New York Times Book Review, December 11, 2005.
- Mike Fleming Jr. "Ron Nyswaner To Script Curtis Sittenfeld Novel 'American Wife'". Deadline. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
- http://www.bookpage.com/the-book-case/2013/01/28/sittenfelds-sisterland-coming-this-summer/. Missing or empty
Articles about Sittenfeld
- Reon Carter. "Local college senior makes Glamour's top 10". The Cincinnati Enquirer. September 21, 1996. C2.
- Rory Evans. "Cincinnati Kid: Curtis Sittenfeld". Cincinnati Magazine. January 2005. 66+.
- "Glamour's top 10 college women 1996". Glamour. v. 94, n. 10. October 1996. 108.
- Felicia R. Lee. "Although She Wrote What She Knew, She Says She Isn't What She Wrote". New York Times. January 26, 2005. B3.
- Sara Pearce. "'Prep' author visits hometown to chat". The Cincinnati Enquirer. February 15, 2005. E1.
- Curtis Sittenfeld. "You Can't Get a Man With a Pen". The New York Times Book Review. December 19, 2004. 35.
- Hank Stuever. "Move Over, Holden: Curtis Sittenfeld Writes About Boarding School Life as if She's Been There". The Washington Post. February 23, 2005. C1.
Reviews of Sittenfeld's books
- The Man of My Dreams Reviews at Metacritic
- Carlene Bauer. "Swimming With the School". ELLE. v. 20, n. 5. January 2005. 56.
- Elaine Bender. Review of Prep. Library Journal. v. 129, n. 20. December 15, 2004. 103.
- Jesse Berrett. "The dreams and dreads of the teenage years". The San Francisco Chronicle. January 23, 2005.
- Tiffany Blackstone and Daryl Chen. "Too true novels". Glamour. v. 103, n. 1. January 2005. 87.
- Michael Carr. Review of Prep. Booklist. v. 101, n. 8. December 15, 2004. 709.
- Eleni Gage. "It Prepares You for Life, But What Prepares You for Prep School?". The New York Sun. January 19, 2005.
- Caitlin Macy. "School Ties". The Washington Post. January 23, 2005. T7.
- Review of Prep. The New Yorker. February 7, 2005.
- Review of Prep. Publishers Weekly. v. 251, n. 44. November 1, 2004. 41.
- Daniel Asa Rose. "Gimlet Eyed Girl Grows Up". New York Observer. January 17, 2005. 9.
- Elissa Schappell. "Class Act". The New York Times Book Review January 16, 2005.
- Steven Weinberg. "Superb writing is the edge for coming of age novel". The Plain Dealer. January 23, 2005. J10.
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- Curtis Sittenfeld's official website
- Summary of reviews by Metacritic
- Comments on Sittenfeld on Gawker.com
- Tingle Alley blog discussion of book
- Bookreporter.com review
- 'The Wonder Spot': Sophie's Choices review by Curtis Sittenfeld for the New York Times
- Sittenfeld discusses her work on All Things Considered
- New York Times best books of 2005