Emma Cline

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Emma Cline
Bornc. 1989
Sonoma County, California
OccupationAuthor, writer
Alma materMiddlebury College, Columbia University[1]
Notable worksThe Girls
Notable awards2014 Plimpton Prize[2]

Emma Cline is an American writer and novelist, originally from California.[3] She published her first novel, The Girls, in 2016, to positive reviews. The book was shortlisted for the John Leonard Award from the National Book Critics Circle[4] and the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize.[5] Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Tin House, Granta and The Paris Review. In 2017 Cline was named one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists. She is a recipient of the Plimpton Prize.

Life and career[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Emma Cline, born in 1989, was raised in Sonoma County, California.[6] As a young teenager, Cline had acting roles in When Billie Beat Bobby (2001) and a short film entitled Flashcards (2003).[7] After graduating from Sonoma Academy at age 16, Cline attended Middlebury College in Vermont. During her first year at college, she won a writing award for her short story, "What is Lost".[3] After graduating, Cline attended Columbia University where she received her MFA in 2013.[3] While at Columbia University, she wrote "Marion", a short piece of fiction which was published by The Paris Review in their 2013 summer issue. A year later, The Paris Review selected Emma Cline to receive their annual Plimpton Prize for this same work, an award of $10,000.[8] Since then, her writing has been published in multiple journals, and in 2016 she published The Girls, her debut novel.[9]

The Girls[edit]

Cline's first novel, The Girls, was published in 2016 by Random House Publishing.[9] Cline was offered a $2 million advance by Random House, who outbid 11 other publishers for the novel.[10] American film producer Scott Rudin bought the film rights to the book shortly before it was acquired by the Random House.[11] The novel is based in part on the Charles Manson cult and murders of the late 1960s. The story is told from the view point of Evie Boyd, a fourteen-year-old girl whose childhood is changed when she is introduced to a cult. Evie as an adult reflects on her actions as a child, bringing up questions of what it means to grow up as a girl and how injustice in the world can lead to terrible violence.[9] While Cline is celebrated for her descriptive abilities and attention to gender structures, critics have also said that the cult setting seemed unnecessary to the novel and left the ending feeling unfulfilled.[9] Still, the book was received well by the general public, and The Girls spent three months on The New York Times' best-seller list.[6] It won the 2016 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. The movie production for the novel is in the development stages.

Other endeavors[edit]

Penguin Books (under imprint, Chatto & Windus) published Cline's first collection of short stories, Daddy, in 2020.[12]

Copyright lawsuit[edit]

In February 2017, Emma Cline's former boyfriend, Chaz Reetz-Laiolo, accused Cline of plagiarizing his work for her novel The Girls. Reetz-Laiolo, who is also a writer, said that Cline installed a spyware program on his computer in order to read his personal work and emails without his consent.[6][13]

Chaz Reetz-Laiolo's team indicated that unless Cline was willing to pay reparations for copyright, a public court filing would be made which included sexually explicit images and text messages of Emma Cline that were acquired by Reetz-Laiolo. In October 2017, the firm redrafted their initial request and withdrew all of the sexually explicit material of Cline.[13]

Cline responded to the allegations with a countersuit, arguing that the reason she installed spyware was for her own protection and to see if Reetz-Laiolo was cheating on her. She said that he had been physically and emotionally abusive during their previous relationship.[13] In regards to the plagiarism accusation, Cline's case considered the cited similarities between Reetz-Laiolo's work and The Girls to be minimal, stating that many were only one or two word phrases.[6] Random House issued a statement saying they stood in full support of Emma Cline, and believed her to be a victim in the case.[6]

In late November 2017, Reetz-Laiolo and Cline officially filed their lawsuits in federal court in San Francisco.[14]

In June 2018, the copyright claim was dismissed by Judge William Orrick, who said the similarities between the works were general and not protectable: "Both stories are ‘coming of age’ tales of sorts. But they vary significantly in detail, breadth and texture."[15] In a hearing, Judge Orrick condemned the actions of Reetz-Laiolo's lawyers, calling their behavior "remarkably offensive."



  • The Girls. Random House. 2016. ISBN 978-0-8129-9860-3.
  • Daddy: Stories. Random House. 2020. ISBN 978-0-8129-9864-1.

Fiction and essays[edit]

  • “Los Angeles,” Granta
  • “Northeast Regional,” The New Yorker
  • “Marion,” The Paris Review
  • “The Drive Home,” The New York Times
  • “Fleeing the Fires in Sonoma County,” The New Yorker
  • “Arcadia,” Granta
  • “Archie Comics,” The New Yorker
  • “See Me,” The Paris Review
  • “Perseids,” Tin House
  • “Son of Friedman," The New Yorker
  • "The Nanny," The Paris Review
  • "White Noise," The New Yorker


  • The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review


  1. ^ "Recent Grad Emma Cline ('13) Nets Major Book Deal". Columbia University School of the Arts Writing Program. 29 October 2014. Archived from the original on 22 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Emma Cline Wins Plimpton Prize; Ben Lerner Wins Terry Southern Prize". The Paris Review. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Kachka, Boris (9 October 2014). "13 Things to Know About Emma Cline and Her $2 Million Manson-Family Novel". Vulture. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  4. ^ "National Book Critics Circle: Announcing the #NBCCLeonard Award Finalists - Critical Mass Blog". bookcritics.org. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
  5. ^ "The Center for Fiction". centerforfiction.org. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
  6. ^ a b c d e Alter, Alexandra (2017-12-01). "Sex, Plagiarism and Spyware. This Is Not Your Average Copyright Complaint". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  7. ^ "Emma Cline". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  8. ^ Review, The Paris (2014-03-12). "Emma Cline Wins Plimpton Prize; Ben Lerner Wins Terry Southern Prize". The Paris Review. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  9. ^ a b c d Wood, James (2016-05-30). "Cults and Carnage in the Summer of '69". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  10. ^ Williams, Wilda (15 June 2016). "Q&A". Library Journal. 141: 64 – via Academic Search Complete.
  11. ^ "13 Things to Know About Emma Cline and Her $2 Million Manson-Family Novel". Vulture. 2014-10-09. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  12. ^ "Chatto & Windus publish Emma Cline's first short story collection | The Bookseller". www.thebookseller.com. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  13. ^ a b c Kolhatkar, Sheelah (2017-12-01). "How the Lawyer David Boies Turned a Young Novelist's Sexual Past Against Her". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  14. ^ Grady, Constance (December 5, 2017). "A lawsuit against Emma Cline shows how sexual humiliation is used to silence women writers". Vox. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  15. ^ Flood, Alison (2018-07-03). "Emma Cline's ex-boyfriend's copyright claim dismissed". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-24.