Curtis Sittenfeld is a Philadelphia-based author.
Prep, The Man of My Dreams, American Wife
New York Times Ten Best Books of 2005 (Prep), 2005 and 2008 Nominated for the Orange Prize (Prep and American Wife), Time magazine Ten Best Books of 2008 (American Wife)
If you could recommend two or three books—fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry—to world leaders to help them gain a better understanding of America, what would they be?
Mona Simpson's most recent novel, My Hollywood, delves into the inner lives of both Claire, an upper-middle-class white working mother in Los Angeles, and Lola, the Filipina nanny who cares for Claire's son. Simpson brilliantly captures the complications of various elements of contemporary childrearing, the so-called mommy wars, and the immigrant experience. On a lighter note, Tina Fey's Bossypants chronicles being an American female in a way that is in equal measure honest and hilarious. I don't know any woman who hasn't loved Fey's book. And then there's always Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, of which I am—for its ambition and intelligence—one of many admirers.
Who in your childhood—for example, parent or teacher—encouraged you to read books, and which one or two books do you remember fondly?
My parents read aloud to my siblings and me, and I especially loved when my father read us the Little House on the Prairie series. My mother and I both cried when Laura's bulldog died.
Which books by writers from other countries have been most important to you as a writer?
I read The Yacoubian Building by Egyptian writer Alaa-Al-Aswany in fall 2010, shortly before the Arab Spring. Although I wouldn't say the book particularly influenced my own writing, I think of it often when I read or hear reports about all the political shifts in Egypt.