Author Jennifer Weiner on the stories men overlook and her latest "Mrs. Everything"
Jennifer Weiner is an internationally bestselling author whose work encompasses novels, memoir, short stories and children’s literature. Yet for much of her career, critics, when they’ve paid her work any attention at all, dismissed her as “chick lit.” But Weiner pushed back, consistently challenging conventional, superficial views about men, women and literature. Now, with her sprawling, multigenerational saga of two sisters “Mrs. Everything,” Weiner is gaining acclaim for one of the biggest books of the year. And she’s still operating in a framework that’s simultaneously entertaining and thought provoking.
"I’m interested in women’s stories and women’s secrets,” she told Mary Elizabeth Williams on “Salon Talks.” “To see this book called ambitious and to see people call it a great American novel and that it speaks to readers, that’s tremendously gratifying and rewarding.”
And that acclaim represents a seismic shift. “There has been a reckoning,” she said. “It goes back to naming a problem and being able to point at it and say, ‘This is real.’ When Jodi Picoult and I started saying that women’s books are not reviewed as often, we were told we were lying, we were told our books are crap and that’s why no one reviews them. And then someone started counting. Lo and behold, there was a true discrepancy.”
The challenge, forever, has been convincing half the population that the other half’s work has value. “Women are the readers,” she said. “We read books by women, we read books by men. We read all the books. Nobody has to do any special arranging to signal to us that Dave Eggers is okay or John Cheever is okay. We read men in school and were taught that was literature. Men did not grow up reading books by women in school and believing that is literature. I think that’s really unfortunate,” she noted.
“I think men are missing great stories. I hope that men read ‘Mrs. Everything,’ I really do.” Watch the interview above to hear more from Weiner on how she drew on her family’s story for “Mrs. Everything.”
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