News & Politics

Washingtonian Favorites: Curtis Sittenfeld

Every Thursday, we bring you interviews with noteworthy Washingtonians. This week, we catch up with Curtis Sittenfeld, author of American Wife, a fictional account of a First Lady loosely based on Laura Bush.

Photograph courtesy of Curtis Sittenfeld.

Name: Curtis Sittenfeld

Age: 33

Occupation: Novelist and former Washingtonian; author most recently of American Wife, about a First Lady loosely based on Laura Bush.

Hometown: Cincinnati

Must-have item at all times: Chapstick. 

Signature drink: Water (yes, I’m boring). 

Finish this sentence: When not working, you can find me…


Washingtonians you admire:
My sister Tiernan, who is an environmental lobbyist (the good kind) for the League of Conservation Voters. Also, the teachers at St. Albans School—my former coworkers—who are incredibly smart and hard-working and devoted to their students.

Favorite neighborhood in the city:
Cleveland Park.

Washington insider tip:
Don’t try to get out of jury duty—it’s actually fascinating.

Finish this sentence: “Thinking about the metro makes me…

…Want to just walk.

Favorite bookstore in the city:
Politics and Prose. I’m also a fan of Kramerbooks, and I’ve always wondered who shops there when they’re open all night on Fridays and Saturdays.

What would you change about DC?
The parking!

As you answer these questions, what Web sites are open in your browser?
Only Gmail, but that’s because I have a bad Internet connection right now.

Did living in the Washington area inspire or play a role in your decision to write American Wife?
After living there for three years, I’m sure I felt a greater sense of familiarity with the city’s geography and general vibe.

When writing the novel, were you conscious at all of the controversy it could potentially stir? Was it something you thought about?
The biggest questions to me were whether I would finish the book and, if I did, whether I’d have written it to my satisfaction. I realized it could be a bit controversial, but that wasn’t foremost in my mind.

In an essay for, you praised Laura Bush for her unpretentiousness, modesty, and intelligence. Have any other Republican women recently under the spotlight inspired similar feelings in you?
I can’t say they have. I’m not an admirer of either Sarah Palin or Cindy McCain—both their lives are clearly worthy of novels, but not novels I’ll write.

Now that the book is out, have you been following the reviews and commentary, or are you purposely trying to stay away from it all?
I at least skim most reviews. What I try to avoid are ranting bloggers.

How do you hope Laura Bush will react after she reads American Wife?
I doubt she’ll actually read it, but if she does, I’d love to know what she thinks. Of course, she’s in a position to know for certain just how much of the novel is made up—which is almost all of it! 

Curious about Sittenfeld's book? Read an excerpt from American Wife here. Also, don't forget to check back next Thursday for a brand new Favorites with David Malitz. Malitz is one of the writers behind the Washington Post's popular music blog Post Rock. He's written about your favorite (and not so favorite) bands and performers and has plenty to sharefrom the best concert he's attended to J. Freedom du Lac's sometimes questionable taste in music.

Other Washingtonian Favorites:
Katherine Kennedy
Jon Gann
Barton Seaver
Lindsay Czarniak
Svetlana Legetic

Know an interesting Washingtonian who you think would make for a great Favorites interview? Send your suggestions to 

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