Born November 19, 1975, in New York, NY; daughter of Gerald (a physician) and Adele (a painter) Grodstein; married; husband's name Ben (a musician); children: Nathaniel. Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1997, M.F.A., 2001. Politics: Independent. Religion: Jewish. Avocational Interests: "Voracious reading." Addresses: Office: Department of English, Rutgers University-Camden, Armitage Hall, 311 N. 5th St., Camden, NJ 08102. E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writer, educator. Columbia University, New York, NY, instructor, 1999-2001, adjunct assistant professor of creative writing, 2004; University of California at Los Angeles, CA, creative writing instructor, 2003-04; Cooper Union, New York, NY, creative writing instructor, 2003-04; Rutgers University, Camden, NJ, assistant professor of English, 2005--.
Philolexian Prize, Columbia University, 1997; New York Public Library "Book for the Teen Age" list, 2006, for Girls Dinner Club.
- The Best of Animals (short stories), Persea (New York, NY), 2002.
- Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love (novel), Dial (New York, NY), 2004.
- (As Jessie Elliot) Girls Dinner Club (young adult novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
- A Friend of the Family (novel), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2009.
- The Explanation for Everything (novel), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2013.
Grodstein's books have been translated into German, French, Italian, and Turkish. Contributor of essays and stories to anthologies.
Lauren Grodstein is an American author and educator. She is the author of three novels and a debut short story collection, The Best of Animals, under her own name, and of the young adult novel Girls Dinner Club under the pseudonym Jessie Elliot. An assistant professor of English at Rutgers University, Grodstein has been writing since she was a youth. Speaking with Bella Online contributor Veronika Walker, Grodstein remarked on the childhood signs that let her know she would become a writer one day: "When I was a kid, I used to lie--not to get myself out of trouble, but just to make the world a more interesting place. I'd tell stories, embellish things that had actually happened, make up alternate worlds. It seemed clear to everyone, including myself, that I was either going to be a writer or some kind of con artist. Fortunately, I followed the more conscientious path."
Grodstein's story collection, The Best of Animals, was published in 2002. Here she brings together ten "lively, smart stories," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, that deal with relationships between urban men and women in their twenties. In "Lonely Planet," for example, Grodstein writes of a young female executive who first consoles and then sleeps with a young man recovering from a broken affair. Other tales deal with jealousy, desire, and misplaced love.
The Publishers Weekly contributor felt that the author's "quirky voice and sassy, ironic humor make these stories come alive," and that Grodstein "captures the uncertain nuances of the mating game in her impressive debut." A very different assessment was offered by a Kirkus Reviews contributor, who called the stories "spare and occasionally funny takes from a writer who hasn't yet found her voice."
Grodstein followed up this collection in 2004 with her first novel, Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love. Told from the point of view of twenty-eight-year-old Joel Miller, the novel investigates the profound effects that parents have in determining what kind of relationships their children build. Waiting for the results of his girlfriend's pregnancy tests, Joel reflects on the various relationships he has had thus far. Joel's mind wanders over his parent's failed marriage, the churlish advice of his boyhood friend Grant, and the problems he had with Blair Carter, his girlfriend before the current one.
Booklist reviewer Beth Leistensnider termed this first novel an "insightful study of our search for meaningful connections." Leistensnider also praised the "rich and multidimensional" characters in the work. A Kirkus Reviews contributor was less enthusiastic, noting that in her short story collection Grodstein "showed she had yet to find her voice," and according to the contributor, this is "still the case with her first novel." However, a Publishers Weekly found more to like in the work, terming it a "sweet, honest account of the life and loves of 20-something Joel Miller." The contributor also felt that Grodstein's "story is modest, but compulsively readable."
Grodstein's second novel, A Friend of the Family, focuses on a father-and-son relationship. Pete Dizinoff, a physician, wants his only son, Alec, a twenty-year-old, to follow in his successful steps and also those of other kids Alec's age. In short, he wants Alec to go to a good college, establish a respectable career, and find a nice girlfriend. But Pete's desires are put on hold when Alec drops out of college to become a painter, takes up residence in the family garage, and takes for a girlfriend the daughter of Pete's best friend, a woman a decade older than Alec and with a tragic secret. As Pete tries desperately to end the relationship, he loses focus on his practice, mismanages a patient's care, and becomes involved in a medical malpractice suit.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer had high praise for this work, noting that the author "brings great insight into a father's protective urge for his son in this gripping portrait." The reviewer called the book "wonderful." Booklist contributor Joanne Wilkinson likewise noted: "A gripping prose style and an impressive insight into paternal love are at the heart of this book's appeal." A writer for Kirkus Reviews commented: "Grodstein's wry insights, her fully imagined social panorama and her vision of a middle-class man at the crossroads testify to her considerable skill." New York Times Book Review contributor Joanna Smith Rakoff concluded: "Ultimately ... this is less a novel about one imperfect citizen than a sharp account of the status-driven suburban culture that turned [Pete] into a monster of conformity."
Writing as Jessie Elliot, Grodstein offers a young adult novel about three seventeen-year-old girls in Girls Dinner Club. The three girls, Junie Wong-Goldstein, Celia Clarke, and Danielle Battaglia, meet weekly for a homemade meal and serious chat about their boyfriend and family problems. The three of them have plenty of such problems that need the soothing touch of food, including cheating or missing boyfriends and absent parents.
Writing for School Library Journal, Paula J. LaRue thought that "each of the teens is clearly drawn and has strengths and weaknesses common to girls their age." Claire Rosser, writing for Kliatt, felt that the novel is "both serious and entertaining" and noted that "we really care about these young women."
In 2013 Grodstein published the novel The Explanation for Everything. Biology professor Andy Waite lectures on atheism while struggling to cope with his wife's recent death and raising his two daughters. He agrees to sponsor a transfer student who is working on an intelligent design project, eventually allowing her to babysit his kids. As the two become closer, their contrasting ideologies get in the way.
Writing in Bustle, Tara Wanda Merrigan pointed out that "the narration, and how it weaves in and out of Andy's consciousness, is perhaps this novel's strongest feat." Merrigan noted that "though Andy's hunger for truth gives way to satisfaction with ambiguity, reader's desire for more of this compelling novel will not be so easily gratified." Merrigan summarized that The Explanation for Everything "is a well-crafted novel, and it is clear that Grodstein put much care into this work. Details are resonant." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews observed that instead of using more popular works by C.S. Lewis or St. Augustine "as rationalizations for belief, Grodstein offers the homilies of a fictional local pastor; it's a bit of an easier road, but her narrative sparkles with irony and wry observation." Booklist contributor Susan Maguire commented that "Grodstein handles everything with a subtle wit, managing to skewer both the ultraconservative and the ultraliberal" and not take sides. A Publishers Weekly contributor lamented that "a little romance fails to lighten a heavy-handed parable about the limits of belief and intolerance." In a review in Library Journal, Leslie Patterson "highly recommended" The Explanation for Everything, claiming that "this engaging, and provocative novel is hard to put down."
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- Booklist, June 1, 2004, Beth Leistensnider, review of Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love, p. 1700; August 1, 2009, Joanne Wilkinson, review of A Friend of the Family, p. 29; September 1, 2013, Susan Maguire, review of The Explanation for Everything, p. 35.
- Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of The Best of Animals, p. 597; May 1, 2004, review of Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love, p. 411; August 15, 2009, review of A Friend of the Family; September 15, 2013, review of The Explanation for Everything.
- Kliatt, July, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of Girls Dinner Club, p. 10; September, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Girls Dinner Club, p. 22.
- Library Journal, September 1, 2013, Leslie Patterson, review of The Explanation for Everything, p. 99.
- New York Times Book Review, December 27, 2009, Joanna Smith Rakoff, review of A Friend of the Family.
- Publishers Weekly, May 13, 2002, review of The Best of Animals, p. 50; May 3, 2004, review of Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love, p. 167; July 6, 2009, review of A Friend of the Family, p. 30; June 3, 2013, review of The Explanation for Everything, p. 32.
- School Library Journal, June, 2005, Paula J. LaRue, review of Girls Dinner Club, p. 156.
- Bella Online, http://www.bellaonline.com/ (October 19, 2010), M.E. Wood, "Lauren Grodstein--Author Interview."
- Book Browse, http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (September 4, 2013), Tom Perrotta, author interview.
- Bustle, http://www.bustle.com/ (November 22, 2010), Tara Wanda Merrigan, review of The Explanation for Everything.
- Lauren Grodstein Home Page, http://laurengrodstein.com (November 8, 2013).
- Rutgers University--Camden, Center for Children and Childhood Studies Web site http://children.camden.rutgers.edu/ (November 8, 2013), author profile.
- Teenreads.com, http://www.teenreads.com/ (November 22, 2010), Terry Miller Shannon, review of Girls Dinner Club.*