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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 16, 2008

Writers' Workshop alumna Sittenfeld reads from 'American Wife' Sept. 29

University of Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna Curtis Sittenfeld will read from her widely discussed novel "American Wife," whose characters bear an uncanny resemblance to the current residents of the White House, at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen live via the University of Iowa Writing University website:

The event will be recorded for broadcast on Iowa Public Radio's "Live from Prairie Lights" series. Hour-long "Live from Prairie Lights" productions, hosted by WSUI's Julie Englander, air at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City and WOI-AM 640 in Ames.

As Publishers Weekly explained, "American Wife" chronicles "the life of bookish, naïve Alice Lindgren and the trajectory that lands her in the White House as first lady." Her husband is Charlie Blackwell, a "boyishly charming rake of a husband" with a  "background of Ivy League privilege, penchant for booze and partying, contempt for the news and habit of making flubs when speaking off the cuff."

Richard Russo commented: "Curtis Sittenfeld is an amazing writer, and 'American Wife' is a brave and moving novel about the intersection of private and public life in America. Ambitious and humble at the same time, Sittenfeld refuses to trivialize or simplify people, whether real or imagined."

A review in Time magazine observed, "It is a classic story: the demure small-town librarian swept off her feet by the handsome prince ... a story with its roots in Cinderella ... and also, in this case, in the rather unbelievable recent history of our country.

"The librarian is smart and attractive but almost catatonic with guilt: Her carelessness behind the wheel once caused the death of a good friend. The prince is charming, as advertised, but also carefree in a way that the librarian envies and mistrusts. He adores her, without question. She succumbs, with reservations. In Curtis Sittenfeld's brilliant novel 'American Wife,' their names are Alice Lindgren and Charles Blackwell, and they come from Wisconsin. But we also know them, on the evening news, as Laura Welch and George W. Bush from Texas. . . .

"Sittenfeld's audacious gamble is that she can make the reader understand why someone as civilized as Alice would fall for this force of nature and stay with him despite grave misgivings about his public persona. And it is Sittenfeld's triumph that we do."

Sittenfeld, who won the Seventeen magazine writing contest at the age of 16, is the author of "The Man of My Dreams" and "Prep," which was a New York Times selection as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005 and nominated for the UK's Orange Prize. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Allure, Glamour and on public radio's "This American Life." Her books are being translated into twenty-five languages.

Learn more at

The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jan Weissmiller, Prairie Lights,, 319-337-2681; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073,