Q&A with Nell Freudenberger

Isthmus | October 6, 2004
Lucky Girls: Stories

Ecco, 240 pages

A collection of five short novellas, Lucky Girls focuses on affluent young American women living in Asia, where they struggle to find their social, ethical and sexual identities. Her works have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta and the Paris Review, and The New York Times has assigned Freudenberger to that cohort of young, ambitious writers who “give use reason for hope.”

David Medaris: Who do you include in your audience of readers for Lucky Girls?

Nell Freudenberger: I didn't have a specific kind of reader in mind.

Q: What accounts for the focus on settings in Southeast Asia and South Asia, and on American characters living abroad?

A: I taught English for a year in Bangkok, and spent time in India, mostly in Delhi and Bombay. It was only after I'd lived abroad for significant periods of time that I began to think about what being an American meant to me.

Q: Amazon.com customers who bought Lucky Girls also bought (among other books) Julie Orringer’s collection How to Breathe Underwater and Monica Ali’s novel Brick Lane. If you were to buy a copy of Lucky Girls, what other books would you purchase at the same time?

A: I'm flattered to be included on a list with Julie Orringer and Monica Ali. Some of my favorite recent books about India are by Suketu Mehta and Akhil Sharma.

Q: Who or what is your muse?

A: The places I've traveled might be a kind of muse. Like most people, I pay more attention to my surroundings in an unfamiliar place.

Q: What was the last book you read that you would recommend, and why would you recommend it?

A: David Bezmozgis's Natasha. These are great stories. I was especially impressed by the author's confidence, and his ability to create memorable characters in very short stories. I loved "Tapka" and the title story.

Q: What book from your childhood left the greatest impression on you?

A: A Gift of Watermelon Pickle (a collection of contemporary poems and photographs for kids) because it was my introduction to poetry.

Q: Why do you live where you live?

A: I was born here.

Q: Which of the five senses do you most rely on?

A: Sight.

Q: What is your favorite meal?

A: I like Japanese and Thai food a lot.

Q: What are you afraid of?

A: Cockroaches, among other things.

Q: What brings you joy?

A: Friends and my family, obviously. My work, reading, yoga.

Q: What is in your CD player?

A: Cesaria Evora, the White Stripes, Belle and Sebastian, the Pixies, Steve Reich.

Q: What is your favorite Web site?

A: Slate.

Q: Do you have any tattoos?

A: No.


David Medaris is a staff writer at Isthmus, the Madison, Wis., alternative newsweekly.


Isthmus is Madison, Wisconsin's alternative newspaper. Since 1976, Isthmus has built a foundation of fearless reporting, forthright opinion, excellent arts coverage, and innovative perspective. These efforts have been rewarded by numerous sources including the Milwaukee Press Club's statewide Excellence in...
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