Mona Simpson is the author of five novels, including her latest, My Hollywood (Vintage Contemporaries, 2011), in which she examines the complexity, and also the currency, of raising a child. In it, Simpson, who believes that novels are “explorations of how to live,” revisits and elevates an important but often-unsung familial lynchpin, the domestic worker, and the overlapping, often-conflicting allegiances between parents, children, and “the help.”


In early 2008, Caitlin Shetterly, an established NPR radio reporter, theatre director, and writer, and her husband, Dan, a photographer, drove cross-country to LA with their dog and cat, hoping to dip into the prosperity that had lured so many of their friends. Then the recession hit. Less than a year later they drove back, with a newborn in tow and no job prospects, forced to live in a room of Caitlin’s mother’s home in Maine. Shetterly chronicled their hardships on a radio blog for NPR’s Weekend Edition, and suddenly to thousands of Americans, the new face of the recession was younger and more educated. In a memoir born of her blog and radio diaries, Made for and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home (Voice 2011), Shetterly shines a light on our worst fears—that everyone, even the young and educated, is vulnerable to poverty, to joblessness, to loss of hope.


Jane Mendelsohn is the author of three novels, including the critically acclaimed I Was Amelia Earhart and her latest, American Music. American Music interweaves four generations of an American family with the music of Count Basie and Billie Holiday, the origins of cymbals in 17th-century Turkey, the film industry in the 1920s, and 20th-century New York. In this TNB interview, I talk with Jane Mendelsohn about why she wanted to write a concise history of the 20th century, what American symbolism means to her, her approach to writing, and more.