Freudenberger, Nell 1975-
Freudenberger, Nell 1975-
ADDRESSES: Home— New York, NY.
CAREER: Writer. Worked as an editorial assistant at the New Yorker.
AWARDS, HONORS: PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in short fiction; Sue Kaufman prize for first fiction, 2004, for Lucky Girls; O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, 2004, for “The Tutor.”
Lucky Girls: Stories, Ecco (New York, NY), 2003. The Dissident (novel), Ecco (New York, NY), 2006.
Stories have appeared in periodicals, including the New Yorker, Granta, and the Paris Review.
SIDELIGHTS: Nell Freudenberger is a short-story writer and novelist whose first collection of short stories, Lucky Girls: Stories, features young women who come from privileged lives and who often are traveling abroad. “Freudenberger seems particularly interested in the way Westerners interact with Asian cultures, and travel through Asia is a common thread pulled through these five stories,” wrote Elisa Ludwig in the San Francisco Chronicle. For example, in the story “Outside the Western Gate,” Freudenberger tells the tale of an American writer who goes to an apartment long owned by her family in New Delhi. While there, she ponders her Indian mother, thinking about how her mother thirty years earlier once loaded up the family car with chocolates and art supplies and took her sister but not her on a trip through the Khyber pass. She also remembers her mother’s love of America and tries to reconcile it with the fact that she eventually committed suicide in Hollywood.
In “The Tutor,” which garnered Freudenberger an O. Henry Prize, the author writes of Zubin, an aspiring poet in Bombay who takes a job tutoring an American businessman’s daughter, Julia, so she can get a high S.A.T. score for entrance to a good college in America. Zubin himself attended Harvard and finds himself emotionally stranded between America and India. “Their relationship is fraught with cross-cultural longing and the erotic unlawfulness of teacher-student fantasies,” wrote Ludwig, adding that Freudenberger “juggles the power dynamics of social status and gender, both of which are, of course, further complicated by geography.” Writing in Booklist, Ellen Loughran called Lucky Girls“an excellent addition to all short story collections.”
Freudenberger’s first novel, The Dissident, focuses on Yuan Zhao, a visitor from China, and the host family he ends up staying with in Beverly Hills. A performance artist, Zhao is also part of a subversive Chinese community of artists. When he arrives at the Traverses house, he finds himself enmeshed in an American family’s life that reveals an uncaring husband, a wife whose only recourse to a sexless marriage is to cheat on her husband with his brother, and children (one with a potential eating disorder and the other suicidal) who are so focused on themselves that they care little for their parents or anyone else. Interspersed with his experience in America is Zhao’s narration of his own story as a dissident in China.
“Freudenberger fulfills the promise of her 2003 collection of short stories, Lucky Girls, in her expansive first novel,” wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Starr E. Smith, writing in the Library Journal, noted: “Energetic, witty writing sparkles throughout.” In a review in Booklist, Michele Leber noted the author’s “facile, insightful prose and strong characterizations.” In his review in the New York Times, A.O. Scott commented: “Every character in the book... is endowed with a sharp individuality. This is no small feat, given how crowded the novel feels, the bustle of a single house in Beverly Hills no less—indeed, more—than the largest city in the most populous country in the world.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, September 1, 2003, Ellen Loughran, review of Lucky Girls: Stories, p. 54; August 1, 2006, Michele Leber, review of The Dissident, p. 41.
Carolina Quarterly, winter, 2004, Hilary Elkins, review of Lucky Girls, p. 55.
Entertainment Weekly, August 22, 2003, Karen Valby, “Do You Feel ‘Lucky’? Well, Do You, Nell?,” brief profile of author, p. 135; August 18, 2006, Karen Valby, review of The Dissident, p. 141.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2003, review of Lucky Girls, p. 874; June 1, 2006, review of The Dissident, p. 535.
Library Journal, August. 2003, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Lucky Girls, p. 138; August 1, 2006, Starr E. Smith, review of The Dissident, p. 68.
New York Times, September 14, 2003, Jennifer Schuessler, review of Lucky Girls; September 10, 2006, A.O. Scott, review of The Dissident.
People, September 22, 2003, Jeremy Jackson, review of Lucky Girls, p. 57.
Publishers Weekly, June 30, 2003, review of Lucky Girls, p. 51; July 10, 2006, review of The Dissident, p. 49; July 10, 2006, Marshall Heyman, “PW talks with Nell Freudenberger,” p. 51.
San Francisco Chronicle, August 31, 2003, Elisa Ludwig, review of Lucky Girls, p. M1.
Time International, November 24, 2003, Bryan Walsh, review of Lucky Girls, p. 116.
Village Voice, August 11, 2006, Hua Hsu, review of The Dissident.
Barnes and Noble Web site, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ (January 18, 2007), “Meet the Writers: Nell Freudenberger,” interview with author.*