Author and journalist
Born Jennifer Agnes Weiner, March 28, 1970, in De Ridder, LA; daughter of Lawrence (a psychiatrist) and Fran (a teacher) Weiner; married Adam Bonin (an attorney), October 27, 2001; children: Lucy Jane. Education: Princeton University, bachelor's degree (summa cum laude), 1991; trained in journalism at Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
Education reporter, Centre Daily Times, State College, PA, 1991-94; published short story "Tour of Duty" in Seventeen, 1992; published short story "Someone to Trust" in Redbook, 1993; features writer, Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, KY, 1994-95; Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA, columnist, 1994, features writer/columnist, 1995-2001, contributed weekly book column "Under Cover," 1999-2000, contributed weekly column to features section, 2000-01; hired as contributing editor and monthly columnist, Mademoiselle magazine, New York, NY, 1998; appeared on Philly After Midnight for several years; published first novel, Good in Bed, 2001; published and sold rights to In Her Shoes, 2002; In Her Shoes adapted into a film of the same name, 2005.
Awards: Academy of American Poets Prize, Princeton University, 1990.
After beginning her career as a journalist, primarily writing for the features sections of various newspapers, Jennifer Weiner came to international acclaim as the author of fiction targeted at women, so-called "chick lit." Beginning with her first book, Good in Bed, her four books have been published in 33 countries and sold more than five million copies. Explaining Weiner's appeal, Tracy Cochran of Publishers Weekly wrote, "In all of Weiner's novels, love and humor allow her characters to overcome the harshest turns, the hardest feelings. She tells us that she loves to come up with the happiest possible endings for her characters, endings that are unabashedly about love and self-acceptance. It strikes us that this power she has to transform her experience by writing about it—this way of being relentless like a river in her dedication to her craft—is the secret to her happy ending."
Weiner was born in 1970 at an army base in Louisiana. Within two years, the family, which included her sister, Molly, moved to Simsbury, Connecticut. There, her two brothers were born, Jake and Joe. When Weiner was about 16 years old, her father, Lawrence, a psychiatrist, left the family and divorced his wife, Fran, a teacher. Weiner did not act as the family's father at all after the divorce, other than to provide financial support. Weiner completed her public school education by graduating from Simsbury High School.
In 1987, Weiner entered Princeton University. She majored in English and minored in women's studies, while taking many creative writing classes. She was also the co-founder of the Committee to Coed-uate Eating Clubs. The goal of the committee was to force the two eating clubs on campus that were still male-only to allow women to join. As a senior, Weiner wrote a thesis about novels and film and how women who are pregnant are portrayed therein.
After graduating from Princeton in 1991, Weiner decided to get additional training to pursue a career in journalism. She went through a six-week course at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in Florida. Weiner then began her journalism career in Pennsylvania at the Centre Daily Times. Weiner first worked as an education reporter, writing about a number of local school districts. She later moved to writing op-ed pieces about Generation X for the paper. These pieces eventually were distributed to other Knight-Ridder newspapers. Weiner also began writing features for Centre Daily Times. In addition, Weiner published short stories in magazines like Seventeen and Redbook in the early 1990s.
In 1994, Weiner moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to take a job as a features writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. At the same time, she continued to write her Generation X columns, but they were now published by the Philadelphia Inquirer and distributed by the paper on a national basis. The following year, Weiner was hired by the Inquirer as a features writer. She then ceased to write her columns as part of her hiring. Weiner then spent several years writing profiles of famous people, in-depth stories on topics like drug abuse among teenagers, and covering various pop culture and political events.
While writing for the Inquirer, Weiner also branched out, writing for magazines, journals, and web sites on a freelance basis. In 1998, she became a contributing editor and column writer for Mademoiselle magazine. In addition, Weiner moved into television, regularly appearing on a local late night show, Philly After Midnight. The contributing editorship and television work lasted only a few years as the magazine was taken off the market and the show canceled.
In the meantime, Weiner's role at the Inquirer continued to evolve. Beginning in October of 1999, she wrote a column for the Sunday book section entitled "Under Cover." In the column, she focused on where real life and literature met. As her role at the Inquirer changed, she continued to work on what would become her first novel, Good in Bed. The novel was sold to Pocket Books in 2000 and published in 2001. Like all her novels, Weiner drew on a bit of experience in her life, though the first book was the closest to her immediate life situations.
In 2000, Weiner moved from the book section back to general features at the Inquirer. She wrote a column in the general interest area that appeared weekly for about a year. A year later, when Good in Bed was published, Weiner left the newspaper temporarily to promote the book. Receiving a number of positive reviews, the book became a best-seller in the United States, making the New York Times bestseller list. It also was a hit abroad, published in 15 countries.
Weiner had a goal when she wrote the book; she told Roberta O'Hara of Bookreporter.com, "I wanted to tell a Cinderella story where Cinderella gets her happy ending without dropping down to a size six because a book like that, first and foremost, would fill a gap in my own heart and my own library, and could maybe be some measure of comfort to other teenage girls who devour 'chick books' and come away feeling like they're the only ones who've ever weighed more than their boyfriends." Cannie Shapiro, the heroine, is a plus-sized twentysomething entertainment columnist who graduated from Princeton. An ex-boyfriend writes about her body and their sex life in a national magazine, and Cannie also learns that she is pregnant with his child. The baby, a daughter named Joy, is born premature. Cannie also struggles with her weight, finding herself at her most miserable when she is at her thinnest. Despite these trials, Weiner gives Cannie a happy ending.
With the success of Good in Bed, and a deal already in place for her second book, Weiner left the Inquirer in December of 2001 to focus on writing fiction. The year 2002 proved even more fruitful for Weiner as a fiction author. Before the September publication of In Her Shoes, her brother, Jake, through his company BenderSpink, sold the book rights to Fox 2000, an arm of Twentieth Century-Fox. The book was as successful as Good in Bed in terms of sales, and was more of a critical success than the first.
The plot of In Her Shoes focuses on two sisters with next to nothing in common who meet a grandmother of which they were previously unaware. Rose Fuller, the older sister, is heavier, very sensible and an attorney who went to Princeton. Rose is having an affair with a partner in her law firm. Maggie, the younger sister, is thin, body image obsessed, suffering from low self-esteem, and always messing up. In the novel, Maggie betrays Rose's trust by having sex with the man she is interested in, severing their already shaky relationship. Complicating matters is their grandmother. Because their mother died when they were young, the sisters did not know their maternal grandmother, Ella. Over the course of the novel, Maggie learns she is smart and more than just a thin body, while Rose learns that she can find happiness in simpler things, like walking dogs and interacting with people on the street. Critics noted how well Weiner drew the older characters as well as the younger ones.
After the In Her Shoes book tour, Weiner returned home to write her next novel and deal with her own pregnancy. She had married an attorney named Adam Bonin in 2001 and the couple had their first child in 2003, a daughter named Lucy Jane. While Weiner was writing and preparing for parenthood, her brother also sold the rights to her first novel to HBO for a television series. In 2004, Weiner's next novel, Little Earthquakes, was published. It sold more than her previous two books and also received good reviews. The book was optioned by Universal for film.
In Little Earthquakes, Weiner examines the lives of four young mothers by telling part of the story from their point of view. Three are friends who meet in a prenatal yoga class: Becky, a plus sized restaurateur; Kelly, who overcame a difficult childhood to become an overachiever; and Ayinde, an African-American woman married to a National Basketball Association player. Lia, the fourth woman, is an actress of some acclaim whose son dies of sudden infant death syndrome. Lia's life becomes difficult after his death, and she follows Becky and her baby around. Some of the four have difficult mother-in-laws, which also bonds them together. Critics generally responded positively to the novel. Reviewing the book, Deborah Sussman Susser of the Washington Post had reservations, but wrote, "After I finished Little Earthquakes, I found myself missing the characters. It may not be as realistic as literary worlds go, but it is reassuring in its warmth and predictability. And judging by the success of chick lit generally and Weiner's books specifically, a lot of us out there are willing—even eager—to suspend our disbelief long enough to enter it."
For Weiner's next book, she moved away from a strictly chick lit story to one that included a murder mystery. In Goodnight Nobody, the sleuth is a mother, Kate Klein, who has three children in nursery school. Klein is not happy in her personal life. She was working as a pop culture journalist for a Manhattan-based publication when her husband moved the family to the suburbs of Connecticut. Now a stay-at-home mom, Klein does not fit into the culture of the suburbs and is looking for something to do. She is drawn into her case by finding a female neighbor dead on her kitchen floor. Klein works on solving the crime during the few hours that her children are in school. Barbara Sullivan of Buffalo News found the novel full of unexpected depth. She wrote, " Goodnight Nobody has all the components of a ripping murder mystery of the Sue Grafton/Janet Evanovich variety. But the novel also manages to take a long, hard insightful look at the relationships between mothers and their children, working moms and stay-at-home moms and what it means to be a good parent in the 21st century."
In 2005, Weiner's profile was raised even further when the film based on In Her Shoes was released. Adapted for the screen by Susannah Grant and directed by Curtis Hanson, the film starred Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz as the sisters and Shirley MacLaine as the grandmother. Weiner had a cameo in the film, playing a smiling woman in the Italian market in a scene shot in Philadelphia. She also visited the set several times. Of her success as an author, Weiner told Lauren Beckham Falcone of the Boston Herald, "Sometimes I honestly think I am on Candid Camera. Like everything that's happened is really a joke. It's overwhelming and more than I could have ever dreamed of."
Good in Bed, Pocket Books (New York City), 2001.
In Her Shoes, Atria Books (New York City), 2002.
Little Earthquakes, Atria Books, 2004.
Goodnight Nobody, Atria Books, 2005.
Boston Herald, July 13, 2005, p. 4.
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), October 9, 2002, p. D1; October 2, 2005, p. G7.
Chicago Sun-Times, November 17, 2002, p. 9.
Entertainment Weekly, September 17, 2004, pp. 38-39.
Guardian (London, England), December 28, 2002, p. 19.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI), October 20, 2005, p. B10.
Newsday, September 18, 2005, p. C33.
People, September 26, 2005, pp. 125-27.
Publishers Weekly, September 13, 2004, p. 50; June 13, 2005, p. 6; September 26, 2005, p. 10.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 30, 2005, p. D1.
Toronto Sun, June 17, 2001, p. S20.
Washington Post, September 15, 2004, p. C9.
"Author Profile: Jennifer Weiner," Bookreporter. com, http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/ au-weiner-jennifer.asp (January 24, 2006).
"Jennifer Weiner," Internet Movie Database, http:// www.imdb.com/name/nm1497265/ (January 24, 2006).
Jennifer Weiner Website, http://www.jennifer weiner.com/about.htm (January 24, 2006).