Jami Attenberg, author of "All Grown Up." (Zack Smith Photography/TNS)

Balancing Act: What Is ‘Grown Up,’ If Not Spouse, Kids, Career? A Fictional Character Shows Us

By Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Jami Attenberg, who grew up in suburban Chicago and is perhaps best known for her 2012 novel, “The Middlesteins,” said she wanted to meet someone like Andrea (the protagonist of her new novel “All Grown Up”), so she wrote her.

Chicago Tribune

Andrea Bern is the rare female character who doesn’t live in search of a sidekick, romantic or otherwise.

She’s the protagonist of “All Grown Up,” Jami Attenberg’s highly anticipated novel, released March 7, about a single, child-free, medium-successful art school dropout New Yorker who wonders, often through a boozy haze, what it means to be an adult, if not the accumulation of a spouse and/or children and/or a triumphant career.

This is Andrea, describing herself, in the first chapter of a book that manages to be funny, tragic and delightful:
There are men also, in your bed, in your world, foggily, but you are less interested in them than in muffling the voice in your head that says you are doing absolutely nothing with your life, that you are a child, that the accouterments of adulthood are (expletive), they don’t mean a (expletive) thing, and you are trapped between one place and another and you always will be unless something forces you to change.

Attenberg, who grew up in suburban Chicago and is perhaps best known for her 2012 novel, “The Middlesteins,” said she wanted to meet someone like Andrea, so she wrote her.

“I wanted to create a character that wasn’t defined by her romantic state or status,” Attenberg told me. “I felt like I’ve lived my entire life seeing movies and books and other things in our culture that represent a happy ending as finding love, and I just wanted to see a different representation of a happy ending. Not that she necessarily has a happy ending.”

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