By Freddie Moore
Francesca Segal and Jami Attenberg (from left to right)

Francesca Segal and Jami Attenberg (from left to right)

Attenberg: So, what was that like – writing about being far away from the place that you were writing about?

Segal: It was completely necessary, and this book would never have been written if I was in London writing about London. I needed the perspective, and I needed to feel as though – I needed, actually to believe at that point that I was never going back. So no one would ever throw things at me on the street for having written it.  

Attenberg: But people have received it warmly over there. 

Segal: They have, which I was surprised – eh – not surprised by, but sort of heartened by. Because it’s an honest, loving, but clear-eyed portrait. And it is a comedy of man as a satire, but people, I think, have felt that I've been honest.

Attenberg: Right. Same with me – but it took 20 years. I had to be away for 20 years from my hometown. 

Segal: Because this [The Middlesteins' Chicago suburbs] is your hometown –

Attenberg: This is kind of my hometown – it’s kind of like the community, the general community, not my family. I just did a big event in the suburbs of Chicago, and there was like this really amazing Chinese food restaurant in the book – 

Segal: Which, by the way, all I want to do is go to. The scenes ... it’s like reading porn. 

Attenberg: And all these people came up to me – and they were like: Where is it? And I was like: It doesn't exist. There’s no decent Chinese food in the suburbs of Chicago at all, so I created my fantasy – you know? Like sometimes you create your fantasy of your dream ... food, anyway. But I did do a reading, also in my hometown, at my hometown library, and it was like a hundred Middlesteins in a row. It was amazing, because I could get reviewed by a million places, but that’s really your judge and jury right there. Even if you’re not writing about somebody specific, you’re writing about your community. But I think it both was a writing ... from a place a love and connection –

Segal: And knowing a community inside out.