Reading with... Emma Copley Eisenberg

photo: Kenzi Crash

Emma Copley Eisenberg is the author of the hybrid nonfiction book The Third Rainbow Girl, which was a New York Times Notable book and Editor's Choice of 2020, and was nominated for an Edgar Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and an Anthony Award, among other honors. Her new book, Housemates (Hogarth, May 28, 2024), is a road trip novel of love, friendship, and chosen family in a fractured America.

Handsell readers your book:

If you like books about falling in love with your housemate (gay chaos!), living in a fat body, film photography, or Philadelphia; if you can possibly remember what 2018 America felt like before we knew how much worse it would get; if you like fiction that's a little gossipy and a little sad or are interested in structurally complex novels--Housemates might be for you.

On your nightstand now:

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July (a reread; all the characters sound the same and all of them are perfect. I just love living in July's bonkers smart and sexy mind).

Dead Weight: Essays on Hunger and Harm by Emmeline Clein (come for the Marissa Cooper/The OC discourse, stay for the astute analysis of the diet industrial complex).

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was an Ella Enchanted (by Gail Carson Levine) girly. I just couldn't get enough of the fun and frolicking, not to mention the fine insights into obedience and rule breaking.

Your top five authors:

Grace Paley, James Baldwin, Miranda July, Marcy Dermansky, Susan Choi.

Book you've faked reading:

Too many recent ones to name by too many lovely people. A few other writer friends and I have adopted the saying "great book, didn't read it" for books we've been meaning to get to.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Brother & Sister Enter the Forest by Richard Mirabella. Why aren't there more novels that probe the wild joys and horrors of having a sibling? Why aren't there more books that actually render what trauma feels like as it marinates in its own juices over time? Mirabella does both here, and it wrecked me.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Piglet by Lottie Hazell (those cheeseburgers!)

Book you hid from your parents:

Sophie's Choice by William Styron. Unpopular/strange opinion for the Jew that I am: this is a book that is less about the Holocaust than it is about being horny. Stingo overhears--and then partakes in--sex that animates his changing understanding of the world. Steamy!

Book that changed your life:

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. To trace the impulse of me seeing good writing and thinking I want to do that is to trace it right back to McCullers's devastating howl of a novel that is about nothing less than how people love and fail to love each other. It should be hyperbole to say this book is the way I see the world, but it is not!!

Favorite line from a book:

"I want, for instance, to be a different person." --Grace Paley

Five books you'll never part with:

Problems by Jade Sharma, All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee, Sarahland by Sam Cohen.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson. There was something about the way this book unspools that is so special and will never come again.

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