Fernanda Eberstadt was born in New York City on November 10, 1960. Her maternal grandfather was the poet Ogden Nash. As a child, Eberstadt spent summers in her grandparents' house on the New Hampshire seacoast. She recalls word-games at meals when Nash would teach his grandchildren new words, and then try to tempt them into alternate meanings. "One day, when I was about five, he taught me the word 'gullible', and the next day at lunch, asked me if it were true that 'gullible' was used to describe someone that seagulls considered a delicacy. She says that, "From my grandfather, I grew up thinking of the English language as this great saltwater-taffy voodoo doll that can stand a lot of teasing and contorting."
Her paternal grandfather was the investment banker and Washington advisor Ferdinand Eberstadt, who helped construct the post-war Atomic Energy Commission. She is the daughter of the photographer and psychotherapist Frederick Eberstadt, who lives in New York City. Her mother was Isabel Nash Eberstadt, a writer, fashion figure, and patroness of the arts, who published two novels, appeared in Andy Warhol's Screen Tests and in Robert Wilson's opera Edison.
As a teenager, Eberstadt worked backstage at Balanchine's New York City Ballet, at Andy Warhol's Factory, and for Diana Vreeland at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum.
She was one of the first women to be accepted at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which she graduated with a Double First Class Honors degree in English Language and Literature in 1982.
In the 1980s, she worked as a journalist and critic in New York City, writing essays about Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and the Hebrew Bible for magazines such as Commentary, The New Criterion, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker.
Eberstadt's book-length article on Sicily, the novelist Lampedusa, and the restoration of old palaces in Palermo appeared in The New Yorker.
Since the early 1990s, Eberstadt has lived mostly in Europe. She spent a year and a half in Istanbul, writing about the city for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine.
In 1993, she married the British writer Alastair Bruton. They have two children, Maud (born 1995), and Theodore (born 1998).
In 1998, Eberstadt and her family moved to the French Mediterranean Pyrenees, where they lived for six years in a house on a vineyard outside Perpignan, while Bruton researched a book about the decline of Christianity in contemporary Western Europe.
Eberstadt's experiences in Perpignan's Gypsy community led to her first non-fiction book, Little Money Street, a portrait of her friendship with a family of French Gypsy musicians.
Since 2009, she has been living between France and London.
Her books have been translated into eight languages.
Little Money Street (2008): Based Eberstadt's six years in Perpignan's Gypsy community, in the South of France, and her friendship with one Gypsy family, each of whose children has chosen a quite different way of negotiating the conflicts between modernity and tribal belonging.
From the author's website, 2010
This biography was last updated on 05/29/2010.
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