In addition to The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff is the author of two novels, Pasadena and The Danish Girl, and a short-story collection, The Rose City. His fiction has won a number of awards, including the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Lambda Literary Award, and has been translated into ten languages to critical acclaim. Ebershoff has taught creative writing at New York University and Princeton and is currently an adjunct assistant professor in the graduate writing program at Columbia University. For many years he was the publishing director of the Modern Library, and he is currently an editor-at-large for Random House. He lives in New York City.
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David Ebershoff discusses The 19th Wife
How did you first encounter the story of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, and what drew you to her story?
I first heard about Ann Eliza Young seven years ago while editing a book for the Modern Library. I had hired a scholar a specialist in 19th century women's history to write a set of endnotes for a classic we were reissuing. History geek that I am, one afternoon I was gabbing with her about all sorts of 19th-century arcana when she mentioned the 19th Wife. I told her I'd never heard of her and she gave a me brief introduction. Needless to say, my writer's ears stood up.
At the time I was working on another novel, one that I would ultimately put aside to write The 19th Wife. And so for a few years, while my attention was elsewhere, that nickname the 19th Wife continued to ring in my head. The 19th Wife? Who was that? What does it even mean to be a 19th wife? After a few years I started looking into that question. As I read more about Ann Eliza Young, I recognized how remarkable she was: intelligent, outspoken, declarative, contradictory, somewhat unreliable, a tad melodramatic, very beautiful (and a little bit vain) she ...
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