Jodi Picoult discusses her upbringing, career and the men who have influenced her.
Relationship status: Married
Best known for: Her novel My Sister’s Keeper
My maternal grandfather’s name was Hal Friend. He was married to my grandmother, Bess Friend, which I just love. Hal grew up poor in the Lower East Side of New York, where my great-grandfather was a presser, which meant he ironed the gowns of rich women. He went to night school and got a degree in accounting. He also joined the army and served in World War II. After the war he moved with my grandmother to Long Island, where he lived to be 100.
My father, Myron, is goofy and does an impeccable Donald Duck impression. What I love is that he’s very silly in private, but when he worked he was one of the top three security analysts in the country, despite his grades being so bad that he had to go to night school at university. He met my mother, Jane, an A-grade student, because her sorority was teamed with his fraternity to work on a carnival. He fell in love with her at first sight and somehow convinced her that he was worth the risk.
Dad also did technical writing, so he’s probably the parent from whom I got the ability to write a clean sentence. My mother, though, was the reason I started reading at three years of age. She took me to the library and one of my first birthday gifts was a bedside lamp, so I could read in bed.
My first crush was Kal Raustiala in second grade. He had a jungle gym in his basement and I used to play on it. He also owned an iguana. I thought he was so cute. Years later I was asked about my first crush in an interview, and Kal saw it. Out of the blue he emailed me, and I met him for coffee while I was on a book tour in LA. He is a professor now and looked exactly like he did, only bigger.
I met Aaron while I was studying creative writing at Princeton University. At the end of my freshman year, his sister hired me to tutor him in French. Then one night, as I was leaving his room, he asked if he could kiss me. I said no. That summer we wrote to each other and I fell in love because of his writing. We dated for three years, but in my senior year he broke it off. I was a mess.
Tim, a friend from Princeton, phoned and said I should visit him in Cape Cod. He looked like a young Robert Redford. He was so beautiful. One thing led to another that weekend, and as I left I said it was okay if he didn’t call me, but he called as soon as I got off the plane. When I returned to my dorm, Aaron was in my room. He said he’d made a big mistake, but I couldn’t go back. I kept dating Tim, and we married in 1989, so clearly I made the right choice.