I'm a Bestselling Novelist, But I Decided I Should Quit to Look After My Kids

October 5, 2016

Imagine this scenario: Successful working father loves his job, makes good money, enough to support the family. Working mother, meanwhile, is meh about her job and wants to spend more time with the kids. Who's most likely to quit and take on more childcare responsibilities?

The answer is so obvious it hardly bears stating. But flip the genders—successful mother, meh father—and suddenly things become a whole lot less obvious.

Or at least they did for me…

Moms: Your Fantasy About Running Away Is Totally Normal

September 19, 2016

“I fantasize about doing that.” That’s the response I heard over and over again when I told friends I was writing a novel about an overworked, overextended working mother who in the aftermath of a heart attack and bypass surgery runs away.

They told me this in whispers and in various iterations. One mom imagined staying on the train past her stop, another driving into the sunset instead of going home to make dinner…

Learning to swim connected me to my mother and my daughters 

The pool
August 31, 2016

Recently, I learned to swim.

It was three years ago, nearly four decades after I took my first swimming lesson at a neighbour’s pool up the street from my house in suburban Los Angeles. I spent the majority of that first lesson on the pool steps, stalling, crying, and finally telling the instructor I had to pee. Instead of going to the bathroom inside, I let myself out the front door and ran home…

Good-Enough Mothers

August 29, 2016

Dear Marjorie: It’s hard to transition female friendships from Before Kids to After Kids. We have succeeded (gold stars for us) in part, I think, because we both ascribe to the idea of the Good-Enough Mother, which is a concept I learned from you (thanks for that) that basically says: Stop trying to be perfect, or even good. Be good enough…

Teens Crave Young Adult Books on Really Dark Topics (and That's OK)

February 6, 2015

When I was 12 years old, I became an avid reader, my bookshelves stuffed with paperbacks like Jackie Collins’ Hollywood Wives, Sidney Sheldon’s The Other Side of Midnight and Harold Robbins’ Dreams Die First. Much as I loved reading about groupies and spies and Hollywood wives, and drug addicts and murderers, I was not one of them. I hadn’t even French kissed. Though some of the girls at my school were already sexually experienced, in spite of my racy reading, I was not. I wasn’t much into boys, at least not ones who existed off the page of a juicy book…

In a Balm of Space and Time, Healing

The New York Times
August 7, 2014

Twelve years ago, my husband, Nick, and I were halfway through a yearlong round-the-world trip when we arrived in Jaisalmer, India, on a furnace-hot July afternoon. As we made our way from the train station up the winding streets to the cheapest hotel we could find, our rickshaw became snarled in traffic in an alley alongside other rickshaws, a donkey cart and cows noshing on garbage…

The Tragic Mystery of Suicide

May 2008

In the space of one year the number of young women taking their own lives rose dramatically…and experts are scrambling to find out why. Here are two heartbreaking true stories of two girls who succumbed to despair and one who survived…

Caught in the Middle

Family Circle
April 2008

For Joanna Fernandez, middle school was a total shock to the system. She’d been a smart, sunny kid—until she started sixth grade in Stafford, Virginia…

A House on the Cape

Budget Travel
March 2008

With towering headlands covered in jack pine, a crescent of white sand bisected by a creek, and slabs of red granite half submerged in the surf, Black Brook Beach is the kind of coastline that inspires artists and poets. In me, however, it was inspiring only frustration…

A View With a Room

Budget Travel
March 2007

The spectacular coast of Croatia is studded with lighthouses that have helped sailors find safe harbor for centuries. Eleven of them have vacation rentals—simple apartments that allow guests to play keeper for a week…

Keeping It Red

Organic Style
April 2004

My husband, Nick, and I had just finished a two-hour morning yoga-and-chanting session in the Indian town of Rishikesh and were sitting in a tea shop alongside the Ganges River, taking a postpractice libation with our yogi. A breeze blew down the gorge, cooling the air…

Pas de Deux

Time Out New York
July 2003

The news that Diane Johnson’s popular 1997 novel, Le Divorce, was headed for the big screen elicited a certain horror among some loyalists—would the beloved book be butchered? But then came a sigh of relief, for this was to be a Merchant Ivory production…

The Killing Fields

February 2002

On the morning of June 15, 2000, one of America’s most unlikely terrorists awoke in jail, with a gnawing sense that a lousy day awaited him. Incarceration wasn’t the problem; in the year and a half since Jeffrey Luers, now 23, had moved to Oregon, he’d been arrested more than a dozen times…

The Raw Deal

February 2002

On a warm May evening in the basement of a midtown Manhattan building, members of a raw foods support group are hotly debating watermelon rinds. “I like to eat them,” asserts one forty-ish woman wearing a peasant blouse and Birkenstocks…

Meet the New Boss: Questions for Dr. Sima Samar

The New York Times Magazine
December 23, 2001

Why do you think you were picked as minister for women’s affairs? A: Because I’m very much outspoken and I belong to a minority group, the Hazaras. So this was a double benefit, actually. Q: Does that make you a token? A: I don’t know exactly, but maybe yes. I don’t say that I’m perfect, but I can do something…

Women in War

The Nation
November 14, 2001

United Nations resolutions don’t usually warrant birthday commemorations, but on October 30, women from three war-torn regions—Afghanistan, Kosovo and East Timor—honored the first anniversary of Resolution 1325, which seeks to address the particular problems faced by women in conflict zones, by testifying before the Security Council…

I Want My PMS

October 2001

My first inkling that it’s coming is a fluttering in my abdomen, little wings thumping against the walls of my insides. Somehow, I’m surprised by the feeling, though it happens every month. Then it intensifies: a fist in my stomach, a turmoil in my body, or a sense of doom…

Girls in Exile

September 2001

The Ferdausy Middle School isn’t all that different from the school that Rahima, 15, once went to in Afghanistan. The subjects are the same—grammar, math, science and Islamic studies (nearly all Afghans are Muslim)—as are the uniforms (long black chador, or body scarf, worn over tunics and baggy pants…

Stranger Than Fiction

November 2000

On a brisk, sunny winter’s morning in the South African village of Tshelimnyama, I watch as 17-year old Pumla Majola strips out of her jeans and sweatshirt, and puts on a traditional Zulu outfit of a short purple skirt and beaded necklace. Breasts bared, she marches onto a soccer field and joins hundreds of other girls, some as young as 6…

Moving Target

September 2000

Every time an alienated teen stages a shoot-out at his school; every time some six-year-old accidentally kills a friend with his father’s pistol; every time a depressed 14-year-old blows her brains out; every time a million moms march on Washington, D.C., or a thousand National Rifle Association (NRA) members meet at a convention…