Due to some personal grudges my parents hold against the medical and legal industries, I'm the only Jewish child I know who was forbidden to become a doctor or a lawyer. This did not leave me with many options. Professional sports were out (see Jewish child, above), as was a career in marine biology (ibid) or aromatherapy (ibid).
Instead I studied English. This went pretty well, so after college I decided to go straight into a Ph.D. program. Somehow this ended up taking longer than medical school or law school - combined. When I finally finished, I discovered that unlike doctors and lawyers, I was not particularly employable. No one was willing to pay me to lecture on the themes of displacement and marginalization in Gilligan's Island, which is all graduate school had prepared me to do.
Finding myself without an academic position, I began spending my time on ill-conceived craft projects, like jeweled bedpans and sparkly collage tributes to Cher, discovering that I liked this work much better than literary theory. Finally, someone offered to let me write craft books, which I did for several years. In 2002, I drafted my sister into this, and together we wrote Judaikitsch.
Shortly after that I abandoned the terrible, terrible novel I was working on and wrote DEVIL IN THE DETAILS instead. Now I'm at home in San Francisco, working on my next book - about medicine - and spending my ample free time sewing toys for my cat.
While writing DEVIL IN THE DETAILS I found the only books I wanted to read were other memoirs, especially ones about religious obsessions and mortifying teen years. I was lucky to read lots of great ones. These were some of my favorites:
LOSER GOES FIRST: My Thirty-Something Years of Dumb Luck and Minor Humiliation, by Dan Kennedy
KICK ME: Adventures in Adolescence, by Paul Feig
LAKE EFFECT by Rich Cohen
THIS DARK WORLD: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost, by Carolyn S. Briggs
PASSING FOR NORMAL: A Memoir of Compulsion, by Amy S. Wilensky
THE CHELSEA WHISTLE by Michelle Tea
TRAVELING MERCIES: Some Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott
WELCOME TO MY COUNTRY: Journeys into the World of a Therapist and Her Patients, by Lauren Slater
Jennifer Traig is a frequent contributor to McSweeney's and The Forward. She is the author of a series of young adult books and a humor book, JUDAIKITSCH. She has a Ph.D. in literature and lives in San Francisco.