22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Sheila Heti

Portrait Sheila Heti
© Steph Martyniuk

Sheila Heti was born in Toronto in 1976 and studied art history and philosophy at the University of Toronto and playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada.

Sheila Heti’s work spans a variety of genres. So far, she has written plays, short prose, books for children, novels, and has made contributions to various magazines and newspapers. In 2001, she published her first book under the title »The Middle Stories«. The thirty short stories about love, life, and loneliness feature a number of whimsical characters, including a lovesick plumber, a talking frog, a Jewish giant, and a mermaid in a mason jar. She published »How Should a Person Be?« in 2010. Based on conversations with friends, especially with the painter Margaux Williamson, about freedom, art, and love, the project emerged as a memoir-novel hybrid, whose main character Sheila finds herself in the midst of a crisis. Stylistically experimental, the book alternates essay-like sections with dialogues and passages of prose. Critics praised the book as a portrait of the generation, pointing to her portrayal of young people as having every professional and private opportunity, which often leads to high demands and excessive expectations. The volume »Women in Clothes« (2014), which Sheila Heti edited together with Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits, was also met with international acclaim. Over 600 women from all over the world contributed to the volume. The meaning behind certain items of clothing, the influence of other people on one’s own style, the connection between fashion, identity, and emotions – these are the topics of the book, which was on the bestseller list of the »New York Times« and was celebrated by the »Süddeutsche Zeitung« as »the smartest and most surprising thing there is to read about fashion at the moment.« Her most recent book is the autobiographical novel »Motherhood« (2018). The anonymous narrator, again strongly based on the author, entertains the question of whether she wants to become a mother or not. Her diary-style, intimate self-assessment spans several years and incorporates numerous aspects, including social expectations, the protagonist’s Jewish background, and the import role writing plays in her life.

Sheila Heti was selected by »The New York Times« for »The New Vanguard« list, which highlights fifteen female writers from around the world whose books are shaping the way fiction is read and written in the 21st century. She lives in Toronto.