Curtis Sittenfeld Discusses Her New Novel “Rodham”

In her new novel “Rodham,” author Curtis Sittenfeld imagines a counterfactual history in which Hillary Rodham never marries Bill Clinton, instead pursuing her career — and eventually runs for president. Sittenfeld joins the program to discuss this intriguing “what-if.”

Read Transcript EXPAND

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: What made you take that fork in the road? What made you imagine an alternative set of facts for Hillary Clinton’s life?

CURTIS SITTENFELD, AUTHOR, “RODHAM”: Well, I feel like there are a few reasons. One reason, I mean, I definitely a Democrat and, you know, was very disappointed after the 2016 election. So, I think some of it was wanting to create alternate universe. But also, I had the realization that in 2016, school children who knew that Hillary was running for president, in some cases, literally didn’t know that Bill Clinton existed or that he had been president. And so, I thought it was very — it was a very interesting thought experiment to imagine if American voters who are adults also hadn’t seen the Clintons as so interconnected.

AMANPOUR: And you say and a lot of reviewers have said, you know, for all the time she’s been a known name and known quantity, it’s all about what people think of her. And this is, you know, what she thinks of people and things in a different way than — obviously, because it’s fiction, than we have ever seen portrayed before. What are you saying or what are you saying for people who have not read the book yet about how she views the world? What is her lens that you give her, you know, in the context of what we know how she’s been portrayed?

SITTENFELD: Well, it is important for me to say, it definitely is a novel. And unlike you, I have never met Hillary Clinton. So, it’s not as if I have — I mean, I think — I like to think I have sort of special creativity or imagination, but I do not have special access into Hillary Clinton’s brain. But I do think — I mean, she’s been so scrutinized for 30 years, close to 30 years. And we do — we always think in terms of like what does she represent or what does she symbolize but I think that that sort of underestimates her as a person and I wanted to think about, yes, exactly as you were saying, not what do the American people think of Hillary but what does Hillary think of the American people.

About This Episode EXPAND

David Urban and Michael D’Antonio join Christiane Amanpour to dissect President Trump’s thinking as the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. nears 100,000. Curtis Sittenfeld discusses her new novel, which envisions a counterfactual history where Hillary Rodham never married Bill Clinton. Scott Galloway joins Hari Sreenivasan to explain how the pandemic will disrupt higher education in the U.S.