Jerks and Oranges
by Ana Sekler (MA 2016)
Sarah Vowell (MA 1999) studied art history at SAIC and wrote her thesis about the Fluxus movement, titled “Danger Music: a Fluxautopsy of the death of art; destroying musical instruments, destroying music in the early history of Fluxus.” Since then, she has become a New York Times–bestselling author of seven nonfiction books on American history and culture—covering subjects that include the Puritans, the Americanization of Hawaii, and the Marquis de Lafayette. From 1996–2008, she was a regular contributing editor for This American Life, and in 2004, she was the voice of Violet in the Pixar film, The Incredibles.
From radio to literature to the big screen, your work experience spans across media. Can you describe your experience working with these different forms of media?
Once I started working on the radio show, and then when I started writing more of my own books, I was drawn to being more of a whole person than you can be in print…especially magazines because they have sections.
I remember right around the time I felt like I was really becoming proud of what I was doing as a writer, all of my magazine stories were getting killed because the editor would be like, “We don’t know where to put this. This is funny, and then a bunch of people die, and then it’s not funny, and then I mean, where do we put this?” So I think where things were going is what I’m doing now. I do try to be a whole person, in the books especially because there are jokes in them, and I just feel like history is so fascinating, and to me, there’s a lot of joy in what I do. But then on the other hand, I write about American history, and there are a lot of hard truths one has to confront in that topic. The books are kind of tonally full, let’s say.