A Woman Defined

Art & Culture by Mahvash Mossaed
Deborah Copaken

A Conversation with Deborah Copaken, Author of Newly Released Book “Ladyparts”

May 23, 2022
Ladyparts by Deborah Copaken
Ladyparts by Deborah Copaken

I had the opportunity to interview Deborah Copaken, the author of Ladyparts. Here are some highlights.

Do you write for others or for yourself only?
I write to connect with readers. That being said, I do not try to imagine what my reader wants and then write that. I write what I want to write and hope readers out there will connect with the material. 

Are you affected by other people’s appraisal of your work? Have you ever been hurt by them?
I’m human. Of course I’m affected by others’ appraisal of my work, especially if it’s cruel. On the other hand, it doesn’t affect my workflow. I believe in myself. I believe in my writing. And after I read something unusually cruel, I force myself to sit and wonder about the person who wrote it, realizing so much of what passes as professional criticism is actually projection, often of subconscious jealousy, on the critic’s part. Book criticism is the only type of criticism in which the critic and the artist are in the same field: writing. I always try to remind myself of this, and it helps me move on soon thereafter.

Now, all that being said, the criticism of Shutterbabe, for example, was rife with sexism. That is intolerable. It was intolerable to read, “I ask her if she’s worried her frankness will get her labeled a slut,” in a book review/profile of me in a national magazine. It was intolerable to be blamed for my own assaults. It was intolerable to have my career as a war photographer labeled, in the title, “Battlefield Barbie,” or in that same review to be called a “soccer-mom-in-training.” I wrote a whole essay about this that went viral way back when. It’s here.

Do you feel that you and the characters in your book have been well understood by your readers?
I have no idea! 🙂

What books are currently on your book stand?
I’m reading my good friend Tad Friend’s new book In the Early Times. I just finished Delia Ephron’s Left on Tenth. And I want to read Up the Down Staircase next, because someone told me it was the best novel they’ve ever read. I’m also dying to read the new Martha Wainwright memoir, Stories I Might Regret Telling You. Oh, and my friend Jean Hanff Korelitz has a new novel out called The Latecomer that just made it into the TBR pile. 

What do you plan to read next?
lol see above. 

What is next for you?
I’m working on my substack, Ladyparts, which has gone gangbusters this year, building a paid audience, reader by reader. All of the articles are related to the topics I covered in Ladyparts, and I’m really enjoying not having an intermediary between me and my readers, as I often do when I write magazine articles.

About the Author

Deborah Copaken
Deborah Copaken

Deborah Copaken is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Shutterbabe, The Red Book, Between Here and April, and Ladyparts, her most recent memoir of bodily destruction and resurrection during marital rupture (Random House, 2021). A contributing writer at The Atlantic, she was also a writer on the Emmy/Golden Globe-nominated Netflix hit, Emily in Paris, a performer (The Moth, etc.), and an Emmy Award–winning news producer and photojournalist. Her photographs have appeared in Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Observer, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, Slate, O, the Oprah Magazine, and Paris Match, among others. Her column “When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist” was adapted for the Modern Love streaming series. She is the writer, producer, CEO, and publisher of the Substack Ladyparts, and she is currently adapting Ladyparts the book into a series.


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