Jennifer Weiner Talks Zahav, Marijuana, and Madonna’s New Face

Plus, the one question she really didn't want me to ask her.

Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner / Photograph by Stevie Chris

Nearly 20 years after her bestselling novel In Her Shoes became a big box office success, Queen Village author Jennifer Weiner is back with a new book and already hard at work on yet another.

My full name is … Jennifer Agnes Weiner. The “Agnes” comes from an Italian movie my parents saw when my mom was pregnant, and there was a character named Agnesia who was a prostitute. I wouldn’t have minded Agnesia. But Agnes? Worst middle name ever. Best origin story.

When I was a kid, other kids called me … all sorts of things, with a last name like Weiner.

I was born in … Louisiana, on an Army base. I grew up in a bedroom community of Hartford, Connecticut, where everybody had a swimming pool. And I came to Philly in 1994 to work at the Inquirer. I wanted to be a writer but realized nobody would pay me to be a debut novelist, so journalism was it.

In those days, the Inquirer was … winning Pulitzers every year. They had bureaus in every big city around the world. This was all before the internet happened, of course. I think journalists are famous for talking about the places they work by saying things like, “Kid, you shoulda been here 20 years ago.” And yeah, it’s like that. There was so much money. They would send you everywhere.

One bad habit I cannot break is … leaving half-empty glasses of drinks all over the house. It’s like that M. Night movie Signs where the daughter leaves half-empty glasses everywhere.

My secret talent is that I can … park a minivan in my sleep.

When I still hear people call my books “chick lit” … I am, at this stage, kind of astonished. I’m 53. That’s many, many years from my “chick” era.

My favorite reality show right now is … Alone. It’s like Naked & Afraid, but you have clothes and you’re all alone. The first two thirds of the show, you watch people build ingenious structures and snares and they cure their own meat. The last third, they are basically all starving to death. I had to break up with The Bachelor. It became increasingly tough to square it with my feminist ideals.

If you take me to karaoke, I will sing … “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” from The Little Mermaid. I do a killer Ursula.

My new book, The Breakaway, is about … a single woman in her early 30s who is at a turning point and has to decide if she’s going to marry the guy she’s been with for a couple of years and who is madly in love with her.

My last op-ed for the New York Times was about … Madonna’s new face. Everybody just, like, gave her so much grief. They acted like she was the victim of bad plastic surgery. That is a thing that happens. But also, everybody ignored Madonna’s decades of very savvy and deliberate reinvention.

One question I really, really hope you don’t ask me is … where I get all my ideas. I hate it when reporters ask me that.

My dog’s name is … Levon. Yes, after the Elton John song.

I buy most of my clothes at … Old Navy.

Some of the biggest changes to my life over the last ten years have been … that my kids are growing up. One is now in college. The other is in high school. And I’m finally riding my bike again, which ties into my children growing up and me being able to leave the hours for hours at a time.

Jennifer Weiner on a recent bike trip

Jennifer Weiner on a recent bike trip (Getty Images)

My longest bike trip of late has been … 78 miles, from Princeton to a wedding in North Jersey.

The last book I read cover to cover was … The School for Good Mothers, by Jessamine Chan, who lived in Philadelphia when she wrote it, and that’s where it’s set.

The last time I got really, really high was … never! Pot just makes me hungry and sleepy, and that is my natural state. So I do not indulge.

Since I first started speaking out about gender bias in the media … things have actually gotten better. For instance, the New York Times used to only write about romance novels on Valentine’s Day, when they would get some 100-year-old white male lit professor to crap all over them for 1,200 words. Now, they have a regular column that covers romance novels enthusiastically and respectfully.

My next big project is … a sister story, about two sisters in Fishtown who were in a tremendously successful band in the late ’90s that sort of flamed out spectacularly, and now we see the sisters in the present day, dealing with the fallout of fame.

If you’re taking me out to dinner, let’s go to … Zahav or Forsythia. Have you had the ricotta beignets at Forsythia? Oh my God!

The best thing about my job is that … I don’t have to put on uncomfortable pants, ever. Well, except when going on a book tour. Otherwise, it’s yoga pants all the time.

If invited to go live on the moon for a year, I would say … As long as I can bring my books.

One thing that really pisses me off is … people who park in the bike lane.

To the book-banners of America, I say … What’s the polite version of “Fuck you”?

Published as “One of Us: Jennifer Weiner” in the September 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.