Author Taffy Brodesser-Akner Writes from the Short Hills Mall Ladies’ Room

The bestselling author of Fleishman Is in Trouble talks Jersey gems, her stint in Maplewood and her latest novel, Long Island Compromise.

Split photo of author Taffy Brodesser-Akner and the cover of her new novel, "Long Island Compromise"
Taffy Brodesser-Akner's new novel, "Long Island Compromise," is out now. Headshot photo: Courtesy of Emil Cohen

In her new book Long Island Compromise, Taffy Brodesser-Akner revisits suburbia.

It’s a place she knows only too well, having lived in Maplewood with her family for seven years. While her best-selling first novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble, was primarily set in Manhattan, the book and its subsequent miniseries included a couple living in a leafy New Jersey town.

A staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, Brodesser-Akner says all her characters are reflections of herself, but it’s easy to see parallels between the author and her New Jersey doppelganger—after all, she wrote Fleishman while living in Maplewood.

The new novel follows the decades-long fallout after a prominent Long Island family’s patriarch is kidnapped in the driveway of his own home. It’s every bit as satirically sharp as its predecessor and features nearly as much sex, but Brodesser-Akner wanted to explore even more deeply the role of wealth in family history.

“I guess I wanted to discuss money and comfort, and those are things that kind of intersect in the suburbs,” she says. Like Fleishman, her new book has already been optioned for production as a streaming series. (The Fleishman series, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Claire Danes, premiered in November 2022 to critical acclaim.)

Now, the author and her family have just returned to the Brooklyn of her birth after her many years in New Jersey. “I’m just a mile from where I was born,” notes Brodesser-Akner.

She says she won’t be writing an autobiographical novel anytime soon. “I guess when it comes down to it, I’m still a journalist, someone who likes to assess things best from that kind of proximity. Like a constant visit without a real stake in it. Everything else feels too personal.”

Although she penned both novels in New Jersey, at least in part, she feels confident she’ll be productive in Brooklyn, too. “I can write anywhere, a distinction that’s important to the psychology of how I do things,” she says. “Though a great place to write is the Mall at Short Hills ladies’ room, which has a couch and no internet or phone signal.”

What will she miss from those years in New Jersey? “The people I was friends with there were really profoundly good friends,” Brodesser-Akner says. And driving the state with her husband, then based in Trenton, introduced her to unknown gems. “It has to be the most interesting state in the union. It contains everything, and yet it’s rounded out by this kind of one state personality, which you can find easily on the New Jersey official Twitter account. The New York official Twitter account will post something mean about New Jersey, and New Jersey will just respond, ‘Your mother.’ In those moments, I don’t know if I did the right thing by leaving!”

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