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Sheila Heti

Sheila Heti
Heti in 2013
Heti in 2013
Born (1976-12-25) 25 December 1976 (age 47)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Alma mater

Sheila Heti (/ˈʃlə ˈhɛt/; born 25 December 1976) is a Canadian writer.[1][2]

Early life

Sheila Heti was born on 25 December 1976 in Toronto.[3][4] Her parents are Hungarian Jewish immigrants.[5] Her brother is comedian David Heti. Her father wanted to name her after Woody Allen, but her mother was opposed.[6]

Sheila Heti attended St. Clement's School in Toronto. She graduated from North Toronto Collegiate Institute in Toronto. She then studied playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada (leaving the program after one year) and then art history as well as philosophy at the University of Toronto.[4] Heti said that Marquis de Sade and Henry Miller are early literary influences of hers.[4]


Heti's writing spans a variety of genres including plays, short fiction, and novels. She has contributed to periodicals such as Flare, London Review of Books, Brick, Open Letters, Maisonneuve, Bookforum, n+1, the Look, McSweeney's, and the New York Times. Her books have been published internationally, including France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark.[citation needed]

She formerly worked as the interviews editor at The Believer[7] where she conducts interviews regularly. She contributed a column on acting to Maisonneuve.[8] Heti is the creator of Trampoline Hall, a popular monthly lecture series based in Toronto and New York at which people speak on subjects outside their areas of expertise.The New Yorker praised the series for "celebrating eccentricity and do-it-yourself inventiveness". It has sold out every show since its inception in December 2001.[citation needed]

For the early part of 2008, Heti kept a blog called The Metaphysical Poll, where she posted the dreams people had in their sleep about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary season, which readers submitted.


Year Work Prize Result Ref
2001 Now Best Emerging Author Won [3]
2002 Won [3]
2002 KM Hunter Artists Award Won [3]
2003 Now Best Emerging Author Won [3]
2004 Won [3]
2018 Motherhood Giller Prize Shortlisted [9]
2022 Pure Colour Folio Prize for fiction Shortlisted [10]
Giller Prize Longlisted [11]
Governor General's Award for English-language fiction Won [12]

Acting and theater

Heti was an actress as a child and as a teenager appeared in shows directed by Hillar Liitoja, the founder and artistic director of the experimental DNA Theatre.

She appears in Margaux Williamson's 2010 film, Teenager Hamlet and plays Lenore Doolan from Leanne Shapton's book, Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry. In November 2013, Jordan Tannahill directed Heti's play All Our Happy Days Are Stupid at Toronto's Videofag. It was remounted in February 2015 at The Kitchen in New York. Her decade-long struggle to write the play is a primary plot element in her novel How Should a Person Be?[13]


The Middle Stories

Heti's first book, The Middle Stories, a collection of thirty short stories, was published by House of Anansi in Canada in 2001 when she was twenty-four. It was published by McSweeney's in the United States in 2002. It has been translated into German, French, Spanish, and Dutch.


Heti's novella, Ticknor, was released in 2005. The novel's main characters are based on real people: William Hickling Prescott and George Ticknor, although the facts of their lives are altered. It was published by House of Anansi Press in Canada, Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the United States, and Éditions Phébus in France.

How Should a Person Be?

Heti's How Should a Person Be? was published in September 2010. She describes it as a work of constructed reality, based on recorded interviews with her friends, particularly the painter Margaux Williamson. It was published by Henry Holt in the United States in July 2012 in a slightly different edition (she has spoken in interviews about the edits she made), and the subtitle "A Novel from Life" was added. It was chosen by The New York Times as one of the 100 Best Books of 2012 and by James Wood of The New Yorker as one of the best books of the year. It was also included on year-end lists on Salon, The New Republic, The New York Observer, and more publications.[14] In her 2007 interview with Dave Hickey for The Believer, she noted, "Increasingly I'm less interested in writing about fictional people, because it seems so tiresome to make up a fake person and put them through the paces of a fake story. I just–I can't do it."[15]

The Chairs Are Where the People Go

In 2011, she published The Chairs are Where the People Go, which she wrote with her friend, Misha Glouberman. The New Yorker called it "a triumph of conversational philosophy" and named it one of the Best Books of 2011.

We Need a Horse

McSweeney's commissioned the children's book from Heti; it was illustrated by Clare Rojas.

Women in Clothes

In Fall 2014, Heti published a non-fiction book about women's relationship to what they wear, with co-editors Leanne Shapton and Heidi Julavits.[16] It was a crowd-sourced book, featuring the voices of 639 women from around the world. The book was published by Penguin in the US and the UK, with a German edition published in 2015 by S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main. It was on The New York Times Best Seller list for several months.


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2019)

In May 2018, Heti published an autobiographical novel, Motherhood, focused on her deliberation on whether or not to have children.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25] Initially conceived as a non-fiction work, Heti explores the emphasis society places on motherhood and how women are judged regardless of their decision: "... a woman will always be made to feel like a criminal, whatever choice she makes, however hard she tries. Mothers feel like criminals. Nonmothers do, too."[26] The book was named as a shortlisted finalist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize.[27]

LitHub named her novel, Motherhood, as a Favorite Book of 2018 and a New York Times Critics Pick of 2018.

Pure Colour

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2022)

Pure Colour, a new novel exploring the human condition, appeared in 2022. It was the winner of the Governor General's Award for English-language fiction at the 2022 Governor General's Awards.[28]

Alphabetical Diaries

Alphabetical Diaries was released in early 2024. Heti had taken a decade's worth of diaries and ordered the sentences alphabetically, before spending another decade or so paring them down into a new book.

Personal life

Heti lives in Toronto.[4]



  • Heti, Sheila (2001). The Middle Stories. McSweeney's Publishing. ISBN 9781938073090.
  • —— (2005). Ticknor: A Novel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9781429935579.
  • ——; Glouberman, Misha (2011). The Chairs Are Where the People Go. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780865479456.
  • —— (2011). We Need a Horse. illust. by Clare Rojas. McSweeney's Publishing. ISBN 9781936365401.
  • —— (2012). How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9781429943482.
  • —— (2015). All Our Happy Days Are Stupid. McSweeney's Publishing. ISBN 9781940450803.
  • —— (2018). Motherhood. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9781627790772.
  • —— (2022). Pure Colour. Knopf Canada. ISBN 9780735282452.[29]
  • —— (2024). Alphabetical Diaries. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9780374610784.

Short stories

  • "The Raspberry Bush"
  • "The Poet and the Novelist as Roommates"[30]
  • "Mermaid in a Jar"[31]
  • What Changed"[32]
  • "Eleanor"[33]


  • "I Didn't Like Sitting With the Rattle for Hours." The Brooklyn Rail. 2017.


  • Sheila Heti; Heidi Julavits; Leanne Shapton, eds. (2014). Women in Clothes. Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 9780698189829.
  • Sheila Heti, ed. (2018). The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Mariner Books. ISBN 9781328465818.


  • Heti, Sheila (2014). "Playlist: Let's Listen to Love". In Wilson, Carl (ed.). Let's Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 271–277. ISBN 978-1-4411-6677-7.
  • Women in Clothes. Blue Rider Press. 2014. ISBN 978-0399166563


  • Heti, Sheila (November–December 2008). "'I'm All in Favor of the Shifty Artist'". The Believer. 6 (9): 40–46. Interview with artist Frank Stella.


  1. ^ "Bio". Sheila Heti. Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  2. ^ "Sheila Heti: 'Books by women still get treated differently from those by men'". the Guardian. 12 February 2022. Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Heti, Sheila 1976–". Contemporary Authors. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d Dey, Claudia (26 April 2018). "The Child Thing: An Interview with Sheila Heti". The Paris Review. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  5. ^ Liz Hoggard (19 January 2013). "Sheila Heti: 'I love dirty books'". the Guardian.
  6. ^ Heti, Sheila (22 April 2022). "We Need the Eggs: On Annie Hall, Love, and Delusion". The Paris Review. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  7. ^ "Bio".
  8. ^ Coleman, Madeline (28 October 2010). "Interview With Sheila Heti: 'All the Stories We Tell Ourselves are Fictions'". Maisonneuve. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
  9. ^ Deborah Dundas (1 October 2018). "Esi Edugyan, Patrick deWitt among finalists for $100,000 Giller Prize". Toronto Star.
  10. ^ "2023 Shortlist". The Rathbones Folio Prize. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  11. ^ "14 Canadian authors longlisted for $100K Scotiabank Giller Prize". CBC Books. 6 September 2022. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  12. ^ Dundas, Deborah (16 November 2022). "Sheila Heti, Eli Baxter win 2022 Governor General's Literary Awards for fiction and non-fiction". Toronto Star. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  13. ^ "How Sheila Heti's long-abandoned play went from her bottom drawer to a Toronto stage". The Globe and Mail, 23 October 2013.
  14. ^ Gordon, Spencer (15 December 2009). "A Conversation with Sheila Heti" (PDF). Puritan. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 March 2012.
  15. ^ "The Believer – Interview with Dave Hickey". The Believer.
  16. ^ Women in Clothes. Blue Rider Press. 2014. ISBN 978-0-399-16656-3.
  17. ^ Schwartz, Alexandra (7 May 2018). "Sheila Heti Wrestles with a Big Decision in "Motherhood"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  18. ^ Feigel, Lara (6 June 2018). "Motherhood by Sheila Heti review – to breed or not to breed?". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  19. ^ Brockes, Emma (25 May 2018). "Sheila Heti: 'There's a sadness in not wanting the things that give others their life's meaning'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  20. ^ Garner, Dwight (30 April 2018). "To Make Someone Be or Not to Make Someone Be". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  21. ^ Blair, Elaine (18 May 2018). "Mother of All Decisions: Sheila Heti's New Novel Weighs Whether to Have a Child". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  22. ^ Fischer, Molly. "In Her New Book Motherhood, Sheila Heti Confronts an Eternal Female Crossroads". The Cut. New York Magazine. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  23. ^ Doherty, Maggie (25 April 2018). "On Not Becoming a Mother". The New Republic. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  24. ^ Oyler, Lauren (1 May 2018). "Motherhood!". The Baffler. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  25. ^ McKinney, Kelley Deane (7 May 2019). "Sheila Heti: "All of Living is Thinking"". Guernica. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  26. ^ Filgate, Michele (2018). "What's a Woman to Do?". Publishers Weekly. 265: 38–39 – via ProQuest Literature Online.
  27. ^ "Esi Edugyan, Patrick deWitt among finalists for $100,000 Giller Prize". Toronto Star, 1 October 2018.
  28. ^ Deborah Dundas, "Sheila Heti, Eli Baxter win 2022 Governor General’s Literary Awards for fiction and non-fiction". Toronto Star, November 16, 2022.
  29. ^ "66 works of Canadian fiction to watch for in spring 2022". CBC Books, January 11, 2022.
  30. ^ "Poet and the Novelist as Roommates". McSweeneys. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  31. ^ "Mermaid in a Jar". Drunken Boat. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  32. ^ "What Changed". Taddle Creek Magazine. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  33. ^ "Eleanor". Toronto Life. September 2016.
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Sheila Heti
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