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Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud


Alumni Portraits
Sheila Heti
Current Industry: Literature
Bachelor of Arts (BA) 2002, Trinity College

Heti has been writing since she was 16. A reviewer said her first collection of stories, The Middle Stories, written when she was in her early twenties, “takes the reader from subjective involvement with the characters, through a series of absurdly unfortunate twists and turns, to a point of almost eerie detachment.”

How Should a Person Be? is a novel that leans heavily on the real lives of Heti and her artistic colleagues in Toronto. In an interview with the New York Times, she was asked if her book was tactically boring in some way. She said “I hope so. Some of my favourite experiences of art are when I am there but my attention has wandered. I think stimulation is overrated, and persistent stimulation is exhausting. You sometimes have to be banal, tedious; make the rhythm go soft and slow, give the mind a rest. I’d rather that people could be both entertained and given rest while reading my book, than for someone to have to put the book down to take a rest.”

There has been little time to rest for Heti. She has written for the New York Times, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, among others, and her work has been translated into a dozen languages, including Serbian. In 2011, she became Interviews Editor at The Believer.

She created the Trampoline Hall lecture series where people deliver lectures on subject outside their areas of expertise. In 2008, she created the Metaphysical Poll, a blog that collected the sleeping dreams people were having about Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama during the Democratic primaries.

Heti also appeared in the film Teenage Hamlet, and with her colleague Margaux Williamson, runs The Production Front, which puts on shows and promotes the work of other artists.

She recently published an illustrated book for children, We Need a Horse.


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