Sanaë Lemoine is the author of The Margot Affair. Born in Paris to a Japanese mother and French father, she was raised in France and Australia. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her MFA in fiction at Columbia University, where she taught undergraduate writing. She has worked as an editor at Martha Stewart and Phaidon, and is currently collaborating on two cookbook projects, in addition to writing her second novel. She lives in Brooklyn.
Moments of recognition and support are so few and far between in the writing life. I spent eight years writing my first novel on weekends and early mornings—those stolen moments when I wasn’t teaching or editing recipes—too embarrassed then to call myself a writer. Even today, I struggle to balance my work as a novelist and cookbook writer. I often feel that I’m failing at both, especially this past year while publishing my debut in the early months of a pandemic. The National Endowment for the Arts grant is a life-changing acknowledgment of an endeavor that most days seems impossibly hard. Knowing that I can take a significant amount of time next year to work on my second novel is truly the most precious gift. I cannot begin to describe my gratitude, and the honor of being in the company of so many writers I deeply admire.
In my first novel, a coming-of-age story set in France, I wrote about an unusual family configuration, the burden of holding secrets, and the discovery of desire alongside grief. With my second novel, I’m writing about belonging and identity, and the tension between feeling at home in an adopted country and being inherently other to that place. My narrator moves from Tokyo to Buenos Aires in the 1980s. She is torn between her birth country, where she has never felt completely at ease, and the community she builds in this new country during a time of political upheaval as it transitions from a military dictatorship to democracy. I drew inspiration from my Japanese mother, who lived in Argentina for 20 years. With the generous support of the NEA, I will continue working on this novel and hope to travel to Argentina as part of the research to bring this story to life.