Kristen Roupenian (Kenya 2003-05) is the author of the short story “Cat Person” which became a viral phenomenon after appearing in The New Yorker this month. She just received a seven-figure book deal that Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker’s fiction editor, commented, “We have not seen anything like that with fiction.” The story in The New Yorker, has become the magazine’s second most-read article in 2017.
Kristen’s collection, You Know You Want This is the first of a two-book deal that includes an untitled novel.
In an interview on The New Yorker website, Kristen says, “I always wanted to be a writer, but I spent most of my twenties doing anything and everything else. I did the Peace Corps in Kenya, and I was a nanny for a while, and then I spent a long time in graduate school, studying African literature. It’s only in the past five years that I’ve really committed myself to writing fiction. I just completed an M.F.A. at the University of Michigan, and I’m putting the finishing touches on a short-story collection. I’m also at work on a novel.”
Kristen graduated from Barnard College in May of 2003. A few weeks later, she went to Kenya where she taught Public Health and HIV education at a small orphans’ center a few hours from the Ugandan border. During that time, she learned Swahili and had her first encountered with the literary magazine that later became the focus of her PhD dissertation. Back in the States, she worked as a teacher’s aide, a cashier at a bookstore, a freelance reporter, a nanny, and a research coordinator at Mass General Hospital before enrolling in the PhD program in English at Harvard in the fall of 2007.
Today, she is at the University of Michigan, having recently completed a master’s degree, she is now on a writing fellowship there.