Life and career
Heti was born in Toronto, Canada. Her parents are Hungarian Jewish immigrants. She studied art history and philosophy at the University of Toronto and playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada. She works as Interviews Editor at The Believer where she also conducts interviews regularly, and she wrote a column on acting for Maisonneuve. Her brother is the comedian David Heti.
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 subsequently 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?
In September 2010, Heti's How Should a Person Be?, was published. 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. 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."
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 this 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. 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 spent several months on The New York Times Best Seller list.
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.
For the early part of 2008, Heti kept a blog called The Metaphysical Poll, where she posted the sleeping dreams people were having about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary season, which readers sent in.
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.
Heti appears in Margaux Williamson's 2010 film, Teenager Hamlet.
Heti plays Lenore Doolan in 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. Heti's decade-long struggle to write the play is a primary plot element in her novel How Should a Person Be?