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Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife: Unfair to Laura Bush?

The Sittenfeld Book Debate: Should Laura Bush Be Off-Limits?

My friend Citizen sparked a lively conversation yesterday around an upcoming book by Prep author Curtis Sittenfeld titled American Wife. The novel follows a character named Alice Blackwell who is based on Laura Bush, and many of the first lady's real-life experiences are included.

I was intrigued by the strong reactions that spread across the Web yesterday, especially after Radar posted several sex scenes from the book that earned the unpublished novel descriptors like "steamy" and "tawdry."

Some folks feel strongly that this was disrespectful to Laura Bush, and that Sittenfeld should have left her alone. The assumption there is that the main character will be trashed in the book, but actually, there is reason to suspect the opposite. In 2004, Sittenfeld wrote an article ("Why I Love Laura Bush") explaining how much she admires Laura, calling her "such an easy heroine to root for — smart and nice but just flawed enough (she still sneaks cigarettes!) to remain likable." There doesn't appear to be malice in Sittenfeld's intentions.

Many fictional characters are based on real people — some famous, some not — but do you think Laura Bush should be off-limits? Or is any public figure fair game for novelists?

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