Emily St. John Mandel Ran Into Odd Snag After Divorce

Wikipedia still said she was married, and she couldn't change it herself
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2022 6:11 AM CST
Updated Dec 26, 2022 7:43 AM CST
Author Needed Help With Wikipedia Marital Status
Screenshot of Mandel's Wikipedia page.   (Wikipedia)

On the Wikipedia page for Emily St. John Mandel—the bestselling Canadian author of Sea of Tranquility, The Glass Hotel, and Station Eleven, the last of which was adapted into an HBO Max miniseries—it's noted under the "personal life" section that she separated from executive recruiter Kevin Mandel in April and divorced him last month. As recently as a few days ago, however, the Wikipedia page still listed them as married, and the author had to put out a public call for help to get the online encyclopedia to change that fact, due to somewhat of a "Kafkaesque" situation, per the BBC. "It turns out, you're not actually the expert on your own life as far as Wikipedia is concerned," she tells the broadcaster. "You do need a secondary source."

Meaning Mandel couldn't simply amend the entry herself—she needed to cite another credible, independent article or source that noted her marriage was over. Because her divorce hadn't been announced in any news outlet yet, Mandel had to get creative, with the knowledge that her publicists might have a hard time getting an article written about her so close to the holidays. "All I want for Christmas is for a journalist writing a story for publication (online-only is fine!) to ask me if I'm still married," she wrote Saturday on Twitter. Mandel had her first taker just a couple of hours later, per Insider. In a Slate piece titled "A Totally Normal Interview With Author Emily St. John Mandel," writer Dan Kois makes some initial small talk with Mandel about her Christmas plans and books she's read lately before jumping right to the question at hand: "So, are you married these days?" Mandel's one-word answer: "No."

The interview then went meta, talking about the circumstances that led to their conversation. "My Wikipedia entry was essentially a time capsule," she tells Kois, adding she was "so grateful" he'd responded so quickly. The BBC followed suit as extra reinforcement. A spokesperson for Wikipedia parent Wikimedia tells Insider that "self-published" sources like blogs or personal websites aren't typically deemed reliable, as no outside fact-checking is usually involved. The rep says, however, that there are times when such sources are deemed OK if the info trying to get added "is specifically about the individual themselves and is not related to a contentious or exceptional claim." Mandel's tweet from her verified Twitter account therefore qualified, with the Slate and BBC articles a bonus. Her Wikipedia page is now updated to note her divorce, and that she now has a girlfriend and lives in Brooklyn. (More Wikipedia stories.)

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