Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sonia Taitz talks about how being the child of Holocaust survivors let her mix humor with heartbreak, not having it all, and grappling for the first time with a real legal plot

Sonia Taitz is the kind of person who ALWAYS shows up at your readings, who calls you with opportunities, and best of all, who listens with an open heart and great advice.  Of course, she's my friend and I'm delighted to host her here for GREAT WITH CHILD.  She's the author of the critically acclaimed novels, The Watchmaker's Daughter, Mothering Heights, In the King's Arms (nominated for the Sami Rohr Prize in Fiction, Down Under and now Great With Child.

I'm so delighted to have her, here.  Thank you so much, Sonia!

I always think something is haunting an author to get them writing a certain book. Sonia Was it that way for you?
It’s the conflict between mind and heart. All my life, I’ve wondered about how people become “professionalized” in certain careers. In law school, which I started at the relatively young age of 21, we were promptly and efficiently taught to “think like lawyers.” In some ways, that meant leaving behind my personal way of relating to the world. When I became a mother, the personal, the unique, the precious, and the loving became more important to me than brains, status, and money. That conflict is front and center in Great With Child.

Great With Child does this wonderful alchemy--mixing humor with heartbreak. Would you say that is the way you live your life, too?

Yes. I think it has something to do with my being the child of Holocaust survivors. Both my parents could find humor in life’s low points, and often did. All my books share this combination of the funny and the tragic. My memoir of growing up as a first-generation American, The Watchmaker’s Daughter is especially bittersweet. I’m always flattered when people say that cry and laugh out loud when they read it. It’s a tribute to my upbringing in a house marked by tragedy, with people who overcame their past with perspective, grit – and sparkle.

Motherhood is a hot button issue still, with more and more women saying they don't want to be mothers at all now, because you can't have it all. But I always think, well, maybe all isn't what you really need. Can you talk about this please?

The very idea of “having it all” changed for me with motherhood. The massive ego I was burdened with pre-babies magically lifted when I started to love others more than myself. I’m also lucky to have turned from law – which is still, largely, a man’s world of pressured, billable hours and rigid rules – to writing, which can more easily accommodate a parent’s schedule.

I always think that a new book is so different from the last one any writer does. What surprised you in writing Great With Child?

This is one of my only books that has a real legal plot. The others deal with more basic issues like good and bad, men and women, native and outsider. While Great With Child does share a philosophical underpinning – and does deal with good/bad, men/women, native/outsider—it is the most “story-telling” of my books, with a whirlwind pace.

What's obsessing you now and why?

I’m re-reading dystopian books like Brave New World and 1984, because I’m worried that the kindness and humanity that I’ve come to expect in America (and appreciate as the daughter of immigrants) is waning. America as a refuge is an ideal to me, and I want its heart to remain open.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Do I think I’m lucky to be a writer? It’s a hard life in some respects: isolated, needing the discipline of a self-imposed schedule, and guaranteeing no sure outcome. You put your heart and essence into something, and send it out, naked, into the world. But I find that writing, like parenting, is one of the most loving callings. You do it to give and to share what is the best of you, born of birthing pains that no epidural can mask. What makes it worthwhile? The chance that you may have enriched the world in the end, or even just one person in it.

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