Friday, December 26, 2014

Q&A with Anita Diamant

Anita Diamant, photo by Gretje Ferguson
Anita Diamant is the author of the new novel The Boston Girl. Her many other books include the novel The Red Tent and the essay collection Pitching My Tent. She lives in Massachusetts.

Q: How did you come up with your main character, Addie Baum?

 A: Addie is not based upon any one character, though I was inspired by a girl named Sarah whose parents opposed her continuing education and whose life was enhanced and changed thanks to her experiences at a Boston settlement house, where reading and art became part of her life.

Q: Why did you decide to set the book mostly in the first three decades of the 20th century? 

A: The more I learned about the beginning of the 20th century, the more fascinated I became. There was so much change especially for women. They entered the workforce in new fields like retail sales, office work, library science, and social work.

College became a possibility not only for elites but for some poor and immigrant girls, too. Immigrants were changed by the opportunities they found America and they, in turn, added new energy and intelligence to what became the American century.

There was also the revolution in women’s clothing, from floor-length skirts and corsets, to the short skirts and flimsy underwear of the ‘20s and the rise of the popular culture (movies, magazine, fiction) – both of which changed how women thought about themselves.

Q: Why did you structure the narrative as a story Addie is telling her granddaughter in 1985? 

A: Eighty-five year old Addie’s relationship with her 22-year-old granddaughter, Ava, is one of the crowning achievements of Addie’s life. The contrast between the difficult relationship she had with her mother and the ease with which she communicates with Ada is testimony to how much can change  — for the better -- within the ecology of a family. 

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing, or did you make changes along the way? 

A: I didn’t and this is the first time I wrote a novel without knowing the ending. I found it much more difficult. 

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: I am blissfully between big projects. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Anita Diamant, please click here.

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