Ramona Ausubel is the author of the new novel Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty. She also has written the novel No One is Here Except All of Us, and the story collection A Guide to Being Born. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Yorker and One Story.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the family you write about in your new novel?
A: I knew I wanted to write about money and to chase the question of what money can get you and what it can’t, so I thought about a family that went from one extreme to another—huge amounts of money and then very little.
I’ve thought about this a lot in my life (I’m betting we all do—money is both central to everything we do and completely beside the point, right? Love is all you need! Except for all the other things.).
Each of the characters in the book has a different relationship to having and not having, to their birthplace in society and the place they might occupy without the riches.
At the same time that the story is serious— about race, class, gender and the American Dream—I also really wanted to seek those issues out by way of a series of adventures.
I wanted the characters to do what I think us humans often do—run away. I wanted the running to help them see who they are when all the trapping are removed, to see what matters to them and what they want, eventually, to come home to.
Q: The book is set in the 1960s and ‘70s. Why did you pick that time period?
A: I wanted to write about this moment because it was this wave of promise and disappointment, hope and complication. So, so much changed, and so much didn’t.
It’s a time period that figures in my imagination because it’s when my parents came of age so it was always being talked about when I was growing up, yet I didn’t live through it myself. It was this near-mythic time.
Also, as a writer, I loved all the atmospheric details from avocado green bathrooms and orange rugs to big pants and mustaches. It was a fun moment to write.
Q: How was the book’s title selected, and what does it signify for you?
A: I thought about the title for ages before I figured it out. I liked that this title invoked inheritance (the line we all descend from and pass along to our children) and the idea of endless comfort and ease but I also wanted the title to imply a shadow—no life is all ease and plenty, and if we look closely we’ll see that.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am a good ways into a story collection called Awayland that includes characters far away from home all over the world. There is a group of shipwrecked Vikings, a lonely Cyclops, an American teenager working in a resort on the Turkish coast and many more.
It continues to ask some of the questions I’ve always looked in my writing about the dueling desires for escape and homecoming.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Thank you so much for the questions! I love the blog and I’m so glad to have gotten to come back for another conversation.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Ramona Ausubel, please click here.