Kitty Zeldis is the author of the new novel Not Our Kind, which focuses on antisemitism in the U.S. during the post-World War II years. Kitty Zeldis is the pen name of the author of eight novels and 28 books for children.
Q: You write that your time as a Vassar student in the 1970s was the inspiration for Not Our Kind. How did your own experiences shape the characters you created, and why did you choose to set the novel in post-World War II New York?
A: I loved being a student at Vassar and feel very fortunate that I was able to attend the college. But it was also my first encounter with WASP culture on such a large scale and it both intimidated and fascinated me.
And as much as I loved Vassar, I distinctly felt that the historically, the institution would have been one that excluded me—I was the "not our kind" of the book’s title.
I chose post-World War II New York as the setting for the book because I felt that the issues it raised were even more sharply delineated then. The word “restricted” (which was the working title of the novel for quite a while) was a word used proudly, not covertly at all.
Q: What type of research did you do to write the novel?
A: I felt as if I’d been doing the research all my life—I’ve always been drawn to stories set in the past. But I did more specific research by looking at books of photographs from the period, especially photos of New York City, and delving into fashion history as well as the history of hat making.
Q: How would you compare the antisemitism of the 1940s to that of today, especially given recent events?
A: That’s a difficult question, especially right now. I’d like to say that today’s anti-Semitism is not state sanctioned or condoned but given who is in the White House, I can’t say that with any real conviction.
Q: Why did you choose to write this book under a pseudonym, and do you plan to continue doing that?
A: My publisher felt that this book was enough of departure from my other novels to warrant a name change. I’m not sure what the future of that name will be, but I like it and wouldn’t mind using it again.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a novel set in New Orleans in 1916-1917. The further back in time you go, the harder the research gets. But it’s an exciting challenge and I’m doing my best to meet it.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb