Judith Serin is the author of Gravity, a new work of fiction that includes six short stories and a novella. Her other books include the poetry collection Hiding in the World. She teaches at California College of the Arts.
Q: What inspired you to write the stories and novella collected in Gravity?
A: I have always been a feminist; my parents were feminists, and I was brought up that way.
But I often found myself struggling with the traps that society sets for women: how we should act, look, and live, and most of all the images of romantic love that pervade our world and set up expectations that can never be fulfilled.
So the background of my writing these pieces was to examine and combat that.
But, more specifically, I was writing poems—I still am—and two things were happening: 1. I started writing longer pieces, series, and 2. I kept on getting women’s voices in my head.
So I wrote down what these voices, initially first person, were saying, and that led to writing short stories and, eventually, the novella.
Q: How was the book’s title—also the title of the novella—chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: I choose titles, if they do not come to me in the beginning of writing the piece, from words or phrases within the pieces. The phrase “feeling gravity pull her “appears near the beginning of the novella, and “gliding against gravity” appears near the end.
I liked Gravity as a title for the novella because there is so much about the characters going up and down--in elevators, in the sky--and also because it suggests the contrast between “down to earth” Suzanne and “in the clouds” Anne.
And to me, the novella is heart of the book, what the other stories lead up to.
Q: The writer Zack Rogow said of the book, “Serin finds the difficult truths in relationships between the sexes, words and feelings thought but never expressed.” What do you think of that description?
A: I very much appreciate Zack Rogow’s description of the book; it both feels right-on and is also an insight I wouldn’t have thought of myself.
I do hope that I am expressing these “difficult truths,” and my biggest hope is that my book will help other women to express them as well.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I hope readers will laugh some, maybe cry a little, and that they will recognize parts of themselves.
And I want very much to contribute to a questioning of the stereotypical images of women, and to the work toward a freedom from them. I want to be part of the literature of women’s voices.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: One project I’m working on now is a collection of creative nonfiction short memoirs, called Family Stories, that looks at my family, the visual art that I love and that influenced me from a young age, my dreams, and images from my everyday life.
I’m also working on a book of prose poems in series—some surreal and some playing with things that are important to me such as jazz divas and plants.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: My website is www.judithserin.com and includes a link to my reading a story from Gravity that my publisher put on YouTube.
The novella Gravity was the most difficult piece I ever wrote because I think like a poet, not a novelist.
I am so grateful to the team at Eye Wear Publishing for appreciating it and putting it into print.
On July 20 I will read, with a surprise guest or two, at 7 p.m. at Bird & Beckett Bookstore, 653 Cherney St., San Francisco, Calif., 94131. Masks required.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb