Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hope Edelman

Hope Edelman is the author of five nonfiction books, including the international bestseller Motherless Daughters (1994), which was translated into seven languages; Letters from Motherless Daughters (1995), an edited collection of letters from readers; Mother of My Mother (1999), which looks at the depth and influence of the grandmother-granddaughter relationship; and Motherless Mothers (2006), about the experience of being a mother when you don't have one.

A graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, she has published articles, essays, and reviews in numerous magazines and anthologies.

Edelman's latest book is The Possibility of Everything, her first full-length memoir. Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently finished Normal People Don’t Live Like This by Dylan Landis. It’s a series of interlocking short stories set in New York City in the 1970s and captures the complexity and angst and longing of adolescent girlhood like no other book I can recall. The drama centers around Leah, the quirky, red-headed daughter of Helen, a staid, conservative interior designer-in-training. Leah is mercilessly picked on at her private middle school and left to navigate the social jungle alone, save for her best friend, Oleander, who lives in semi-squalor with a dreamy mother and a precocious older sister. All of the secondary characters are colorful and multi-dimensional and the dialogue is spot-on throughout. Rarely do I read a book that immediately compels me to work harder to become a better writer, but this one did.

Before that, I read Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz, which is the story of a marriage that fell apart after a husband’s sudden death, when his wife learns about his long-term and multiple infidelities. Left to raise a young daughter alone, Metz learns how to navigate small-town widowhood and re-enters the dating fray after more than a decade-long absence. It’s a complicated story, bound to evoke strong responses in readers, because the author is so unflinchingly honest about her feelings and reactions, and also because of her decision to track down all of her husband’s affairs and strike up semi-friendships with some of them. I know the risk a writer takes by putting forth such a controversial and deeply personal story, and I admire Metz for having the courage to do it. I was most deeply impressed by her ability to write about middle-aged sex with refreshing candor.

I’m now about two chapters into Robin Chotzinoff’s Holy Unexpected, the memoir of a forty-something woman’s transition from New York atheist to born-again Reform Jew. It’s hilarious, and irreverent, and incredibly well written. And finally, I’m about halfway through Bless Me Ultima the classic Chicano novel by Rudolfo Anaya about what happens when a village curandera in New Mexico comes to live in a young boy’s home. I picked it up because several curanderos appear in my most recent book, and readers have asked if I’ve read Bless Me Ultima. I’m taking it slowly, so I can savor every page.
Visit Hope Edelman's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue