Sunday, June 2, 2019

Julia Phillips

Julia Phillips is a Fulbright fellow whose writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, and The Paris Review. She lives in Brooklyn.

Phillips's new novel is Disappearing Earth.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished reading Miriam Toews's slim, spectacular new novel, Women Talking. The book gives us the minutes of a meeting between eight women in an isolated Mennonite community. The women are discussing how to respond to a epidemic of sexual assaults; for years, when they complained after waking of pain or terrible visions suffered during the night, they were told that demons must have been visiting their households to punish them for their sins. It's only recently been revealed that their nighttime attackers were some of the men in the colony, who were filling the women's rooms with anesthetic gas while they slept and raping them while they were unconscious.

The horrifying crimes in this book are based off a real-life series of attacks in a Bolivian Mennonite community from 2005 to 2009. From this violence, Toews creates a compassionate, controlled, and extraordinary work of art. In their conversation, her characters are specific, unfailingly honest, about their grief and rage over what has happened to them. They dedicate themselves to figuring out how to proceed. That mission gives purpose to both the characters and the novel's readers. It drives the story forward – I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough. Painful as Women Talking is, it also argues for the necessity of human connection, our capacity to help each other love and grow and change. It's one of the best books I've ever read.
Visit Julia Phillips's website.

--Marshal Zeringue