Sonia Taitz’s American Dream

Sonia Taitz
photo: H&H Photographers

I first met Sonia Taitz back in 2012, when we recorded an episode of Life Stories to discuss her memoir, The Watchmaker’s Daughter. Since then, she’s been focusing on fiction, and her latest novel, Great with Child, actually explores some of the same psychological and emotional themes that she previously wrote about in autobiographical mode. But, here, let Sonia explain it…

The heroine of Great with Child is the daughter of two newcomers to America. Driven by her parent’s immigrant ambition, Abigail Thomas becomes a blindly competitive associate at a prestigious law firm. Her background provides a baseline for her personal and professional evolution through the course of the book. The catalyst for change is her accidental pregnancy, which throws all her certainties into question. My own trajectory led me from law to writing—and to writing this book in particular.

I’ve always proudly defined myself as the daughter of immigrants. And not just in the vague, melting pot American way, but as a first-generation child, born of refugees of World War II. My parents came out of war-torn Europe and sailed the ocean until they saw the Statue of Liberty. That statue meant everything to them, as did its poem, written by Emma Lazarus (also born of immigrants): “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

They were tired, they were poor; they had been huddled and incarcerated. Now, they were leaving the Old World to embark on the New. In their eyes, I was destined to become the embodiment of their American Dream, with all the security that entailed. Loving them as I did, I faithfully wanted whatever they wanted. It would be years before I could differentiate my wishes from theirs—or even knew what my own wishes were.


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24 April 2017 | guest authors |

Mike Barnes: A Room in the Dark

Mike Barnes
photo: Segbingway

As I was reading the opening chapters of Mike Barnes’ The Adjustment League, I was reminded of the private eye novels I’d read in my formative years, real classic hardboiled stuff. Obviously, I knew that wasn’t accidental, but I could also see that wasn’t all there was to it—in addition to the surface familiarity of the genre conventions, there was also this very surreal, almost abstract quality to the first-person narration and the way it depicts the novel’s Toronto setting. The closest thing I can think of to describe it is Godard’s Alphaville, but that’s not really right, because this isn’t a science fiction novel… Anyway, as this guest essay reveals, what I was picking up on was something Mike Barnes had very much in mind as he was writing… and yet, in some ways, it caught him off guard as well.

Why do you write? It’s not a question I’ve given much thought to, in part because the answers seem either obvious or unknowable. Why did the chicken cross the road? The possibilities are endless, and the chicken might just be the last to know.

One reason I’m sure of, though, since it’s grown steadily stronger over time: I write to be surprised. By now, in fact, I lose interest quickly if I sense that what I’m writing isn’t likely to ambush me with things I didn’t know before, or didn’t know I knew. I crave these jolts of breaking news about myself, about writing, about the world.

The Adjustment League was a particularly rich source of such whacks upside the head. Here are a few of the revelations, big and small, it led me to.


13 April 2017 | guest authors |

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