Elizabeth Sam, J. Courtney Sullivan, Moon Bay discussed on Marketplace


I'm Jen White, the new host of one A right now We've got a lot to talk about. Let's write our next chapter together. I hope you'll join me and my great guests next time on one a One a coming up tonight at nine o'clock. Right now. In the half Moon Bay. It's 64 degrees 73 Valeo and in Napa, the current temperature is 84 degrees. This is all things considered from NPR news. I'm Elsa Chang and I'm married Louise Kelly. It is one of the most intimate and complicated relationships around and for many women, and yes, it is mostly women. It's an all important one. I'm talking about the relationship between a mother And her child's caregiver, and that is the relationship at the heart of author J. Courtney Sullivan's new novel, Friends and Strangers. Jaye. Courtney Sullivan joins us now welcome Thank you so much for having me Why this particular relationship at the heart of your story? Well, I as a young woman as a teenager, I was a baby sitter and my senior year of college in particular, I took care of a little baby whose family had just moved to western Massachusetts from New York City and her mother and I grew very closed. But as tends to happen with those relationships, we did fall out of touch and 10 years later, I was back at Smith to give a reading from one of my books and I came out to the street and I was standing at the crosswalk. The car pulled up and behind the wheel of the car was this woman Who I had been set for, and I was waving frantically like, hi, It's me, and she had no idea who I wass. Ah, I went back to New York that night was telling a friend the story who is also a novelist, and she said, Oh, that should be your next book. But I wasn't really sure what I say. And it wasn't until several years later, when I was pregnant with my first child that I started thinking I might want Teo write it because suddenly I had been kind of both women, the mother and the baby sitter. Right. Well, that's so interesting because I thought you were going to tell me how much you identified with one of the central characters in this book with Elizabeth, who is the older one. Who's the mom and the writer. On. She's just moved from Brooklyn. And I will note that you are a mom and a writer and you live in Brooklyn, and I thought that was going to be where you where you identified with it, And that's interesting. You're telling me that the initial kind of noodling on this in your head was going on based on your experience. As the younger woman is the baby sitter in this relationship in your book, It's It's a young woman named Sam, who's a student at the local college and you identify with both of them. It sounds like in very different ways. I absolutely dio. You know, In some ways, I think when you have a friendship between women of different ages, there's a sense of wanting to help the younger woman. Avoid the mistakes you've made. But they're not those kind of mistakes. They're the ones you have to make on your own to really figure out. What is coming, all right, so themes. They're a friendship of motherhood. I want to shift you to another one that struck me throughout the book, which is the theme of Priviledge Elizabeth comes from money on and it blinds her makes her insensitive in some ways to Sam. And what Sam needs also makes her blind tio her in laws and the financial troubles they face. But why was that something you wanted to explore? Well from the very beginning of thinking about this book. I knew that class would play a big role in the story. And, you know, in many ways, this is a book about the gig economy, the shrinking safety net sort of weight of student loan debt and other forms of economic hardship on young people, and certainly also the notion that privilege takes many forms. So Elizabeth is someone who comes from a lot of money. She has not accepted her family money and therefore feels that she's sort of really above it and views herself actually, as cells made, even though she really isn't But even Sam, you know, sort of wrestles with the fact that Although she is saddled with a lot of student loan that and a lot of other things, her education is a form of privilege. Her citizenship is a form of privilege, so I think both of them really kind of wrestle with that. It really resonates this theme in this moment when so many of us are examining the blind spots that are privilege might create whether it's class, whether it's race, and that is an uncomfortable thing to do. I wonder. Was it uncomfortable too, right? I don't know that it was uncomfortable because it is so much a part of our culture right now. So you know, I feel like I couldn't have written anything else in this particular moment. Really, You know, there's a real push back in the book from Elizabeth's father in law, George that This country has been emphasizing now for so long, the individual and if you've lost your business, as George has in the book, you must have done something wrong where, Actually it's the systems of power and wealth that are very much stacked against the average person. I think we're seeing that come to bear when this pandemic occurs, and for people who have A great job and a salary and a health insurance. They may be. They still have that even though they're working from their kitchen table, But there are millions of people who just lost their jobs in a blink. I mean, one thing I love that you play with so is that it's not just Elizabeth Sam..

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