During January in Minnesota, no one feels big. The excitement and energy of the holiday season has worn off and we’ve awakened to darkness, cold, and existential despair, which has a way of making you feel very small indeed.
My street looks just like this every January 1st, darn it!
So it is with some shyness and anxiety that I accepted a challenge from my friend Sonya Huber to participate in a little blog-go-round called Next Big Things. Sonya, herself the author of two great creative nonfiction books (Opa Nobody and Cover Me), completed these questions at the behest of another author, then she tagged me to do the same. I, in turn, have to tag some up-and-comers who will complete the circle of Next Big Thinginess. Look for their names at the end of the post.
What is the title of your book?
The Radical Housewife: Redefining Family Values for the 21st Century, but you knew that. I’ve officially resolved to have the editing done and the book in your hot little hands by the end of this year, even if it means I have to step over dead bodies in the snow in my haste to deliver edits to my publisher. Marge would understand.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
One day my husband said, “Why are you driving yourself nuts writing novels when you are already writing really interesting stuff about your life as the anti-Schlafly? Why not publish all of that?” I mulled this over and realized that writing fictionalized versions of my life was quite a lot of work–all those pseudonyms to remember, the hair and eye colors to change! The essays I was writing for the Minnesota Women’s Press and for my old MySpace blog would be my jumping-off point for a full-length book about the adventures of this feminist activist parent.
In hindsight, I probably should have stuck to just changing all my novel’s characters to vampires and been done with it.
What genre does your book fall under?
One that I invented: Political Momoir. I thought this was very clever, but industry professionals did not. How well I remember the exasperation of the editors and agents! “Sometimes it reads like a memoir, sometimes like a polemic,” they’d say. “BUT I’M A FEMINIST WHO REJECTS THE RIGIDITY OF BINARIES!” I’d splutter in my politely middle-aged Minnesotan way.
In hindsight, I should have already become famous before I attempted to do anything interesting.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Janeane Garafalo, patron saint of bespectacled white nerd girls everywhere, as The Radical Housewife!
Jemaine Clement as the handsome and heavily-Kiwi-accented Radical Hubby!
Bart & Lisa Simpson as the children!
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The Radical Housewife documents ten years in the life of a feminist stay-at-home-mom determined to upend the myth of American “family values” one dirty diaper, clinic picket, and PTA meeting at a time.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Working off a framework provided my blog posts & MWP essays, only about six months for the first bloated draft. I offered a few chapters up to my friends, who made valuable suggestions, one of which was “you probably shouldn’t curse so much.” Duly fucking noted.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Remember Matt’s naïve suggestion that I write about my own life for public consumption? IT’S ALL HIS FAULT.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Ah, the dreaded request for “comp titles.” From my exhaustive proposal, I came up with PAGES and PAGES of books by Third Wave feminists, mommybloggers, women’s studies academicians, even jokey lefty books by Al Franken, but no single genre fit me. I saw this as proof beyond a doubt that I am the specialest snowflake in the world and ought to get a contract with a hefty up-front advance. Didn’t happen.
I think the closest comp titles out there are probably Ariel Gore’s HipMama books: personal, confessional, funny, frustrated, and always aware of how our individual stories and larger political movements are interconnected.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I love the word “pique.” It isn’t used enough. Neither is “kerfuffle.”
I do think that I present a pretty compelling argument for feminists being more actively concerned with the needs of American families and children than the conservatives who claim to have a monopoly on the subject. I also have some pretty interesting run-ins with psycho anti-choicers who try to shove fetus photos at my kids, parents at my kids’ school who troll me online because of my political views, and Michele Bachmann BEFORE she became MICHELE BACHMANN!
Who will represent your book?
A wild warrior woman in California with a big heart, a sweet tooth, and snakes where her hair should be: Medusa’s Muse.
In hindsight, signing with her was a great thing to do. No regrets whatsoever.
Who are your Next Big Things?
Zoe Ann Nicholson, “The Engaged Heart: An Activist’s Life”
Avital Norman Nathman, “Deconstructing the Myth of the Good Mother”
Robin Marty & Jessica Mason Pieklo, “Crow After Roe”
Erin Matson, who will deny that she is writing a book BUT I KNOW BETTER
Onward to a Big 2013!