This week, Jen­nifer Gilmore, the author of The Moth­ers, Some­thing Red, and Gold­en Coun­try blogs for The Post­script on find­ing her newest voice and a new writ­ing styleThe Post­script series is a spe­cial peek behind the scenes” of a book. It’s a juicy lit­tle extra some­thing to add to a book clubs dis­cus­sion and a read­er’s under­stand­ing of how the book came togeth­er. 

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My book, The Moth­ers, tracks close to my own life. My pro­tag­o­nist is my age and lives where I live, and she is going through the same hor­ri­ble adop­tion process I went through for sev­er­al years. It was a dif­fi­cult time, but the expe­ri­ence brought up so many issues — of race and class and moth­er­hood and iden­ti­ty — that inter­est­ed me as a nov­el­ist. I want­ed to make this mate­r­i­al inter­est­ing to myself and to a read­er so that what I was going through could be put toward some­thing pos­i­tive, to my work. 

I want­ed to write this dif­fer­ent­ly than I have writ­ten my oth­er books. Those books—Gold­en Coun­try and Some­thing Red—were big nov­els about Jew­ish fam­i­lies. They took place in the past and so were heav­i­ly researched. They were writ­ten in third per­son and spanned decades and dealt large­ly with how we are all haunt­ed and invig­o­rat­ed by the near and far past. They were about how we as indi­vid­u­als, as fam­i­lies, and indeed as Jews, have informed his­to­ry and the way his­to­ry has informed us. I con­sid­ered using this tech­nique — of a broad social sweep — to take on the top­ic of adop­tion. I thought deeply about writ­ing it his­tor­i­cal­ly, tak­ing on how adop­tion began in this coun­try and the way it has been trans­formed and affect­ed so promi­nent­ly by the polit­i­cal his­to­ry of our coun­try. And yet for this par­tic­u­lar book that felt very false and it felt as if I were avoid­ing some­thing emo­tion­al­ly impor­tant. That emo­tion­al res­o­nance was just as impor­tant to me in this book as the social his­to­ry and the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the past. 

What felt real and impor­tant was find­ing this par­tic­u­lar voice – which, I would like to add, is not my voice. Jesse, my pro­tag­o­nist, is a pret­ty des­per­ate woman. She’s utter­ly imper­fect. Even though I arrived at her voice fair­ly eas­i­ly, it took me a while to find her sto­ry and not mere­ly her emo­tion­al state. In the end, what was most inter­est­ing to me in writ­ing this book was the imme­di­a­cy of want­i­ng to have a child, not being able to get a child, and the inevitable con­se­quences of that. This was lived expe­ri­ence instead of researched expe­ri­ence. It is a sto­ry about want­i­ng. That is just as dan­ger­ous a top­ic to take on as any I know.

Jen­nifer Gilmore is the author of two nov­els, Gold­en Coun­try, a final­ist for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, and Some­thing Red. Her work has appeared or is forth­com­ing in The Los Ange­les Times, The New York Times, Salon, Self, Vogue, and The Wash­ing­ton Post. She has been a Mac­Dow­ell Colony fel­low and cur­rent­ly teach­es at Prince­ton University.