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AN INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN FROMBERG SCHAEFFER Susan Fromberg Schaeffer Novelist and poet Susan Fromberg Schaeffer holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago and taught creative writing at Brooklyn College from 1967 until her recent retirement. Since her first book of poetry in 1972, she has published widely in many forms. Her novels include Falling, Anya, Time in Its Flight, Love, The Madness of a Seduced Woman, Mainland, The Injured Party, Buffalo Afternoon, First Nights and The Golden Rope. She has also published a book of short fiction, The Queen of Egypt, two children's books and six poetry collections. Her awards include the Edward Lewis Wallant Award and the Friends of Literature Award for Anya, a National Book Award nomination for Granite Lady, an O. Henry Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1996 she was honored by the University of Chicago for outstanding career achievement. She currently lives in Brooklyn. Charlotte Templin is professor of English at the University of Indianapolis and the author of Feminism and the Politics ofLiterary Reputation: The Example of Erica Jong. This interview was conducted in Indianapolis in 1995. An Interview with Susan Fromberg Schaeffer/ Charlotte Templin Interviewer: What kind of response did you get from your family to the idea of your being a writer? Schaeffer: What a horrible, dreadful idea. How was I going to make a living? Almost nobody succeeded at writing, so why did I think I was going to? I had a job. I taught full-time for thirty years as a college professor . When my mother heard I was starting to write, she thought I was going to lose myjob. They were endlessly discouraging. They were horrified when I was a pre-med major and said no one would marry me. They were delighted when I switched to English, but then when they heard I was going to get a Ph.D., they were aghast—no one would marry me again. My mother used to say things like "You don't sit at the breakfast table and discuss Shakespeare," and I thought, "Why not?" Interviewer: Do you think this was fairly typical of middle-class Jewish experience? Schaeffer: It must have been at that time. That's when the feminists began to arise and start protesting about that sort of thing. I wasn't very conscious of feminism as a movement. I was always, from the time I was a small child, an extremely rebellious, self-willed character, and if I wanted to do something, I didn't see why I couldn't do it. In some ways having the family I did, you either surrendered entirely or you learned to fight to get what you wanted. Interviewer: In a way, you really didn't need feminism. Schaeffer: No, I had my father to rebel against. He was a very intelligent , difficult man. He didn't approve of girls being educated. He said The Missouri Review · 235 I would go to college over his dead body. I said if I had to step over his dead body to go to college, I would. That created a brouhaha because my family believed that if you told someone to drop dead, they might actually do it, and it would be your fault. When I was born, someone congratulated him and he said, "Uh, a girl." I was the first child in the family. He said the boys should go to college—that they were more intelligent . He said to me "You do well in school because you work so hard. If your brother worked that hard, he would do better." The truth is I really never did any work, ever. My father was absolutely convinced that the boys had to be brighter because they were boys. In 1974 when Anya won two awards and Granite Lady was nominated for a National Book Award, I was talking to my parents on the phone, and my mother said, "I wish it had been one of the boys." I knew that my father was nodding in the background. Interviewer: Did anyone in your family stand by you? Schaeffer: I had my grandfather on my side. I don't know why...


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