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AN INTERVIEW WITH ALIX KATES SHULMAN ALIX KATES SHULMAN Alix Kates Shulman has published twelve books, including four novels, three children's books, a biography of Emma Goldman and two edited collections of Goldman's essays. Her novel Memoirs ofan Ex-Prom Queen is widely recognized as the first important novel to emerge from the women's liberation movement. In recent years she has earned acclaim with two memoirs: Drinking the Rain and A Good Enough Daughter. Charlotte Templin is Professor of English at the University of Indianapolis and the author of Feminism and the Politics ofLiterary Reputation. Her interview with Susan Fromberg Schaeffer appeared in Volume XX, Number 2 of The Missouri Review. This interview was conducted on March 22, 2000 in Indianapolis. An Interview with Alix Kates Shulman/Charlotte Templin Interviewen When did you make the decision to be a writer? Shulman: I did not intend to be a writer. I first wanted to be a lawyer, like my father. Then I got bit by the bug of philosophy and wanted to be a philosophy professor. I went to graduate school and quickly discovered it was impossible for a woman in those days—this was the early fifties—to be a philosopher, so I gave that up. I didn't know what I was going to do, but then when I became a feminist, when the movement started in the late sixties, I started writing because I had something urgent to say. My first novel, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, is the product of that urgency. I knew that there was another view of women's experience that hadn't been expressed in fiction, or hardly ever, a view that was just beginning to take hold in this country. I wanted to dramatize it. And I knew that there was an audience who needed to hear it. I wasn't sure if I could reach them, or whether I could do it well. But I knew we had to come together somehow. That was why I became a writer. Interviewen In your recent memoir, A Good Enough Daughter, you focus on the place and importance of family, something you were not so concerned with in your first novel. Shulman: When I wrote Memoirs ofan Ex-Prom Queen in the early seventies , an era of great social upheaval, I was far more interested in the invisible social forces that mold family than in family influences. I drew heavily on my own life, in part because I was writing my first novel, and I was not sure how much fictionalizing I could get away with. But in thenovel I was not trying to portray myself; rather I wanted to portray a certain white, middle-class, Midwestern suburban girl of that era, subject to all the forces of sexism that had yet to be articulated in fiction. In A Good Enough Daughter, I set out to accomplish something The Missouri Review · 105 different. With the knowledge of sixty-some years behind me, realizing that family—the subject of the book—is far more important in shaping a life than I admitted in my youth, I tried to explore the meaning to me ofmy family, a subject absent from the forward-looking Prom Queen. My other books have all recounted journeys. In this one, I'm going home. Interviewer: A Good Enough Daughter is a very honest account of your life as a daughter. Was it difficult to be so truthful? Shulman: It's always difficult to write honestly of one's deepest feelings , particularly without the protective veil of fiction. But the more difficult, the more rewarding if one succeeds. Rewarding not only to the work but to one's peace of mind. Once I get past the initial inhibitions , honesty is both exhilarating and soothing. Interviewer: How did it feel to go back to the home you had been so eager to escape in your younger years? Shulman: For many decades my relations with my parents constituted unfinished business. I had dealt with them through sheer avoidance and guilt. When the opportunity to expiate my nagging guilt and reverse my lifelong laxity was thrust upon me, it came as...


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