Elizabeth Nunez and Louise DeSalvo
Wednesday April 9, 2014
|Photo credit: Ernest J. DeSalvo|
Elizabeth Nunez read from her forthcoming memoir, Not for Everyday Use, followed by a discussion with author Louise DeSalvo.
About Not for Everyday Use (Akashic Books)
Tracing the four days from the moment she gets the call that every immigrant fears to the burial of her mother, Nunez tells the haunting story of her lifelong struggle to cope with the consequences of the "sterner stuff" of her parents' ambitions for their children, and her mother's seemingly unbreakable conviction that displays of affection are not for everyday use.
But Nunez sympathizes with her parents, whose happiness is constrained by the oppressive strictures of colonialism, by the Catholic Church's prohibition of artificial birth control which her mother obeys, terrified by the threat of eternal damnation (her mother gets pregnant fourteen times: nine live births and five miscarriages which almost kill her), and by what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as the "privilege of skin color" in his mother's Caribbean island homeland where "the brown-skinned classes ... came to fetishize their lightness." Still, a fierce love holds this family together, and the passionate, though complex, love Nunez's parents have for each other will remind readers of the passion between the aging lovers in Gabriel Garia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. Written in exquisite prose by a writer the New York Times Book Review calls "a master at pacing and plotting," Not for Everyday Use is a page-turner that readers will find impossible to put down.
“Nunez ponders the cultural, racial, familial, social, and personal experiences that led to what she ultimately understands was a deeply loving union between her parents. A beautifully written exploration of the complexities of marriage and family life.”
— Booklist, starred review
“Elizabeth Nunez’s Not for Everyday Use is that powerful and essential work which redefines our understanding of the experience of emigration and its impact on families. It is, quite simply, one of the most important books I’ve read about the intellectual and emotional work we must do to understand our forebears’ lives in the context of history and colonialism.”
— Louise DeSalvo
Elizabeth Nunez is the award-winning author of eight novels, including Prospero's Daughter and Bruised Hibiscus, which won an American Book Award. Both her recent novels Boundaries and Anna In-Between were New York Times Editors' Choices. Anna In-Between won the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award and was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Nunez also received the 2011 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers and Barnes & Noble, and a NALIS Lifetime Literary Award from the Trinidad & Tobago National Library. She is a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College, CUNY, where she teaches fiction writing. She divides her time between Amityville and Brooklyn. Her memoir, Not for Everyday Use, is her latest work.
Elizabeth Nunez was recently at The Center for one of our Big Read events. Watch the video here.
Louise DeSalvo is the Jenny Hunter Endowed Scholar for Literature and Creative Writing at Hunter College. She has published sixteen books, among them, Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work, named one of the most important books of the Twentieth Century by The Women's Review of Books and the memoirs Vertigo, Crazy in the Kitchen, On Moving, Adultery, and Breathless. She is the recipient of the President's Award for Research from Hunter College, the Gay Talese Award, and the Italian Premio Letterario Giuseppe Acerbi Prize, among others. Her most recent work, The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity, will be published by St. Martin's Press in October 2014. She is currently at work on War Stories, a memoir about her family's life before and during World War II.