Barry Interviewed By Publisher’s Weekly!

On October 27, 2010 · Comments Off on Barry Interviewed By Publisher’s Weekly!

Publisher’s Weekly just posted a medium-length interview with me about Hereville. Here’s a sample:

PWCW: Mirka is a very convincing character, especially in her moments of reflection and self-doubt. How were you able to get into the head of an 11-year-old Hasidic girl?

BD: Well, research helps, of course. I’ve read a lot of nonfiction about life in Hasidic communities, the most helpful of which was Stephanie Levine’s Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers. I also read novels written by women who had grown up in Orthodox communities, like Naomi Ragen. I read a lot of websites written by Orthodox Jews, especially websites by girls or women. But the most important thing to know is that people are people. Male writers who worry about “how women think,” as if women are a different species from men, make things needlessly hard. Research is important, but in the end, Mirka’s a person, I’m a person, and so we have a lot in common for me to draw on when I’m writing Mirka.

PWCW: Another thing that struck me was how well the characters deal with the gender roles of a traditional society. They don’t totally conform, but they aren’t all rebels, either. How were you, as an outsider, able to gain insight into that?

BD: Research! There’s a lot of information out there about gender roles in Hasidic communities, if you look for it. My own politics are pretty feminist, and as a kid I was lousy at fulfilling the “boy” gender role. So it’s natural that I’m drawn to a character like Mirka, a girl rebelling against her community’s gender expectations. That’s material I’m always comfortable writing.

But I also wanted to be fair in how I present the setting, and the truth is that most girls in a community like Mirka’s fit in better than Mirka does, and are happy to do so. I wanted to show that in the comic. So we have Rochel, who—to my mind—is one of those people with a talent for happiness, and is mostly comfortable with what the world expects from her. And we have Gittel, who is a more prickly person, and has well-founded worries about her future—but who is sincerely dedicated to her role as a girl, and really wants most of all to be a good mother someday.

My thanks to Brigid Alverson, the interviewer, who did a great job. There’s lots more, so go over there to read the whole thing!

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