Friday, June 26, 2020

"These Women"

Ivy Pochoda is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Wonder Valley, Visitation Street and These Women. Wonder Valley won the 2018 Strand Critics Award for Best Novel and was a finalist Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Le Grand Prix de Litterature Americaine, as well as being chosen as an NPR and Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. Visitation Street won the Prix Page America in France and was chosen as an Amazon Best Book of the Month, Amazon Best Book of 2013, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Her books have been translated into five languages.

Pochoda applied the Page 69 Test to These Women and reported the following:
On page 69 of my novel, Dorian who is in late middle age and white, visits the grave of her daughter Lecia who died fifteen years ago just shy of her eighteenth birthday. At Rosedale Cemetery she encounters a black woman whose daughter has recently been murdered and who cannot afford to bury her and who has co-opted one of the existing graves, transforming it into a shrine to her daughter.

If you opened to page 69 of These Women you would be immersed in the primary theme of the book: grief, loss, and whose children are deemed worthy of mourning, whose killers are deemed worthy of finding. This page is, oddly, a great encapsulation of the novel as a whole. It touches on the landscape of Los Angeles, unfolding in one of the unseen pockets of grace that hides in the middle of a sprawling city, in this case the hill in Rosedale where Lecia is buried. It nods to the threat of wild weather—wind is whipping through the cemetery—that looms large over the book. It also highlights racial injustice. It showcases the neverending grief of mothers mourning their children, mothers who have to advocate on behalf of their disregarded children. And it touches on a hierarchy within those grieving—those whose grief is somewhat more acceptable and those who aren't allowed to grieve at all. This is an odd moment in the book—one of a few that exists outside the grit of the streets and the violence of the narrative. It's a moment where I hope Los Angeles will surprise the reader and that I will surprise the reader with a different vantage over the city. The two grieving mothers acknowledge this space—this haven in the city—which also raises a prominent question in These Women: to whom does the city belong. The moment on page 69 is where nature seeps in, giving the story breathing room while also underscoring that there is violence all around and that grief has become part of the fabric of the every day.
Learn more about the book and author at Ivy Pochoda's website.

--Marshal Zeringue