Riffle Backstory: Q&A with Phyllis Chesler, Author of "An American Bride in Kabul"
Who doesn't want to peek over the fence and see how the other half lives? If you've ever been interested in another culture, AN AMERICAN BRIDE IN KABUL is the memoir for you. A young, Jewish American 20 year old Brooklyn woman falls in love and moves across the world to Kabul. Romantic and dream-like, right? Well, maybe not when your passport is forfeited and if your husband's traditional family has any say. Chesler, a renowned feminist, psychotherapist, and professor, transports us into a world seen from both "Eastern and Western eyes."
Her informative interview covers writing advice, not playing it safe, and the books she's raving about now.
What is your greatest fear as a writer?
That I may not have enough time to write everything that I was born to write.
What do you do to get ready to write every day? What's your routine?
It is always the same. I get up, have coffee, read about 30 articles in the news, then start writing either an article, a blog, or a chapter in a book. After I have read enough and interviewed the necessary number of people, when I start writing a book I work six days a week, for as many hours as I remain productive—and then I rewrite, many times. I used to say that a writer has to be in the same place at the same time very day so that Inspiration will know where it can find you.
What's your favorite method of procrastination?
I rarely procrastinate. (Please don’t despise me). But I do have a weekly massage, and do physical therapy twice a week, have a manicure and pedicure at least twice a month (often with my iPad balanced on my lap), and I have my hair trimmed and colored about every 4-5 weeks. That all takes time but I never do this to avoid writing.
What is one song/artwork/film/play/ performance that you would most like your writing to emulate?
One hopes that one’s writing is unique and not like anyone else’s—of course, if my work can move and inspire people the way the most divine opera arias do, that would be very nice indeed.
What book are you raving about right now?
Books are my life, writing is how I breathe, I rarely rave about a book, not even my own, especially not my own, but there are books that have strengthened me and taught me how to survive, books that have given me pleasure and escape from ordinary life. Right now, I am enthralled by the following books: “Masterpieces of Orientalist Art. The Shafik Gabr Collection.” These exquisitely rendered paintings all belong to one Egyptian philanthropist and the love and reverence that so many 19th century Western painters had for the Arab and Muslim world is spectacular. Actually, I might “rave” about the writings of Rosita Forbes, an amazing British traveler. “Women Called Wild,” and “From the Sahara to Samarkand. Selected Travel Writings of Rosita Forbes 1919-1937.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Take each and every grand adventure but know that the price will always be higher than you expect and that the consequences may be life-long; but know, that playing it safe, will mean you may have even more to regret.
An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Women of ideas and what men have done to them: From Aphra Behn to Adrienne Rich
How to Suppress Women's Writing
Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence--from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
Things I've Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter