Pulitzer Prize winning author Anthony Doerr talks about his new novel, "Cloud Cuckoo Land," and why he says his job as a writer is to reveal our interconnections as people, and as a planet.
It’s 1960s rural America. Miller’s Valley is a farming community on the verge of geological and geopolitical upheaval. The government is about to declare eminent domain and remove farmers from homes held for generations as part of a dam and flood control project. And the Vietnam War is about to claim even more lives from the valley, young men barely out of high school. This is the setting for Anna Quindlen’s latest novel. But the heart of the novel is people, family and community — and how external events can profoundly alter lives. Join Diane and Anna Quindlen as they discuss “Miller’s Valley” as well as the political climate in the U.S. today.
- Anna Quindlen Author whose many books include the best-selling "A Short Guide to a Happy Life" and the novels "One True Thing" and "Blessings"
Read An Excerpt
From the book MILLER’S VALLEY by Anna Quindlen. Copyright © 2016 by Anna Quindlen. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Millers' farm has been in the family for almost 200 years. Now, it's the home of two strong women, mother and daughter and the flawed men central to their lives. Journalist and bestselling novelist Anna Quindlen sets her new novel in a farming valley in Pennsylvania during the height of the Vietnam war. Outside influences like the war and a government plan to flood the valley affect the lives of one family and the community. The book is titled, "Millers Valley."
MS. DIANE REHMAuthor, Anna Quindlen joins me in the studio. You are welcome as always to be part of the program. Anna Quindlen is one of my favorites. I'm sure she is of yours as well. Join us at 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Anna Quindlen, it's always good to see you.
MS. ANNA QUINDLENAnd always great to be here. I must say, when we were planning the tour for this novel, I said there's one thing I absolutely have to do because of Diane Rehm's plan for the future, of which I cannot approve nor can listeners, I have to do her show.
REHMWell, you're very dear to say that. Anna Quindlen, I wondered, as I read this book, which I absolutely adored, whether you were thinking how lucky I am in this presidential election to be working on a novel instead of editorial writing.
QUINDLENI do feel that way. There have been times since I stopped being a columnist, first when I stopped at The Times in 1995 and then when I stopped at Newsweek in 2010, when I've thought now there's something I don't want to write about and I took a lot of pride when I was an opinion columnist in the fact that I didn't conspicuously make any mistakes. In this election, like so many of my fellow pundits, I would've been wrong over and over and over again.
QUINDLENBecause, you know, none of us -- I don't think any of us thought Trump would stay in the race. I certainly don't think any of us thought he would get the kind of traction that he has. On the other side of the ticket, I don't think most of us thought Bernie Sanders would be as successful as he has been. So it's been a confounding season. I was talking in New York to a man in his 80s who's been part of the political scene for a long time behind the scenes. And I said to him, when was the last time there was a political year like this one?
QUINDLENAnd he said, there has never been a political year like this one.
REHMI do agree. I do agree. Well, let's talk about "Miller's Valley." I'm really fascinated in where the idea began for this, the idea of a community really living with a threat that it will eventually totally done away with.
QUINDLENWell, let me respool for just a moment. I'm a devoted Dickensian. I love all of Dickens' work and I feel like it's taught me a lot of what I know about writing a novel. And I always feel as though there's two impulses in one of Dickens' novels. One is a great social welfare issue and the other is a very intimate down to the ground exploration of character. And I think every one of my novels starts with the same two impulses. One was the explication of character, the idea that I wanted to write, over time, about the growth of a girl into an older women during a period when opportunities for women opened up so much. So when Mimi Miller is...
QUINDLEN...10 or 11, the protagonist of the book, she cannot imagine what the future will hold for her because there aren't any options. Her mother is a nurse, one of the few working women, other than her teachers whom she's familiar with, and it seems to her that she'll either be a teacher or a nurse or not work at all.
REHMBut we have to say she is very bright, very intuitive and quite adept at math and chemistry.
QUINDLENAnd science. She's a math/science girl.
QUINDLENSomething that I knew, because of her personality, she has a very -- I have a very fanciful personality, which lent itself well to writing fiction. Mimi has the kind of personality in which she likes things that have rules and that make sense. And, of course, math does. Two and two always makes four. And so I wanted to look at her over the years when doors would begin to open for her and change her life.
REHMAnd meanwhile, in the community, there is this discussion.
QUINDLENExactly. And so the great social welfare impulse for me was this idea of the government being able to swoop in and take control of your life in a variety of ways.
REHMFor what reason?
QUINDLENBecause they think that this would be a good place for a reservoir, which is something that they used to do in the '20s, '30s and '40s over and over again. They'd look around and say, hmm, that small town, there's only a couple thousand people there, but it would be great if it were under water and Miller's Valley is a place where they've thought about this for years. So there's always been this threat of an end to their way of life, but at some level. that's metaphoric. It's the '60s and '70s. Every small town in America is facing an end to its way of life, whether it's going to be the main industry leaving, all of its young people moving elsewhere.
QUINDLENI mean, we live in a country in which you can drive through what were once prosperous small towns and see virtually every storefront on Main Street boarded up.
REHMAnd, in fact, the Vietnam War is very present in this.
QUINDLENIt's present, but it's present in that way that it was in small towns because we didn't have Twitter or Facebook or media that allowed us to key into what was going on all over the world. It's sort of absent present in that these young men disappear into a place and a world and a situation that no one at home can understand or appreciate. And when they come home, nobody can understand or appreciate what happens to them.
REHMExactly. They are changed.
QUINDLENAnd they become a generation of lost boys.
REHMYeah. And one of those lost boys is Mimi Miller's adored brother.
REHMTommy is such -- he is such an important figure because he adores Mimi and believes in her, in her ability to create a future for herself.
QUINDLENBut also I think he teaches her something very important, which most of us don't learn until we're much farther down the road. Tommy is so charming. Everybody is drawn to him.
REHMAnd loves him. Yeah.
QUINDLENEverybody loves him. And she realizes, at a certain point, that charm is never enough, that charm without diligence, charm without a plan, charm without discipline, you know, her other brother Eddie does all the right things and is kind of a shadowy figure to her.
REHMHe's sort of dull.
QUINDLENHe's very dull. I mean, it's as though the two of them had kind of split the difference and if you could've put Eddie and Tommy into one person, you would've had somebody sort of spectacular. But Mimi learns a lot of lessons by looking at her brothers and especially by loving Tommy and then being disappointed by him.
REHMAnd loving for a time, she thinks, a man very much like Tommy, who's gregarious, who's outgoing, who seems powerful and yet, Mimi learns the same lesson she learns from her brother, that charm and power don't necessarily mean honesty and success.
QUINDLENWell, and she also has that experience that so many girls had in the '60s, say, which is confusing lust and love. You know, once we got reproductive rights a little more under control, once the age of marriage started to inch up into the 20s, many more young women realized that wanting to sleep with somebody and wanting to spend the rest of your earthly life with them were two very different things. She's coming of age at the end of that period during which they frequently were the same thing often to very bad effect.
REHMAnna Quindlen, her new novel is titled "Miller's Valley." She is the author of eight novels, including "Object Lessons" and "One True Thing." We'll take a short break and when we come back, you are welcome to join us, questions, comments for Anna Quindlen. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Anna Quindlen is my guest on her brand new novel called "Miller's Valley." And you do set this, Anna, in Pennsylvania. Why?
QUINDLENWell first of all, I'm a Pennsylvania native, Although I think people have come to think of me as a New Yorker, and I certainly think of myself as a New Yorker. I grew up right outside of Philadelphia. And we also have another place, other than our city place, in Pennsylvania, in kind of a semi-rural area.
REHMAs do we in the northeastern tip of Pennsylvania. So I know it well. But I wondered why you would set it. Were there areas in Pennsylvania affected as Miller's Valley was?
QUINDLENNot so much in Pennsylvania, but years and years ago, I came across some stories about something called the Tocks Island Dam Project. It was a project that was designed to put a dam on the Delaware, in between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where Route 80 runs from one end to the other today. And in the service of this dam project, which was one of the last sort of wholesale, we're-taking-your-town-from-you, large-scale projects, they had to remove people from a place called Tocks Island. And some of they bought out, and some of them they eminent domained out and then wound up not doing the project.
QUINDLENAnd it stayed with me for such a long time. I'm a person with a hyper-annuated sense of home, a real nester, and the idea that somebody could come in and take your home was terrifying to me, and it lived inside me for decades and I think to some small extent informed what I wrote about in "Miller's Valley."
REHMYou know, it's interesting that the subject of eminent domain. When my late husband John and I purchased our first home, it had an extended garden, really lovely, going out to what was a lane, two-lane road called River Road. Well, Maryland decided to widen that and said that they could take eminent domain, take half of our garden from us. Well, I was undone and felt exactly as you describe. How could you take some of what I consider my beautiful garden? But it happens all the time.
QUINDLENExactly. Those enough lucky to have beloved homes almost think of them as an extension of our body so that when anything goes really wrong, or when something threatens them, it's almost like a physical blow.
REHMWell, you had a true physical blow in your youth in that you lost your mother at a very young age. How old was she?
QUINDLENShe was 41, and I was 19.
REHMAnd there were how many siblings?
QUINDLENI'm the oldest of five.
REHMAnd was your father present?
QUINDLENMy dad was a real kind of '50s dad. You know, they had division of labor. She took care of the home and the kids, and my father was the breadwinner. And so that kind of dynamic of equal parenting, which we like to talk about so much now and which I think I will see to some large extent in my own children, didn't really exist. And my mother was also one of those people -- I mean, I think all five of us thought we were the favorite, each of us were the favorite. She was good at her work, and her work was us.
QUINDLENAnd so when she died, sort of the whole, the whole setup kind of fell apart.
REHMHow did she die?
QUINDLENShe had ovarian cancer.
REHMDid it go quickly?
QUINDLENYeah, it -- well, it almost always goes quickly. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is usually only diagnosed in a late stage. In my mother's case it was stage four. Between diagnosis and death, the average time span when she died was 18 months, and in fact that's about how long she lasted. Today between diagnosis and death it's more like three years, but it still tends to be a disproportionate killer because it's found so late.
REHMSo Anna Quindlen, you in effect became the head of household.
QUINDLENI did. I mean, I developed a kind of a peculiar relationship with my siblings. Some years ago, maybe 10 years ago, I was trying to work some family thing out, and I was on the phone with my brother Bob, who's the next closest in age to me. And I was going on and on, and he cut me off. He said, Anna, you don't have to do this anymore. We're all adults now. And it was incredibly liberating.
QUINDLENBut the fact that someone had to actually say this to me showed how deeply imprinted it was on my psyche.
REHMWell, tell me about those years when you were in charge. What were they like for you?
QUINDLENOh, they were a mess. I mean, you know, I would love to be able to tell you that, you know, I did a great job at this, and I was, you know, really -- I really stepped up. And I think my sister, who was the youngest and who is 10 years younger than I am, would say that I probably did the best by her. But I mean, when kids lose their mother, it never goes easy. And it didn't go easy, and I wasn't very good at it. But, you know, I look back now and think, well, why would I have been very good at it.
REHMYou were 19.
QUINDLENI was a kid myself.
REHMExactly, exactly. Did you have an opportunity to talk with your mother before she died about her expectations of you as the oldest child?
QUINDLENNo, I don't think that's a conversation that we had. I mean, let's -- let's respool again. We're talking about the early '70s. Most people never even used the word cancer with my mother because, well, first of all, for the first year she didn't even know that's what she had. My father was the only one who knew, and he hid it from her. I mean, the idea that that would happen today is unthinkable. Second of all, there were people who didn't come to the house because they thought it was contagious. I would hope that no one is that ignorant anymore.
QUINDLENAnd third of all, we didn't pour our hearts out the way we do now. Here's what my mother did do. She told me stories from her childhood about what it was like to grow up as an Italian immigrant kid in Philadelphia so that I knew about prejudice, I knew all the different ways you could insult an Italian that aren't used very much anymore. She sat in the kitchen, in her wheelchair, in the late afternoons and walked me through cooking things, a job that, by the way, up until that point I had never intended to do and that I thought was beneath me because I was going to be very important and accomplished in the world, and why would I need to know to make meatloaf. And by the way, I make excellent meatloaf.
REHMSo do I.
QUINDLENCourtesy of Prudence Quindlen. So she did that, and that was a way of saying to me, I'm leaving, you need to know these things now. And every once in a while she would come up with some random piece of advice. Never marry a man named George. Why? I have no idea. Don't have a steam table wedding reception, and don't have a flower girl, they always distract from the bride. Okay. I still -- I mean, I didn't have a flower girl.
REHMBut she never talked directly about the fact that...
QUINDLENShe was dying?
REHMShe was dying?
QUINDLENNo. And I think I'm quite clear on why that would be. It wasn't because she was afraid of the conversation. As a mother of three children myself, I think it was because she was trying to protect me from having to have that conversation with her. I think she didn't want me to be taking care of her in the first place. She was very upset when I left school to come home and take care of her because she felt like -- well, she said, I'm ruining your life, when I first arrived back home.
REHMYou were already in college.
QUINDLENI was already in college. So I think that she wanted to protect me from having to have that conversation with her. You know, there's the biblical quote the child is the father of the man. She did not want the child to be the mother of the women. She wanted to be the mother.
REHMAnd do you know your character Mimi is very much like that. She and her mother have brief but important conversations.
QUINDLENExactly. Exactly, and sometimes her mother has conversations with other people that tell Mimi things. So there's this wonderful moment, at least it's wonderful for me in the book, when Mimi's high school teacher, who has engineered this opportunity for Mimi, comes and tells Miriam Miller about it, and Miriam Miller, who is very controlled...
REHMMiriam Miller being Mimi's mother.
QUINDLENMimi's mother, who is very controlled and does not weep easily, is sitting at the kitchen table, and she holds her hands in front of her face and moves her hands like windshield wipers to move the tears away. And you can tell that as Mimi watches them that these two women didn't have certain kinds of opportunities, even though they're both really smart and really hard-working, and they're complicit together in passing the torch to this young woman in ways that she can only begin to understand but that are very powerful to her.
REHMIt's interesting, Anna, as you write about the men in this book, very few seem to come off with the -- with similar strength as do the women.
QUINDLENWell, I'm the mother of two men, as well as one woman, and so I try not to generalize, especially given how absolutely wonderful my sons are. But I think women knit the fabric of life for -- in most of our households, in most of the world. They hold the world together. You know, we had a fundraiser for Senator Jeanne Shaheen at our house I guess maybe two years ago, and when she was taking questions, I said to her, why can't you all get anything done. Why can't you all get together on anything? And she said because we don't really know each other very well.
QUINDLENWhen the Senate is not in session, we're back home raising money, and we spend way too much time raising money, and from what I gather from 50 or 60 years ago, the members of the Senate used to see each other socially.
QUINDLENAnd they had many more personal relationships to build on. She said, we just don't do that except for the women. She said the women get together for dinner once a week, and if you look at the bipartisan efforts on a variety of issues that have taken root and have actually passed, they tend to be the women who have done the behind-the-scenes work.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. We have many callers. So I'm going to open the phones, 800-433-8850. First to Gaithersburg, Maryland. Beverly, you're on the air.
BEVERLYHi, I just wanted to let you know that there is -- there was a very similar situation in Pennsylvania back in the '60s. It was in northwestern Pennsylvania and a town named Kinzua was consumed by the Kinzua Dam Project. And it was a very similar situation. It was built to prevent flooding down line toward Pittsburg and the communities in between, and the whole town was eliminated, including all the graves that had to be dug up. And, you know, it was really interesting.
BEVERLYI kind of watched it because I lived in the area at that time, and we went down pretty often to watch the whole project going up. But I don't know anybody personally there, but there was a project very much like that in Pennsylvania.
QUINDLENOh thank you so much for calling in. You know, the great thing about being a novelist, having once been a reporter and then a columnist, is that I don't really need to do any research. What I found is that if I can invent it, it almost certainly exists in the world. But the one piece of actual take-away I got from just noodling around online was that these places are called drowned towns. And I thought it was such a beautiful turn of phrase that the moment I saw it, I almost jumped up and down, and I thought that's going in the book.
QUINDLENThe idea of having been from a drowned town, that's powerful.
REHMHere's a question from Denise in Alexandria. You're on the air.
DENISEHi, thank you for taking my call.
QUINDLENAnna, I find you to be fascinating. I only called with a simple question, which was, I just love hearing you talk about this book, and I was curious as to what age would be appropriate for me to read this to my -- or with my granddaughter. We read a lot, and we find great books, and she's 12. She's a very mature 12, and she is in advanced placement, so she's exposed to some pretty good literature. And so I was just curious, is 12 too young if she's reading it with me or is this something that would be appropriate?
QUINDLENHonestly, I think if she's reading it with you, she could read it with you now. There is some mild sexual content it, mild especially compared to what's in a lot of books today. I can remember when my kids were young, Quinn once saying to Chris, you know, about I think it was "One True Thing," well, you know, and there is a sex scene, and Chris said, mom wrote a sex scene? But you know, I think -- first of all I think it's fantastic that you read with her.
QUINDLENBecause reading with someone else is never about reading. It's why we have all these book clubs. It's about talking about life and talking about life with your granddaughter, I think this would give her a lot for the two of you to talk about.
REHMAnd at 12 on the verge of that eye-opening relationship with boys, perhaps. I think this would be an excellent novel. We're going to take a short break here. When we come back, more of your comments, your emails. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. Anna Quindlen is with me. Her new novel, "Miller's Valley," is the latest. She has written eight novels. She was a New York Times op-ed writer for many years and a reporter before that and now spends her time writing novels. Here's an email from Susan in Baltimore, who writes, I love Anna and her books. She said women knit the fabric of life. So true. And please get her to expand on this, especially regarding the global political upheaval today.
QUINDLENI don't even know where to begin. I mean, we've taken such an ugly turn. And it's hard for me to believe that the level of discourse would be this bad if we had more women in positions of political power. I mean, as we were just discussing, the idea that the two lead candidates on one side of the ballot would be engaged in some sort of a, well, I'm not going to use the lowered word on the air, but in some sort of battle about their wives and what their wives look like, and really, the American people deserve so much better than this.
REHMThe discourse is what troubles me the most because one would think that a presidential race would set an example for younger people as they hear how people express themselves, how presidential candidates express themselves. But the manner, the use of language, the hatred, it rises to that, that seems to be engendered in this discourse that's going to pass on to younger...
QUINDLENLook, it's got to be challenging to raise children in this environment.
QUINDLENBecause, you know, if I said once to my children, I said 100 times, you cannot say shut up. You cannot call someone an idiot. You cannot call them a loser. Well, now we have the frontrunner in the Republican race who uses middle-school bullying dialogue and tactics all the time. It's just insupportable, and I really -- I really wish that cooler heads would prevail. And yet the extent to which you have kind of bellowing mobs who respond to this, what is that? I just don't get it.
REHMOkay, now tomorrow after lots of people have come at it on this, we're going to do a program on the role of the press and how press coverage has affected each of these candidates.
REHMWhat's your thinking on that?
QUINDLENWell, it becomes sort of a circular argument. I mean, in the beginning, you know, there's the whole thing about the talking dog, that you cover him because you can't believe he does it at all so that in the beginning, it was oh my God, Donald Trump's actually running for president. So we'll cover this because we can't believe it's actually happening. And wow, he's picking up support, so we'll cover this because we didn't think he would pick up support. And by the way, he said something so incendiary that we've got to cover it. He said John McCain is not a war hero.
QUINDLENOkay, first of all the press covered it because they couldn't believe he said it, and second of all, it was one of the many moments on this number line when we thought, well, he's cooked. You can't say John McCain is not a war hero and still...
REHMEvery time he raises it.
QUINDLENEvery time, every single time, every single horrible thing that he says. So on the one hand, you say, well, the press made Donald Trump because they covered all this. On the other hand, it became so aberrational that you pictured any editor feeling like it had to be covered. I mean, look, the first rough draft of history is always really rough and this year perhaps this year perhaps rougher than ever before.
REHMI don't know how historians are going to really make sense of this particular area, but...
QUINDLENWell, the New York Times has a very good piece today. I think it's either the lead or the off-lead of the paper about how the Republican Party really has misapprehended, for at least three election cycles, where the pain was and who they needed to be speaking to and the disenfranchised, rust-belt, white men of a certain age and how Trump swooped right in and said what they wanted to hear.
REHMAll right, let's go now to Rochester, New York, and to Keith, you're on the air.
KEITHYes, guys read your books, too. I'm holding a copy of your book "Blessing." You and I have a lot in common. I'm the oldest of five siblings. My mother was 41 when she died of suicide on Christmas Day, 1969.
REHMOh my, I'm sorry.
KEITHWhen I was 14. My father, a clergyman and an Episcopal priest, very quickly, you could write a book on this, we were kept quiet because three things, our Appalachian culture, the church, like you were saying, would not allow us to talk about our innermost feelings, and if you think females are quiet amongst each other, guys are never encouraged to talk. When my mom passed, people in the congregation brought us the dinners and so on, but that soon withered out. Everyone came to my father, the clergyman, and said, oh, reverend, we're sorry about this, but we kids were lost in the shuffle, and no one ever reached out to us.
KEITHIn closing, my sister Kathy, who lives now up in New Hampshire with her husband in that Eastern Silicon Valley, says to me, Keith, you're a pretty good writer, write about our family saga. But it's so difficult. And I would maybe just encourage you, well you mentioned Charles Dickens, and I know you wrote about the brothers, Tommy and Edward in your book, but from the male perspective, it's very hard for us guys to reach out. And in closing, you in the Washington inner belt there have to realize the focus on Trump is because there's so much anger out here, and you liberals, you never pick up on the shortcomings and even criminality of Hillary. So it's all about Trump, but go after Hillary, as well. There's a lot of anger out here that you in Washington are not going after Hillary on.
REHMAll right, Keith, thanks so much for your call. Huge story.
QUINDLENHe also makes a really excellent point, which is to the extent that we don't talk about the things that are most important to us, that live in our hearts, at least women feel more able to talk about them. I do think there's still -- there certainly was at the time he's talking about, but I still think there's a little bit of the culture of silence around men talking about the things that cause them pain and that all of us who have sons have to try to make sure that they don't feel tamped down in that way.
REHMAnd speaking of Hillary, there is a front page story about Hillary this morning in the Washington Post that our caller might like to read. By the way, we have a Facebook comment from Cynthia, who says, quote, the child is the father of the man is not a biblical quote, it's from William Wordsworth. How about that?
QUINDLENOh thank you.
REHMYeah, you learned...
QUINDLENWell, I won't make that mistake again.
QUINDLENI tend to give everything to either the Bible, Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde, and I knew that wasn't Oscar Wilde.
REHMAll right, and here is a tweet from Amon, who says The Atlantic has a great article about reading fiction and establishing personal empathy. Are we in trouble because of the decline of the novel?
QUINDLENWell first of all, the decline of the novel has been talked about over and over again. It just is not true.
QUINDLENAnd the Times, actually, has a really good piece today about how independent bookstores are maintaining now.
REHMAnd really strengthening.
QUINDLENBut as per the last comment we had, novels are disproportionately read by women. Men tend to read history and biography. And to the extent that reading a novel helps you live in the skin of someone different than you are and helps you develop that empathy, we need to make sure our sons read more fiction. One of the things that I found a little disconcerting about some of the early material about the common core was that in the English curriculum, it seemed to emphasize nonfiction over fiction. I think students learn so much from reading novels, about what the world is truly like.
REHMThe -- here's an email from David, who says in the 1970s, the Army engineers failed strong-arm efforts to dam the spring-fed Merrimac River in Eastern Missouri, and that's reminiscent of this hour's program. The dam was stopped and was ultimately a story of how a dedicated group of citizens can stop such outrageous government overreach. I recommend this happy-ending story to all. And you have citizens within this book who are adamantly against the building of this dam.
QUINDLENBut this is at a moment when things started to change so that what you would see is in the '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, when people still had this sense that government told them the truth and acted in their best interests, the government would swoop in and do this, and it would happen. And it was in the late '60s, Vietnam War, and the early '70s, Watergate, that Americans started to say wait just a minute. And I think that for a lot of these kinds of projects, that was the moment when they called a halt, when groups of citizens managed to push back enough to get things undone.
REHMYou know, Anna, I am at least 10, 15 years older than you are, but I know you said in an interview that after you turned 50, you were finally able to turn off the negative messages. What were they?
QUINDLENOh, about being a woman? Let's see. You're not thin enough, you're not smart enough, you're not a good enough mother, you're not a good enough wife, you're not a good enough cook, you're not a good enough CEO. It's always not good enough. And, you know, I always say I don't know whether it was age, I don't know whether it was that I had no estrogen anymore, I don't know whether it was support from other women, but there came a moment when I looked around and thought we are all enough. We are all just enough. And I didn't care anymore what anybody thought of me.
QUINDLENIt was a screening-out that I had to learn to do even before that because if you're going to be an opinion columnist, boy, you sure can't worry about what people think of you.
REHMExactly, exactly, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. But once you said, look, it's enough, I mean, did those feelings go away? Were you able to completely dispel them, or did you have a method for tamping them down?
QUINDLENI think a lot of them went away because the proof is in the pudding. I mean, when you have, as I did at one point, a four-year-old, a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old, just getting through the day seems to be enough. And when you're trying to take the long view and say am I being a good mother, the answer is I guess so.
QUINDLENWhen you have, as I do now, a 32-year-old, a 30-year-old and a 27-year-old, and all three of them are pretty spectacular and have a strong moral compass and a strong sense of empathy and how to behave in the world, then you say to yourself, I must have done something right.
REHMYes, exactly, exactly. And does that give you even more freedom to be, let's see, brave in your novel writing?
QUINDLENI think I've gotten braver and braver and braver.
QUINDLENI mean, I'm just not...
REHMI do, too.
QUINDLENI feel like the key to everything is fearlessness, that fear -- look, this political season is all about fear. It's all about fear so that when people stop acting out of fear, I mean, people are racist out of fear of the other. People are sexist out of fear of the other. When you drive out fear and say let's take a look, let's try to find the better angels of our nature, that's when the good things get done. The good things don't get done out of fear.
REHMAnd fear is really ever-present now not only because of what's happening here in this country, what's happening around the world, the fear that it could come here, the fear that our lives, our children's lives, our way of life could be affected.
QUINDLENI know, I know what happened in Belgium, what happened in Paris. My husband and I were on the New York City subway the other night, and we just sort of turned to each other and thought, the subway, you know, it's -- it's kind of -- it's kind of ever-present.
REHMSo you can live in that fear or with that fear, and that fear can really undermine everything else.
QUINDLENBut then you'd never get on a plane.
QUINDLENYou'd never go to a public place. You'd just -- I don't think you can live in it. I think you have to be aware of it, but you can't live in it.
REHMWe have to keep going, as Mimi does. I don't want to give away any more of this novel, but it does have such strength, and Mimi demonstrates the strength of that young child who lives so much in the shadows early on but really demonstrates her strength.
REHMI loved this book, Anna.
QUINDLENThank you. And can I say one thing? I know that every woman has the right to choose her own path, and you're choosing yours, but you have raised the level of discourse over and over again with real incisive thought and conversation in which people aren't interrupting each other or yelling over each other, in which the host is not acting like the biggest gun in the room. And I really appreciate that.
REHMThank you so much. And thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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