Yes! The man from NYC is back for more on Sylvia Says. This is a first for me, hosting a great author twice on my blog. So read on, and I hope you enjoy the interview.
SM: Steven, it's great to have you back on my blog and ready to tell readers about your latest release The Ishi Affair.
SJG: It's great to be back, Sylvia. I'm thrilled to be the only author you've hosted twice on the blog.
SM: What can I say? It's that charm of yours... And the fact I love guys from NYC (blushing). But let's get you talking about your latest novel. This is book 5 of your David Grossman series. Does the new book tell a continuing story?
SJG: Each of the five novels in my David Grossman Series is an independent story. But the books do share a main protagonist, hence the series. For sure, readers who enjoy all the books will appreciate the larger arc of David’s colorful life. The first three novels--Grand View, Forty Years Later, and The Deadline— are told in the first person, so they share the intimate tone of a single narrator. Grossman’s Castle and The Ishi Affair are told in the third-person, so various characters share center-stage with David—though his brash and comic voice is sometimes loudest.
SM: So what compelled you to write this latest novel?
SJG: I’ve always had a deep fear and loathing of bullies. When I was still quite young, I learned that my mother’s family—and other Jews of the Ukraine—had suffered the casual taunts of Jew-haters and, even more, the murderous pogroms that often exterminated entire Jewish villages. My father’s boyhood was spent in Nazi Germany. Most of his extended family was able to leave before Kristallnacht. The ones who stayed behind were killed.
When I was 17, I first learned about Ishi and how his tribe, along with many other Native American tribes, were hunted down and murdered by whites for fun and profit—and that these heinous actions were often sponsored by government fiat. I learned early on that genocide was the most loathsome human expression imaginable. I knew, at 17, I would write about Ishi.
SM: Genocide is indeed one of the most loathsome human expressions imaginable. Nowadays I'd have to say I put it right up there with terrorist acts. But back to Ishi--Was there a real "Ishi" or an ancient person who you based Ishi on?
SJG: Yes, in fact Ishi is quite famous, and the last five years of his life (1911–1916) are well documented. I did quite a bit of research to learn about the Yahi, whose Stone Age customs, traditions, and technology were still being practiced in the early 20th century.
SM: What made you mesh the Stone Age era component into the modern-day story you wrote? And why did you decide on the Stone Age era in the first place?
SJG: I loved the idea that Ishi was born into a Stone Age culture while much of the rest of our nation was becoming highly industrialized. A couple days after Ishi was “discovered,” he was transported by railroad to bustling San Francisco, where he saw large sailing ships and even an airplane. This image has always fascinated me, and I knew early on that I would not write a Clan of the Cave Bear-type story. You see, I wasn’t as interested in the Old Ways of the Yahi as I was in the clash of cultures, Stone Age and Modern.
SM: How does Ishi become a catalyst for David Grossman to face certain issues in his modern life?
SJG: Human nature, for better or worse, seems to be a constant. For thousands of years, going back to the Stone Age, people have labored, fought, loved … much as they do today. Conversely, modern humans—for all their advanced knowledge and technology—are capable of expressing the most primitive, savage impulses.
SM: Oh yes. I have to agree with you there, my friend. Since mankind has walked erect, breaking away from the apes, nothing much has changed by way of their nature.
SJG: And insofar as both are human, David Grossman and Ishi are not so different in terms of their basic needs. By comparing Stone Age and Modern characters, we see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
SM: An excellent point. As for The Ishi Affair, although a work of fiction, how much did you draw from true historical facts to write this story?
SJG: Almost everything I wrote about the historical Ishi is based on well-known research. I altered only one or two minor details to accommodate the needs of my narrative. Readers should remember that we are not that far removed from Ishi’s time. Interesting note: the esteemed sci-fi writer, Ursula K. Le Guin, who is still alive and well, is the daughter of early 20th-century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and his second wife, Theodora Kroeber, both of whom play roles in my novel. And, just for the record: Le Guin’s middle initial K stands for Kroeber.
SM: This sounds like a fascinating story indeed. And before we go, is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
SJG: I first learned about Ishi when I was 17 and working on an archaeological dig in northern California. That summer, after the dig, I began to write a novel about Ishi and the Yahi. Even then I knew I would combine the story of the Stone Age tribe into a contemporary tale. But I lacked maturity. I needed an adult voice to tell this story. It took me 46 years to get it right.
SM: Thank you, Steven, for doing this interview. Without your agreeing to be my guest today I would never have learned about Ishi and his ancestry. The Ishi Affair is definitely on my reading list now.
SJG: Thank you, Sylvia, for hosting me on your blog post; and the next one (and it's on my bucket list) is to do a face to face interview with you in the land Down Under.
SM: Dear Steven... I'll hold you to that! Bye for now.
NOTE TO READERS: Dear readers, please note that being an Aussie I use Australian spelling in my blog posts, but I don't alter the spelling of the guest's responses, which in this case are written in American spelling. Thank you and until next time!
We all have our trials and tribulations. We have to deal at some stage in our lives with adversity, obstacles, loss, grief, illness, and so on. We often ask ourselves "why me?" We question life, the existence of God--we sometimes even think we're cursed. We tend to compare ourselves to others, and think they're lucky and we are not. We get depressed, we despair, and sometimes we want to stop living.
Like many of you reading this blog post, I've had my fair share of disasters in life, but what I've learned from the bad times was that no matter how awful things got, I could always reinvent myself. We can all reinvent ourselves, but whether it's for better or worse, only you can decide.
Today, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you such a person--one who opted to reinvent himself for the better. Please meet fellow author, Gary Goldstein.
Gary resides in New York City, and I met him a couple of years ago when he appeared as a guest in my then literary show "The Lit Chick Show". Since that time, Gary and I have bumped into one another through the social media, and I decided to invite Gary for an interview on Sylvia Says. I believe if anyone can give us an example of facing adversity, overcoming obstacles and despair, and coming out on the other side with a smile and a lot to give, it is Gary Goldstein.
And so, we move on to find out a little more about Gary and his life.
SM: Gary, thank you for being a guest on Sylvia Says. Do you think writing Jew in Jail was a cathartic experience for you?
GG: Thank you, Sylvia. Good to be here. As to your question--yes, writing Jew in Jail absolutely was a cathartic experience, especially since I wrote it AS I was serving my sentence!
SM: How was this experience cathartic?
GG: It allowed me to become very introspective and think about why I had become the way I was, as far as not having any self-esteem and self-confidence, and why I was resorting to alcohol, drugs and gambling in order to step out of my reality.
SM: Like many people who've been through trauma, whether it be from an accident, a death in the family, drug addiction, etc, can you describe a time when you felt the lowest you could ever be and how you pulled out of it?
GG: Yes, and this is a very good question. It was when I finally decided that I had enough of my "revolving door" lifestyle on the morning of October 31, 2007.
Even though I spent nearly six years behind bars, I did suffer one last relapse 18 months after coming home in 2004, because I had decided and justified that I "deserved" to get high as a result of everything I had been through and dealt with.
However, when I woke up on October 31, 2007, and realized that I felt like a rat in maze and was never going to amount to anything in life unless I finally cleaned up my act and got help for my addictions, I walked over to the Coney Island Hospital Chemical Dependency Outpatient Drug Treatment Program and voluntarily signed in.
Long story short, I remained six months longer than was necessary, and today serve as the alumni committee president.
In addition, this has led to my becoming a motivational & inspirational speaker, and I get to help other recovering addicts at drug programs, hospital detoxes, jails, schools, etc., and get tremendous satisfaction out of passing the message of hope onto those who need it.
SM: Like most people, we sometimes feel in the depths of despair--we feel like we're going to lose it--if you were ever there, what do you think gave you the strength to pull yourself out of this feeling?
GG: Just finally realizing and believing that I was born with greatness - like I tell others when I speak - and that my accomplishments, including college degrees, career in print and broadcast journalism, intelligence, wit, personality and life experience necessitated that I do my best to live up to my full potential.
That, plus the fact that I have a very loving and supportive family and friends who refused to get down on me, even when I was very much down on myself!
SM: How did it feel to be in jail?
GG: It felt degrading, embarrassing and humiliating. Of course, I obviously had nobody else to blame for it happening but myself.
However, after being stripped of my dignity, I slowly but surely began to dig out from the desperation my life had become, and started to work out, tutor other inmates in the school, go to the general and law libraries, lay in the sun out in the yard, and, of course, write "Jew in Jail!"
So, my point is that even under these horrible conditions of being behind bars, it is possible to overcome anything in life, and end up a better person.
SM: What message do you want people to take away from your story?
GG: I want people to understand that, no matter who you are, where you come from, your economic status, or any other factor, addiction is a disease that can affect anyone, and does not discriminate.
Furthermore, I also want people to realize that, regardless of what kind of a tough time they might be going through, they are never alone as there are always people who have experienced the same thing themselves and are willing to help.
Simply put, never be ashamed to ask for help, and never be too proud to admit that you need help in life, because we are all human beings and make mistakes.
SM: If you could go back in time, what would you change about your life?
GG: This is another very good question, and I would say that I would just never take anything for granted, like I did when I was growing up.
I would also appreciate everything I had as a kid, including a great family, friends, education, career after graduation, and just basically know that I could have been whatever I wanted to be in life, as long as I maintained my self-esteem and self-confidence, which, sadly, wasn't the case.
SM: You entitled your book "Jew in Jail". Is this because of the faith you were born into and you were identifying with it, or because you suffered discrimination because of your faith?
GG: Both actually, although more of the second, as I was definitely subjected to a lot of discrimination while incarcerated.
SM: What is your next project?
GG: Aside from continuing to promote "Jew in Jail," and deliver motivational & inspirational speeches in order to help others, I am very interested in getting my own radio and/or television show so I can empower people to always be their best.
I truly believe that I can help so many people achieve their goals by instilling in them a sense of greatness, and letting them know and realize that nothing can stop them from succeeding in life as long as they remain diligent, hard working, and focused.
SM: I wish you well with your book, Gary, and once again, thank you for being a guest on my blog.
GG: My pleasure, and thank you.
You can connect with Gary Goldstein through the following links:
Author Sylvia Massara's: