Page 23 - Real Style Summer 2017
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and Brooks, Jules’ eldest child who quickly becomes Maddie’s love interest. As you read the novel, the thing that hits you immediately is how real everything feels, and after speak- ing with Fierro, you can very quickly  gure out why.
“I grew up on Long Island,” Fierro says, “and the summer I was 16, we had this in- sane gypsy moth plague. As teenagers grow- ing up in a very woodsy area, even though we were 45 minutes away from New York City, we hardly left our little town. It just consumed our experience because we hung out at the beach or in the woods. When you live in a very woody area and there are these many caterpillars, it’s like they’re dropping on you from above and it was just so sur- real and I’d wanted to write about that for a while.”
The gypsy moth invasion Fierro lived through wasn’t the only real life event she drew from. The character of the Colonel, a former military man who runs a local aircraft manufacturing plant, was based somewhat on her own maternal grandfather. “He was a Colonel in the army,” Fierro explains, “not the navy, and not half as terrible as the Col- onel in the book. But he did do that white glove inspection of our rooms when he came over, which was kind of terrifying.”
There’s also the true story of John White, an African American who in 2006 shot and killed a teenager who had come to his house and threatened his son. “For me it just really focused the racial tension that still exists even in New York City suburbs where you’d think there would be more diversity, but it’s actually still very segregated,” says Fierro.
“I was somewhat inspired by that story even though the characters aren’t based on those people. He was a man who loved plants, which was just one little detail in the article, but I think that maybe did sort of lead me to Jules.”
As for what’s next, Fierro knows
already what she wants to tackle. “I
think I’m ready to write the ‘big’
book,” Fierro tells us. “The book
that is based on some family his-
tory. My father has this really
amazing story about growing up so
poor without electricity and run-
ning water and shoes or underwear
in World War II in southern Italy
under Mussolini’s reign. He was
hiding in a cave for two weeks dur-
ing the Allied liberation, because the bombs were just raining down for days and days and days to get the Germans out. Afterwards, he comes to America and meets my mother at a dance in the Bronx. When they met, my mother spoke no Italian and my father spoke no English. It’s going to be a big book, but the frame is going to sort of take place in New York around the 1970s, as the Twin Towers are being built and also have some of World War II in the background. For me, writing is a privilege and I feel like
I want to tell their stories, because they weren’t able to tell them.”
In the end, The Gypsy Moth Sum-
mer, and the rest of Fierro’s work,
is meant to take your mind away. “I
read and I write to escape,” Fierro
shares. “It’s a necessity for me be-
cause I am a busy-minded person
and I need a lot of escape to get out
of my own thoughts and worries.
For me, the most important part of
reading a book, or watching a TV
series or watching  lms, is escape. I can only do that through an intense emotional experi- ence.”
As dark as her writing is, Fierro isn’t any- thing like her stories, and leaves us on a high note. “I feel like it’s very exciting to see what comes next and to see how I’ve grown,” Fi- erro says. “I’m very optimistic about writ- ing. I think we get better just by living and experiencing and learning and by making mistakes. I really do believe that when we sit down every day, we’re smarter than we were the day before.” Out of everything we talked about with Fierro, it’s these words that will stick with us the longest. After all, The Gypsy Moth Summer helped us learn from the characters’ mistakes, and we’d like to think we’ve gotten better because of it.
gooDBYe, vitAMin – rAcHel KHong
In her debut novel, Rachel Khong tells the story of
a 30-year-old woman who decides to end her engagement, quit her job and move back home
so she can care for her father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. And
then things get really complicated. While her father is slowly losing his memory, her mother is growing angrier as she cares for her husband. The novel is considered to be funny, insightful and moving. It also displays honesty and unexpected tenderness as the main character tries to  nd her way in
see wHAt i HAve Done – sArAH scHMiDt We’ve all heard the stories of Lizzie Borden taking an axe to her parents in 1892, and even though she was acquitted for the crime, people still believed she was guilty of murder. In her debut novel, Sarah Schmidt explores the question of
whether Lizzie actually did the crime. Her book tells the story of a volatile, loveless family, one where the father has an explosive temper, and the stepmother is spiteful. It looks at two spinster sisters seeking their own independence, and what they are willing to do to get it. This  ctional account of the crime tells the story through the eyes of Lizzie, her older sister Emma, a housemaid named Bridget and a stranger named Benjamin. As they each
tell their stories, you get a better understanding of the events of that fateful day.

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