Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ilana Stanger-Ross

Ilana Stanger-Ross's debut novel Sima's Undergarments for Women is out this month in paperback. From a Q & A at the author's website:

Where did the idea for Sima and her basement undergarment shop come from?

I’ll confess: it was my mother’s idea. She grew up in Boro Park, the Brooklyn neighborhood where Sima’s shop is located, and has remained loyal to it. When I was a child, we’d go to Boro Park whenever I needed new clothes, so I grew up thinking that everyone shopped in clothing stores where the owner squeezed your cheeks and gossiped with your mother while deftly navigating narrow passages between rows of discount clothes.

When it came time to buy my first bra I imagined shopping at some anonymous, well-lit department store, but, alas, back to my mother’s own childhood we went. She took me to Miss Pauline’s, an old-fashioned shop wedged into a tiny space on Coney Island Avenue, where I was promptly felt-up by Miss Pauline herself, a zaftig woman undeterred by pre-pubescent squeamishness.

In high school I ditched Miss Pauline for Victoria’s Secret, but in my twenties I returned, usually with my mother in tow. A bra-fitting makes a huge difference, so I became, if not a regular, at least an occasional but devoted visitor to Miss Pauline’s shop. Just around the time I began my MA in Fiction at Temple University I returned to the store only to find it was closing. Miss Pauline was retiring, and there was no one to replace her. My mother suggested I write about her shop, and the idea intrigued me. In a one-on-one seminar with Dr. Alan Singer at Temple I began to write a short story set in a bra-shop. After a few drafts he asked, “Why isn’t this a novel?” I told him it had to be a short story, because I was too terrified to embark on a novel. He didn’t buy that excuse, and it began from there.

Do you think this book is only for women readers?

I imagine it’ll appeal to women more, in part because it’s such a woman-centered novel, and then again because women read more fiction than men. It’s also an interesting time to be debuting as a female author…chick-lit has emerged as a bestseller category, and there’s definitely the temptation to promote Sima as chick-lit because of the bra-shop setting. But...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Sima's Undergarments for Women, and learn more about the book and author at Ilana Stanger-Ross' website.

The Page 69 Test: Sima's Undergarments for Women.

--Marshal Zeringue