Alex Gilvarry is a native of Staten Island, New York. He has been a Norman Mailer Fellow and has written for The Paris Review, among other publications. He is the founding editor of the website Tottenville Review, a book review collaborative.
From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant is his debut novel.
From Gilvarry's Q & A with Doretta Lau for the Asia Wall Street Journal:
What inspired you to write this book?Learn more about the book and author at Alex Gilvarry's website.
Mr. Gilvarry: I was working in SoHo, which is the most fashionable neighborhood in Manhattan. We were always surrounded by fashion people, by boutiques, and on lunch breaks I’d see models — especially during fashion week there would be models on the street going to and from their castings.
Ashley, my girlfriend, also worked in the industry, so I had already gone to a lot of fashion parties and watched her in shows and stuff like that. I had no purpose being there. I was really just there observing, having a laugh at what I thought was these ridiculous people. Me making fun of them was a defense mechanism, because I didn’t belong there.
During 2004 to 2007 — some of the novel takes place in that timeframe — I just became really obsessed with Guantanamo Bay and the imprisonment of men, sometimes innocent men, and not even being labeled “in prison.” There were so many things to ease the situation that America had done, like “detainment.” The word detainment is very neutral. It’s a good term.
As I started writing the book, the two worlds just converged in my mind and made sense as a narrative. I invented the character Boy, a fashion designer.
Why is Boy Filipino?
I wanted to write about Filipinos and the Philippines. I always had, because my mother’s from the Philippines. I had been there a few times, and Manila’s a very mixed-up place. I always wanted to set something there, and so Boy was this character, was this opportunity to write about something that I wanted to do for many years. But also, by him as an...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant.