Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eve Pell

Eve Pell is the author of We Used to Own the Bronx: Memoirs of a Former Debutante.

From her interview with Frances Dinkelspiel:

How and why did you decide to write a memoir? Your book takes a critical look at upper class life with its emphasis on looks, club life, and social order at all cost. How did you family react to these revelations? Do any of them still embrace the lifestyle you lived as a child?

First off, I am a writer and that's what we do. I've been keeping notes about my family for 30 years or more--conversations, scenes, feelings.... Members of my family reacted very differently while I was working on the book: some were sympathetic and supportive. My Aunt Goody, for example, told me many stories and years before had started writing a critical book with the great title "The Sting of the Wasp" (which was never published). My father, on the other hand, hated my attitudes and though he did not live to see the book published or even read it, he didn't speak to me for years and, though he didn't tell me about it, disinherited me for writing about the family and its values.

Some of my relatives share my feelings; others, I suspect, feel that I have revealed too much-- but in good WASP style they button their lips....None of them can afford that lifestyle any more and they all pretty much have to WORK, shocking as that may be.

How did you research this book? How did you uncover new information about your family, such as the shocking news that one of your forbearers actually held a job and made a fortune in the grubby oil fields of California? What kind of documentation did you find?

For many years, I went to libraries from Boston to San Francisco seeking out genealogical and historical material. I interviewed those relatives and family friends who would talk, but not...[read on].
Read more about We Used to Own the Bronx.

--Marshal Zeringue