Yesterday marked the end of my year-long Gurfein Fellowship at Sarah Lawrence College. Through the generosity of Kathryn Gurfein, I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with novelist and short story writer Marian Thurm.
I read from the first chapter of my novel-in-progress, A Last Innocent Year, to an audience that included friends and family. The novel tells the story of Isabel Rosen, a girl in her final semester at Wilder College who finds herself drawn into an affair with a married professor. Isabel, a working class Jewish girl from New York, has always been a fish out of water at Wilder, a small, conservative school tucked in the leafy hills of New Hampshire, but as the affair intensifies, the life she has created for herself begins to unravel. Set in 1995, My Last Innocent Year explores themes of class, creativity, gender, sexuality and power set in a specific historic moment, but also at a very personal moment of transition: the time just before you leave college and begin to imagine a place for yourself in the world.
Here is a short bit of what I read:
“Jason and I continued across campus, walking through deep trenches carved in the snow. The cold air swirled inside me, a strong breeze through a stuffy room, and I imagined it burning away the grit that had lodged there after two weeks in New York. Wilder College still felt like a miracle to me: the symmetrical white buildings that framed the campus green, the brick library with its tall clock tower. It was the kind of place that inspired nostalgia even while you were still there. When I was older, four years would zip by in a flash—I’d turn around and find I’d lived somewhere for six years and still feel like I’d just moved in—but it felt as though I’d been at Wilder forever. At 22, I hadn’t yet placed myself in perspective, that as college students we were always on our way out, the campus shedding students the way a snake sheds its skin: slowly but inexorably, the edges always moving out to make way for the new.”