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Bored with her life and spellbound by dreams of a Hollywood-style romance, Judith Weissman makes a radical choice in hopes of finding the life she's always wanted. Author Beverly Magid paints a complex, sympathetic character with this young Jewish woman, who quickly captivates readers in Magid's compelling new novel "Flying Out of Brooklyn," set in New York City's vibrant Williamsburg neighborhood in the summer of 1943. The author takes readers back to a time of both incredible opportunity and uncertainty for women in the United States. While everyone else is concentrating on World War II, Judith Weissman is faced with her lackluster marriage, mundane job in a critical, gossipy neighborhood. The war has opened exciting workplace opportunities for many women, but Judith is trapped in a job without any stimulation or possibility of advancement.
Interview with Beverly Magid
Flying Out of Brooklyn
Reviewed by for Reader Views (12/07)
Today, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is pleased to be joined by Beverly Magid, author of the newly published novel, “Flying Out of Brooklyn.”
Beverly Magid is an East Coast native, but she has also been a long term Los Angeles resident. She has worked for many years as a journalist and publicist in the entertainment industry.
Tyler: Thank you, Beverly, for joining me. I’m excited to learn more from you about your new novel, “Flying Out of Brooklyn.” To begin, would you tell us a little bit about the setting of the novel?
Beverly: It’s 1943, the community of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY. World War II has been raging for over a year. It’s the home front, a Jewish working-class neighborhood.
Tyler: What made you decide to tell the story of a housewife having an affair?
Beverly: The book evolved from a short story I wrote a while back and then thought about again when I joined a writers’ workshop, led by Janet Fitch, author of “White Oleander.” I was drawn to the dilemma of a young woman who is still searching for an answer to her life. She’s a dreamer, influenced by all the Hollywood romances she’s seen on screen and still hoping that life will turn out better than it has.
Tyler: Why did you choose to set the story during World War II rather than the present day or some other time period?
Beverly: I love this era, a time when women were beginning to find new opportunities in work and control of their own lives because of the circumstances of the war. With the men overseas, women were in demand and it seemed that their opportunities would continue indefinitely. Unfortunately, as soon as the men returned, all those windows of opportunity closed and they were faced with the decade of the fifties, which closed down all those hard-won opportunities.
Tyler: The main character, Judith Weissman, is a Jew living in Brooklyn, and of course a woman. What about the culture of the time do you think made her feel bored or trapped?
Beverly: In many families at that time, sons were considered the priority, daughters were expected to marry, raise a family, sublimate their own wishes for the good of the family. Some women tried to break out of that pattern, but most got caught in the trap, or felt that their life had become a trap.
Tyler: Why did you choose for Judith to be Jewish?
Beverly: As a Jewish woman, this culture was the most familiar to me and although the story is not auto-biographical, it is a setting that I know.
Tyler: My first thought when I heard about “Flying Out of Brooklyn” was that Judith must be a bored housewife, but she actually works in an office. World War II was a time when many women entered the workforce. How does Judith’s having a job add to the story?
Beverly: Her job is just another part of the trap. There is no way to advance; she’s been in that office since she worked after school part-time. She’s not sharing in the excitement of contributing to the war effort, like some of the other women. Instead, like her husband, she feels that she’s also been classified 4F, which meant in those days: unfit to serve in the military.
Tyler: What circumstance leads to Judith having an affair with Bobby?
Beverly: At a time when she is once again considering the circumstances of her life, she runs into him, away from Brooklyn and the prying eyes of the neighborhood gossips. And when they meet, her old feelings for him, her previous hero-worship is re-kindled. He represented to her all that was passionate, idealistic unlike what she believes is her predictable husband. He, in turn has returned physically wounded and emotionally vulnerable and also in need of some human connection.
Tyler: Beverly, does “Flying Out of Brooklyn” condone Judith’s affair? Is her husband Marvin responsible in anyway for her decision to have the affair? Is right and wrong black and white in the novel?
Beverly: I don’t think in terms of right or wrong, or good or bad when it comes to my characters. Sometimes I think they will make one choice, take one path and then they veer off to make totally different decisions. That often happens with characters you write. You have to be open to all possibilities. As in real life, in any relationship, all connections and interactions are complicated and unpredictable, but of course, what we do affects other. This happens with Judith and Marvin.
Tyler: How do you feel about Marvin as a character?
Beverly: To me, Marvin is the unknown character in the book. Judith is sure she has him figured out, thinks she knows how he will handle any situation, but he is one of the surprises of the book, someone who is deeper and more feeling than he is given credit for.
Tyler: Judith idolized Bobby in the past, but now she finds he has changed. Does “Flying Out of Brooklyn” say something about who people really are compared to how people choose to view them?
Beverly: Not only do our heroes change, but we rarely stay the same as we were in the past when we start to idolize them. We don’t like to think that our heroes have chinks in their armor, but it’s not always their fault that we have changed our opinions about them. In Bobby’s case, life has dealt him a harsh blow and he has come home feeling very differently about life and how he has handled his choices. His confidence in his own abilities have been shattered and for people who have been very clear in how they view life, that can be extremely alarming.
Tyler: Our reviewer, Paige Lovitt, commented that in the novel, Judith makes poor choices but the reader comes to understand why she makes those choices. Would you agree that Judith makes poor choices?
Beverly: I think you can say that Judith is capable of making unwise choices, but she becomes very sensitive to the consequences of her actions, so she is able to learn from what some people might consider her mistakes. Other readers might still be rooting for her to make even more radical choices. An author is like the mother of a large family; you have to love and try to understand all your characters, no matter what they do and you have to let them make their own mistakes.
Tyler: If Judith had lived in 2007, how do you think her life and choices would have been different from in 1943?
Beverly: Women today have many more opportunities for educations and careers, which could also include being homemakers, but they’re not pushed to make their decisions when they’re young, before they get the chance to check out many different avenues in life. Also other people in the community have less control over what we do, we care less about the opinions of strangers if we have decided on what’s right for us.
Tyler: What difficulties or rewards did you find in setting the novel during 1943? Did you find the research into that era or trying to imagine life as a woman during World War II to be overwhelming?
Beverly: Even though this could be considered a historical novel, the era is close enough to our present-day time, to make research a bit easier through newspapers, books, photographs, newsreels, films made about the War and the home front. People who went through this time are still alive and able to share their experiences.
Tyler: You mentioned earlier that your characters do what they want, despite what you may have planned for them. What other aspects of writing do you find most challenging?
Beverly: In transferring this from a short story to a novel, I was faced with creating a complete setting and day-to-day life for all the characters which is not fully necessary in a story. Even if you’re not using all the information in the book, you need to know what they would see walking down the street, what they might be eating which was correct for that time period, what kind of clothes they wore, movies they saw, what the daily events might be affecting their lives. It might be totally fiction, but there has to be truth to the details.
Tyler: Would you define this novel as primarily a love story or romance, or do you think it is better categorized by another genre or term?
Beverly: I think I may be the last person to categorize the book, because I think if a story is well written it’s ultimately about people, relationships, the search for ideas and choices on a life-path. Even stories that deal with crime and mystery or action adventure are not all just one thing. And although Judith is my protagonist, the story also includes Marvin, Bobby, her brother Sammy, and a whole community of characters in the neighborhood.
Tyler: Beverly, do you have any plans to write another novel?
Beverly: Well, talk about research and all the difficulties connected to it, my next book is set in Russia in 1905, an extremely turbulent time for the country and for the world. This all affects my characters, who again are Jewish and living in a difficult situation in an area which was then known as the Pale of the Jewish Settlement, unable to travel outside this area without permission. They lived under very unpleasant circumstances, violent and often poverty-stricken, which they fought against. So right now, I am up to my eye-balls in books and photos of that era trying to understand what makes all my characters tick.
Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Beverly. Before we end, would you tell our readers a little bit about your website and what additional information they can find there about “Flying Out of Brooklyn.”
Beverly: My website is: http://www.beverlymagid.com You can find other quotes from other writers who have enjoyed the book, including Janet Fitch, Denise Nicholas as well as Academy Award-winning actor, Martin Landau, reviews of the book, order information and updates on up-coming book events as they are scheduled. If readers sign up, I’m happy to respond personally to their messages.
Tyler: Thank you, Beverly. I hope “Flying Out of Brooklyn” has a long life, and I wish you great luck with your next novel.