Author Joanna Hershon Is Inspired By An Era
Contributor
Written by
nicole meier
September 2013
Contributor
Written by
nicole meier
September 2013

Joanna Hershon is the author of four novels: Swimming, The Outside of August, The German Bride and A Dual Inheritance. Her latest, A Dual Inheritance, has received rave reviews and is the focus of my interview with her today. I’d suggest that you run, don’t walk, to your local bookstore and pick up this captivating novel as soon as possible! For lovers of travel, Hershon weaves her story in places from the East Coast to Asia to Africa. The following is a glimpse of the charming Ms. Hershon and her beautiful book:

A Dual Inheritance is an intimate look at friendship that spans not only over generations but also the globe. What first sparked this story idea for you?

This story was sparked in several different ways. When I was twelve, I was obsessed with my father’s Harvard Red Book—reading alumni essays from his class of ’59. These men or the idea of them must have stuck with me like ghosts for all of these years because I’ve always been intrigued by male friendships. They seem mysterious to me, maybe because there seems to be a depth of feeling that isn’t always expressed.

The book highlights an East Coast social clash in the 1960’s. Is this a part of American history that you’re drawn to?

Yes, I think I’ve always been drawn to the late 50’s early 60’s (pre-Mad Men!) because there were so many more divisions between people that were just about to be seriously upended. There were so many more strictures and social pressures, but also—on a more superficial note-- the fashion was gorgeous! I think that, like many children, I romanticized my parents’ times in college, and they are eight years apart (my father graduated in 1959 and my mother graduated in 1967) so their college experiences seemed just that much more different to me. I think I was always trying to connect how the 50’s became the 60’s. I was also curious about attending college during a time when there seemed to be so much more of a distinction between religions and classes than there is in my generation. What are things that have changed and what has stayed the same? I found myself being drawn back to my father’s era, to those men in the Harvard Red Book and their friendships.

Geographically speaking, your novel covers quite a bit of territory. What was your research like for the locales of Dar es Salaam, Boston, Shenzhen and Fisher's Island?

I’m sometimes reticent to talk too much about research, as it can take away some of a story’s mystery and completeness, however, I will say that this novel is a combination of personal knowledge and travel and in-depth conversations with various fascinating people like this: www.robertgardner.net My research—both travel and non-travel—is grounded in paying close attention.

Being that your novels often include international travel, I’m guessing you are a travel lover. Any favorite spots you like to visit?

I do love to travel and I’m torn between wanting to go many places and go back to the same places again and again and gaining a depth of understanding and familiarity. The places I know best are Todos Santos, Mexico, which is on the bottom of the Baja Peninsula and which I’ve written about here: www.fodors.com and here: www.cntraveler.com, and which I fictionalized in my second novel, The Outside of August, and Tuscany, where my husband and I traveled for years with very dear friends who went and moved there and opened two extraordinary hotels, La Bandita: www.la-bandita.com and La Bandita Townhouse: www.labandita.com

Within those realms, I’d love to do a language immersion someday in Oaxaca (or somewhere in the Spanish speaking world), and I’d love to spend more time in the south of Italy and return to Greece (are you sensing a Mediterranean theme?). But I’d also love to go to Morocco and Turkey, oh and India! There are too many places…

Thank you, Joanna! Fore more, visit www.joannahershon.com

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Comments
  • Julia Fierro

    Joanna is a wonderful writer! Thanks for this.