Today we're excited to chat with Sara Hosey author of
Read on for more about Sara and her book, plus an giveaway.
Meet Sara Hosey!
Sara Hosey holds a PhD in American literature from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is an associate professor of English and women and gender studies at Nassau Community College. Her book, Home Is Where the Hurt Is: Media Depictions of Wives and Mothers (McFarland, 2019), looks at representations of the domestic in popular culture. Sara grew up in Queens and now lives in Sea Cliff, New York, with her partner and their children. She is working on a second novel.
Meet Iphigenia Murphy!
A novel that explores the sustaining love of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and the indelible bond of family, Iphigenia Murphy captures the gritty side of 1992 Queens, the most diverse borough in New York City. Just like Iffy, the friends she makes in the park--Angel, a stray dog with the most ridiculous tail; Corinne, a young trans woman who is escaping her own abusive situation; and Anthony, a former foster kid from upstate whose parents are addicts--each seek a place where they feel at home. Whether fate or coincidence has brought them together, within this community of misfits Iffy can finally be herself, but she still has to face the effects of abandonment and abuse--and the possibility that she may be pregnant. During what turns out to be a remarkable journey to find her mother, will Iffy ultimately discover herself?
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~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Iphigenia Murphy was inspired by the stories of the girls and young women who are often invisible in our society, girls who have struggled (even though others don’t always recognize it) and who have hearts of steel, who have insisted on finding their communities and on building better lives for themselves and for the people that they love.
I have been so fortunate to have several friends who fit this description: my friend Laura, who worked and went to college full-time even when she didn’t have a home; my friend Amy, who insisted on a life free of violence and fear for herself and her children. My former student, B, who had some desperate days, but whose stories of persistence and survival give others strength.
Iphigenia Murphy is for all those girls and women who are struggling. For the girls and women that others didn’t believe, or who had to run away from unsafe homes. And it’s also for my friends who have survived, who’ve made it, and who have, through it all, managed to protect their hearts.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
That’s like asking which is my favorite child! And I have the same answer for this question, too: I love them all equally, but in different ways.
However, I will say that while of course Iphigenia is my heart, Corinne is the character that I’d most likely be best friends with. Corinne is a little older than Iffy and, although she has had her struggles, Corinne remains capable of profound vulnerability and empathy.
When we first meet Corinne, she is fleeing an abusive relationship. Part of what is so hard for Corinne is that she feels a lot of shame about being abused. That is, she’s smart and strong and beautiful; she doesn’t think of herself as the “kind” of person who is victimized. And yet she is caught in a deeply dysfunctional relationship. She knows her boyfriend is bad for her, but sometimes people fall in love with people who are bad for them.
And despite this, Corinne is able to love and support Iffy on her journey. She is the kind of friend that we all need to have in our lives, the kind of friend who not only sees the best in you, but brings out the best in you. When she’s with her friend Corinne, Iffy feels funny and smart and strong. She is funny and smart and strong.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
It was the title, but technically, it was the name Iphigenia, or Iffy.
“Iffy” just started walking alongside me one day. She was a teenager, I knew, and she was in trouble, and her nickname, Iffy, synthesized how she was feeling about a lot of different aspects of her life. To be “iffy” is to be unsure, and my main character felt unsure about her choices, about her identity, and about whether or not people even knew she existed. She felt small, invisible and weak. She felt iffy.
Of course, Iffy is not a nickname for any actual name—at least not that I’d ever heard. And then I remembered Iphigenia—a character from Greek myth that I’d long been obsessed with. In the Greek play The Oresteia, Iphigenia’s father heartlessly sacrifices her so that his ships will sail. It seems so brutal and cruel and awful—and it is. But there’s more to the story. When Iphigenia’s father returns home from war, her mother avenges her.
I became stuck on this idea of the girl who is not valued, who is seen only as a tool for others to get what they want. And I became stuck too on the idea of mother-longing. I think that many of us, regardless of what our mothers are actually like, have a deeply rooted desire for mother love and mother care. Maybe those of us who’ve had troubled mother-child relationships actually are those who most acutely yearn for it.
So part of the novel’s trajectory is the move, too, from Iffy to Iphigenia—to a character embracing her difficult name and insisting that others learn how to pronounce it, learn how to use it. It’s a big name with a heavy legacy and Iphigenia learns how to carry that legacy.
Finally, in using Iphigenia’s full name as the title, I not only wanted to make clear that this is a novel centered on a young woman’s experiences, but I also wanted to ask readers to learn how to pronounce this difficult name as well. I was recently talking to a librarian—and I want to say for the record that librarians are awesome and have been really supportive of me throughout my life, but that this one librarian was not very nice—and she got a little snooty with me when I handed her some promotional material from the book. She sort of sneered: “How do you even say this?”
“If-fah-jen-I-ah,” I answered, proudly. “Iphigenia.”
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Isn’t the cover magnificent?
The cover, designed by the incredibly talented Kathryn English, so beautifully reflects the spirit and content of the novel. Your eye goes first to the glowing tent in the center and, as one reader remarked to me, it seems so inviting: you just want to crawl right into that tent (and, I hope, crawl right into the book)!
Then, if you pan out, you might notice the skyline above the tent, which represents the ways in which Iphigenia is living both in the wild—camping out under the trees—but is still enclosed within the city.
Finally, your eye travels further upward to see the shape of a bird in flight. Birds are a key repeated image in the novel and conjure ideas of freedom and flight and transcendence.
So there’s a lot going on in the cover, but it’s subtle and evocative and, I think, absolutely perfect.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2020?
I am so excited for Suzanne Collins’ prequel to The Hunger Games series—The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I don’t know too much about it, other than that Snow is a central character, but I am really hopeful that we will get more of a glimpse of Katniss’ family history. Because I am obviously a little too preoccupied with mother-daughter relationships, I want to know more about Katniss’ mom. I can’t wait to see what Collins has in store for us!
I am also eagerly anticipating Amanda Sellet’s By the Book—I am here for any novel that is about a “teen obsessed with nineteenth-century literature.”
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2019?
Although it was released in the U.S. in 2018, it took me until recently to read Catherine Barter’s Troublemakers and I absolutely adored it. Troublemakers tells the story of Alena, whose mother died when she was a child and who has been raised by her brother Danny and his partner, Nick. Danny and Nick are generally wonderful, thoughtful, smart parents, but Danny gets all weird and cold when Alena tries to get him to talk about their mother.
I don’t just love this novel because of the thematic overlaps with mine (i.e. the search to understand or find the mother). I love it because I found myself completely carried along by Alena’s voice and charmed by Barter’s funny, smart dialogue. I so look forward to whatever she is writing next.
In non-fiction, my favorite book of 2019 was Lindy West’s The Witches are Coming. Everyone should read it—I keep buying it for friends and then annoying them by asking if they’ve read it yet. West is so smart and funny and incisive and I always find myself really appreciating her takes. I’d love to have her over and make her watch the Clue with me.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I actually just finished a novella that I’ve tentatively titled “Great Expectations.” Like Iphigenia Murphy, the title of this piece alludes to a classic story; this one is Charles Dickens’ beautiful and enormous novel, Great Expectations. Again like Iphigenia Murphy, though, my work is not a retelling. It’s in some ways an homage or a meditation on the themes that these classical works explore, including loss and abuse and abandonment. My “Great Expectations,” unlike Dickens’, however, is short and female-centered.
Unlike Iphigenia Murphy, “Great Expectations” is not technically “young adult” (although I think there are definitely some readers in their teens and twenties who might enjoy it) and, also unlike my novel, rather than a longing for a parent, I’d say “Great Expectations” describes a longing to-parent: the novella is populated by parents who, for different reasons, can’t parent.
I’ve also been polishing a follow-up young adult novel—as yet untitled—that I am looking forward to sharing with the world soon!
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
I am kind of an amazing listener. I can’t say that I use my superpower all the time—or even at times when I really should—but when I am talking to someone and they need my full attention, they absolutely have it. I will listen and, to some people’s chagrin, I will remember. I’ll quote you back to you if necessary.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Yes! For 20 years now, GEMS (Girls Education and Mentoring Services) has been a leader in doing work to support girls who have suffered commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking and has also been so effective in both educating folks about the issues facing these girls as well as working on literally changing the laws to put an end to the criminalization of commercially sexually exploited children.
In Iphigenia Murphy, Iffy is approached by a guy who offers to buy her some lunch and take care of her. Iffy is homeless, hungry, living in a park and even though she’s aware of what he’s offering, she’s tempted to go with him. The only thing that stops her is that she has a dog, Angel, and she can’t leave Angel behind.
I thought about GEMS and about GEMS founder Rachel Lloyd, about the stories Lloyd tells in her book Girls Like Us and about the young women featured in the documentary Very Young Girls when I was writing this scene. Those stories bring into focus how very easy it is for some girls to go missing; how, as Iffy thinks in the book, “there are some girls nobody looks for.”
GEMS is an organization that wants to make sure that every child and young person is protected, has an advocate, has a safe place and the resources that they need to protect themselves and to have a good life. I can’t think of any more noble cause.
By: Sara Hosey
Release Date: March 10th, 2020
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Three winners will each receive a copy of Iphigenia Murphy (Sara Hosey) ~ (US/Canada Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*