Elizabeth Rosner gave a fascinating talk yesterday, February 3 in Bellas Artes auditorium as part of the PEN’s 2015 series.
She spoke about her heritage and legacy as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She mentioned how difficult it was for her parents – and in particular for her father – to accept that she wanted to become a writer and make a living out of telling stories. Here’s the video:
She recognized early on in her life how important it was for her to tell her own story in order to find herself and ”name herself”.
“I couldn’t wait to get away from my hometown,” admitted Elizabeth in her talk.
“I graduated from high school a year early, and set off at 16 as a Rotary scholar to the Philippines – as far from home as possible without leaving the planet.”
During that year far from anything familiar, she discovered what would be a recurring theme in her work: home goes with you wherever you roam.
In her most recent novel, Electric City, Rosner returns to the hometown she fled after 30 years of living in California. That town is Schenectady, New York, nicknamed “Electric City” when Thomas Edison established Edison Machine Works there in 1892.
However, “the city that lights the world” did not shine for young Rosner.
Electric City follows two earlier novels and was released at the same time as Gravity, a collection of poetry Rosner refers to as “the backstory of my novels.”
Her debut novel, The Speed of Light, received numerous awards, including Hadassah’s Ribalow Prize. It has been translated into nine languages and is being produced as a movie.
BBC Cultural named Electric City one of the 10 Best Books of 2014, alongside books by such giants as Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Marilynne Robinson and Colm Tóibín.
In her fascinating talk, Elizabeth spoke about Electric City as a vital step for better understanding herself and at the same time telling a story which had to be told.