Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels Swimming Across the Hudson (a Los Angeles Times Notable Book), Matrimony (a New York Times Notable Book) and The World Without You (2012). His stories have been published widely, cited for distinction in Best American Short Stories and broadcast on NPR's Selected Shorts. He directs the MFA Program in Fiction Writing at Brooklyn College.
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Joshua Henkin talks about his third novel,
The World Without You
Q. Why did you set The World Without You in the Berkshires on the Fourth of July, 2005?
A. This will sound counterintuitive, but I thought it was the perfect setting for a novel about a journalist killed in the Iraq War. I was interested in the contrast between war in the Middle East and the cloistered life of the Berkshires. The Frankels are privileged. The kids went to Yale and Princeton and Wesleyan; the family is made up of doctors and lawyers and future Nobel laureates and celebrity chefs. These are people with strong political opinions, but the war in Iraq remained an abstraction to them until it touched them in the most horrific way imaginable. What is it like to experience that horror in the Berkshires, whose very purpose, it can seem, is to eradicate all trace of horror? What is it like to mourn when the rest of the town - the rest of the country - is celebrating?
Q: Was there a particular event or idea that inspired The World Without You?
A: I had a first cousin who died of Hodgkin's disease when he was in his late twenties. I family reunion thirty years later, my aunt, updating everyone on what was happening in her life, said, "I have two sons...
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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