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Defining "Home" While Staying at Home
By The Editors
Releasing a novel is something special, especially if it is your first. While Lee Matalone was able to have some events before quarantine took place, many of her future plans for promoting her book HOME MAKING (published by Harper Collins' imprint Harper Perennial) had to be cancelled.
Even so, a quarantine can't cancel art forever. We talk shop about how biracial identity and definitions of "home" shaped Matalone's debut novel, the bizarre world of a pandemic, and some good book recommendations.
Your book centers around inter-generational ties and our ideas about identity. What draws you these themes?
These are topics that have engaged me for a long time. I suppose you could call me biracial—I have Japanese and Italian roots—but I lack any intimate connection to these cultures. I do not speak the languages or really immerse myself in any of the cultural traditions in any significant way. But my experience and the experiences of my mother and brother have been that of the Other, in various ways. I think most people feel like this to some degree in their own individualized forms, so I wanted to explore that feeling of outsiderness and, oppositionally, fitting in, more thoroughly in narrative form.
This is your first book. How does it feel to bring a completed novel into the world?
I don't know about the experience of other debuts, but for me, I never sat down to write each morning thinking that the story would ever be read by others. I never envisioned this book being picked up by a major publisher. The novel felt too weird stylistically. So this is to say that the process has been surreal. I suppose the book pubbing during the COVID-19 pandemic adds to the absurdity of it all.
How has COVID-19 affected your career and your personal life?
Well, I'm fortunate that my book launched in February, before the pandemic really shut things down. However, I had a tour planned for March through May, and all of those events have been cancelled. I don't want to complain, because other writers launching right now won't even have the opportunity to celebrate their launch with drink and festivities and loved ones. I'm grateful I got to have this wonderful launch event at Powerhouse Arena and some really lovely events at Hub City and Malaprops and Buxton Books. The last event in Charleston, which was so much fun, feels now like kind of a last hurrah.
Why is it important for people to support the arts, even during times of uncertainty?
Artists of all sorts are generally hustling to make a living, and it's even more difficult now that industries they tend to work in, restaurants and bars, for example, are shuttered. Buying art--visual, written and otherwise--is a great way to support those who need the financial (and emotional) support while enriching yourself and maintaining some semblance of sanity during this time.
What are your other book recommendations for those who are looking for material to read during mass quarantine? (In addition to your own, of course!)
I'd like to suggest buying and reading the works of other debuts coming out right now. It's a tough time to launch a book, so I'm trying to support new writers (and indie bookstores). If you're looking for some suggestions, check out this spreadsheet Courtney Maum has put together of debuts.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.