Tag Archives: expat

Elizabeth Geoghegan: On Accidental Cocktails, Cities & Sweethearts

“Shebooks editorial director Laura Fraser was drinking a Negroni with some Italian women when one told her that everyone in Italy–tutti quanti–are talking about Shebook’s The Marco Chronicles, by Elizabeth Geoghegan. It’s creating a sensation in Italy–try it! As delicious, and slightly bitter, as a Negroni. Can you resist a book that starts, “If Rome were a woman, she’d be a whore”??? (To make a Negroni, shake equal parts red vermouth, gin, and Campari over ice and serve in a martini glass with a twist of orange).”

“How perfect,” I thought, when I saw Laura Fraser’s remarks about The Marco Chronicles. The night beforehand, friends had gathered to toast the publication of my 2nd Shebook Natural Disasters. Traditionally, August in Rome means most inhabitants have high-tailed it to the seaside or mountains for the summer holidays. In case you didn’t get the memo, in Italy, summer vacations are compulsory. At this time of year, Rome can have an almost post-apocalyptic feel. A sultry hush falls over the city, favorite cafes are shuttered, tourists trudge in circles, stunned by the heat. And yet insiders know August is the best time of year to be here, so when could be better to raise a glass and celebrate a new book? But at “casa mia” we do things with a twist, so my friends chose to “cin-cin” with a Negroni Sbagliato instead.

In Italian, “sbagliato” means mistaken. Legend has it the Negroni Sbagliato was born when a bartender accidentally splashed white wine in the place of gin. My Roman pals love anything bubbly, so we dash in Prosecco in the clear component’s stead, rendering the colorful cocktail effervescent and laced with the bitterness of Campari that Italians so favor. But why do Italians crave bitterness? Do they prefer an aperitivo or espresso “amaro” to remind them that life isn’t always sweet? Do they just like extremes? Can you only appreciate the richness Italy offers when it is paired with something tart? It seems so. And does the penchant for all things bitter explain why Italians embraced The Marco Chronicles? It might. In Italy, there is a saying, “Ciò che è amaro alla bocca è dolce al cuore” or “what is bitter to the mouth is sweet to the heart.”

When The Marco Chronicles came out, Italians and expats alike seemed to feel a kind of kinship with certain (admittedly outrageous) pronouncements I made about my adopted city and its inhabitants. But they implicitly understood that I meant no harm; if I was making fun of them, I was also ridiculing myself. It was the wink of “we get each other” not the raised eyebrow of indignation. Perhaps the Italians get me in the same way I presume to get them because we are all of us in love with the same thing: Rome. Besotted though we may be, we are also ever on the verge of divorce—albeit “Italian style,” meaning it may take years. Possibly forever! As glorious as it may sound, living in Rome (or living with Rome) is no picnic. It’s a rite of passage hard won that even the locals suffer. I’ve learned you cannot love the sweet heart (or is that actually the sweetheart?) of the matter unless you first earn it with a touch of bitterness to the tongue. In The Marco Chronicles I may never get the guy, but I most definitely get the girl. I get “La Grande Bellezza.” And in August, I get her all to myself. Like a Negroni Sbagliato, Rome sparkles but lets face it, she’s got an edge.

The Forum in Rome

Read Elizabeth Geoghegan’s latest stories with an edge in Natural Disasters.

 

Q+A With Carol Merchasin

Carol Merchasin, author of the Shebook, How It Goes in Mexico, explains how she swapped out her life as a lawyer for her new post as an expat essayist.

What prompted you to write How It Goes in Mexico?

After I moved to San Miguel de Allende, I was stunned by my own ignorance about Mexico – history, culture, honestly everything except maybe tacos and tequila (actually, including tacos and tequila).  I began to write these essays to try to help my family and friends understand the magic of living here. I wanted Americans to glimpse the Mexico I experience every day – a place so rich, so different and so misunderstood.

When did you first decide you were a writer?

I heard Anne Lamott on the radio doing an interview for Bird by Bird in 1995.  I was driving and I had to pull over into a parking lot to make sure I could hear every word.  I was not a writer then, I was a lawyer, but I took an index card and wrote “index cards” on it. Ten years later, I read Hiruki Murikami’s story about how he decided to become a writer in What I talk about when I talk about running and I took out the carefully preserved index card and decided to become a writer.

Do you currently have a job other than writing? What’s the most interesting day job you’ve had?

I occasionally consult with companies on harassment and discrimination training.

I was a waitress when I was a teenager and that was probably my most interesting job.  As Dr. Seuss said, “Oh, the people you’ll meet…..”

What is your favorite word right now?

“Village.“ I love the word “village” and its denotation of a small place, a cluster of houses and shops, as well as the connotation of a less frenzied, more human scale, unfiltered life.  I am living in a Mexican village now and it fascinates me!

Do you have an e-reader? What book are you reading on it now?

Yes. I read on my iPad, which is an extension of my right arm. I usually like to have a lot of books going at once so I can chose according to how I feel.  Right now I am reading The Life and Times of Mexico by Earl Shorris, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett.

What’s next?

I am finishing up the remaining essays for How It Goes in Mexico to be published in early 2015.

HowitGoesinMexico320

Ethel Rohan: My Fear, Revealed

A guest post by Ethel Rohan, author of the Shebooks memoir Out of Dublin.

 

Out of Dublin, my short memoir from Shebooks is just ten thousand words. Ten thousand of the hardest words I’ve ever laid down. I’ve felt similar pain, and fear and anxiety, when I published my chapbook, Hard to Say. Yet while there’s a lot of my past in those fifteen tiny linked stories, I wrote them as fiction peopled with characters, and with distance and imagination. Out of Dublin is a whole other beast. In Out of Dublin, there’s no where to hide.

That’s why I wrote Out of Dublin, though. I’m done with hiding, and with the unsaid. The unsaid has tormented me over decades. What price will I pay, though, for these ten thousand words. I’m frantic Out of Dublin will cost me family and friends, that some will criticize me for putting in print what they believe should stay private. I write, though. That’s what I do. I write about what matters most to me.

These past several months, the fifth commandment, Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother, has breathed on the back of my neck, chasing me. My parents would hate that I’ve written this book. That’s what presses on my chest, makes me panic. I’ve agonized. For me, it comes down to intention. My intention is not to dishonor my parents. I love my mother and my father. My intention is to make the truth into writing that’s artful and valuable, because the truth alone hurts too much and does no good.

I’m often scared and confused. I often don’t know if I’m doing the right or the wrong thing. I always try, though, to do my best. Recently, when I felt most afraid, most anxious, and most confused about publishing Out of Dublin, I made myself sit in my garden, and close my eyes, and listen to the birds, and feel the gold of the sun on my face, and even though I got calm and still, I didn’t feel or hear or see anything that seemed like a sign.

I had to make up my own mind, and I did.

It’s easier to look away from the hard things, to stay silent.

Easier isn’t enough for me. I decided to keep scaring myself.

 

Out of Dublin cover

Read Ethel Rohan’s powerful memoir, Out of Dublin, only from Shebooks.