What are you reading?
“I’ve just been re-reading The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. It’s about four women from China who are immigrants to America trying to wrap their heads around their American-raised daughters and the American-raised daughters trying to wrap their heads around their Chinese-raised mothers.”
Do you have a favorite character?
“I gravitate toward the really strong characters. Lindo is one of the mothers, and she’s very witty. Her daughter is, too, but she’s got a very weak ego.”
“I’m a big fan of Janet Fitch; she wrote White Oleander — the movie did it no justice whatsoever — and Paint It Black. Paint It Black takes place in early ‘80s Los Angeles. I believe it starts on the day John Lennon was shot. A girl comes home and her boyfriend is not there, and she gets a call telling her to come and identify the body. She figures out that he committed suicide, and the book is about her coming to grips with that, finding herself while destroying herself at the same time. Fitch is a very poetic writer; she can bring out the beauty in the ugliest of circumstances.”
What do you look for in a novel?
“The problem with a lot of authors is that I can’t feel the emotions of their characters, and if I can’t do that, I’m not going to like the book. The Great Gatsby is the most godawful novel ever written; it was so stale and cold and pretentious. With a writer like Alice Hoffman, who wrote Practical Magic, you feel her characters. She does everything in her power to describe things so that you feel you are there, as if you are her characters. She demands catharsis from you.”
You value that intensity?
“One of the best authors I ever read was Henry Rollins, who people know from Black Flag and his spoken-word tours and his cable show. I bought an anthology of his about four years ago, and I’m still not done with it because the writing is so intense that I have to walk away from it. He’s so graphic and honest. He’ll talk about one of his best friends getting shot to death right in front of him. It really interests me; I’m one of those creeps who will sit and watch the aftermath of a car wreck.”
Who is your favorite author?
“I reread Alice Hoffman all the time, but I find I’m outgrowing her. I’ve been reading her since I was 14. My best friend and I have been trading books for years; we loved the Ellen Hopkins books. She wrote the Crank series. Her book Tricks is all about how five kids — some from sheltered lives, some from horrible lives — end up as prostitutes. There was another about a girl with dissociative personality disorder; she keeps thinking she’s her twin sister. She’s been abused by her father through most of her childhood, so that’s what forces this alter ego to come. Another good writer is Chuck Palahniuk. I have a friend who’s been telling me to get his books. He’s just amazing. I didn’t understand the mind of men very well until I read Fight Club.”
Do you read any newspapers or magazines?
“I just discovered Bitch magazine. It says everything I’ve been thinking for a long time. They just ran an article about a book called Cinderella Ate My Daughter. The book is about the damaging effects of ‘princess culture’ on little girls. I’ve been thinking about that for years. They published another article about how misogynistic Taylor Swift’s music really is, and I’ve been thinking about that for a long time, too. I would not allow my best friend to put Taylor Swift on while we were in the car. I’m, like, ‘No, I’m a feminist, and she’s a moron.’”
Name: ATHENA MORA | Age: 20 | Occupation: STUDENT | Neighborhood: SANTEE | Where interviewed: WALMART, PARKWAY PLAZA