A swash-buckling historical novel, one part insider view of the action heroes of the French Revolution, one part love story, another, family dynasty: When French troops occupy the Italian port city of Ancona during the young General Bonaparte’s military campaign in 1796-7, freeing the city’s Jews from their repressive ghetto, two very different cultures collide. Mirelle, a young Jewish maiden, must choose between her duty — an arranged marriage to a wealthy Jewish merchant — and her love for a dashing French Catholic soldier. Meanwhile, Francesca, a devout Catholic, must decide if she will honor her marriage vows to an abusive and murderous husband when he enmeshes their family in the theft of a miracle portrait of the Madonna. Come along on a fabulous gallop through history and the hearts and minds of the men and women who made it. Author Michelle Cameron divulges the secrets & process of writing a sweeping novel, published by She Writes Press & now available wherever books are sold.
MICHELLE CAMERON is a director of The Writers Circle, an NJ-based organization that offers creative writing programs to children, teens, and adults, and the author of works of historical fiction and poetry: Beyond the Ghetto Gates (She Writes Press, 2020), The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz (Pocket, 2009), and In the Shadow of the Globe (Lit Pot Press, 2003). She lived in Israel for fifteen years (including three weeks in a bomb shelter during the Yom Kippur War) and served as an officer in the Israeli army teaching air force cadets technical English. Michelle lives in New Jersey with her husband and has two grown sons of whom she is inordinately proud. Visit her website for more information https://michelle-cameron.com. Drop In with an expert on her historical subject matter, gained both scholastically and from personal experience.Leave a comment for radio show guests
Have you ever stopped to think about yourself and your story? If someone were to write your memoir what would it say? We all seek some level of authenticity but have trouble removing the labels and finding our whole story. Welcome to Dropping In with Diane Dewey. In this program we’ll explore diverse stories on identity to help determine what is truly yours. Now here is your host Diane Dewey.
Diane: Hello and welcome everyone to Dropping In. We’re quarantining and in need of diversion. How do we get through this seemingly endless and dire situation without the benefit of total escape as in the sweeping historical fiction of Michelle Cameron, our guest today? She’s written a book called Beyond the Ghetto Gates published by She Writes Press. Welcome Michelle.
Michelle: Thank you Diane. Happy to be here.
Diane: We’re happy to have you. Congratulations on the publication of this book. It’s a labor of love I can tell. It’s quite extensively researched and to me it’s an instant classic. I also have to mention that during this week sadly my mother passed away. I can honestly say that this is the only book I could have read during this time. It’s instantly transportive. It’s comforting. There’s a lot of solace in the rituals. I just want to congratulate you on this book.
Michelle: Well thank you for that and I’m very sorry to hear about your mother. My condolences.
Diane: Thank you. She would have loved this book. She was a voracious reader and she especially loved a good love story wrapped inside a historical period, little examined. It’s a romp through 19th century Italy that was occupied by Napoleon Bonaparte. He liberated the ghettos that incarcerated the Jewish population in this case in Ancona, Italy. This beautiful walled town where there were actually physical gates imprisoning the ghetto of the Jewish population. We meet the characters whose fate is tossed in the air by the religious rebellions to this liberation. Not everybody was a fan of Napoleon liberating the Jews.
We had the catholic priest. We had a population that was very ignorant of the subject of diversity but we have individuals who transcended their roles Simone, David, Pinina, Mirelle who I find to be the lead character, Dolce, her friend. Then there are various lovers and male companions and male characters who stand out as well Daniel, Christophe and then Emilio, of course the real villain I found and Francesca, his wife but the great part about this book to me Michelle is that you didn’t make really black and white characters. Everyone has sides to them, facets to them. I found that this kept me fascinated and concerned about where they were going to go and what happened to them.
Narducci is the faithful manager of the Ketubah Workshop owned by Mirelle’s family. Ketubah for those who are not familiar, it’s the ancient art of creating scrolled marriage certificates in the Jewish faith. They were done on parchment with gold embellishments, fantastic colors and designs. This is a family-owned business in Mirelle’s family. The question of the book and the central dilemma is whether Mirelle can work in the Ketubah workshop which was frowned upon if not banished altogether in this very conservative Jewish enclave. She wasn’t permitted as a woman although she had a great efficiency and proficiency with numbers. She could manage the books for her father’s business. The question was will she escape the restrictions of her traditional family and the ghetto even?
There are some super steamy sex scenes in the book, lots of violence and yet great beauty. Michelle, would you agree that this is sort of the central dilemma is Mirelle and her journey?
Michelle: Oh absolutely. I mean Mirelle is the character that we follow all the way from the beginning of the novel through to the end. Her dilemma, her wanting to stay true to her family and her faith and yet really sort of seeing what else is out there in the world especially during this period of the enlightenment where there were all these new ideas. She’s truly struggling with this.
Diane: She’s peering out of the gates too from time to time. It gets the best of her sometimes of just wondering what’s out there and what is out there is Napoleon’s absolute revolution in France. The upsetment of the hierarchy there which led to liberty, egality, security, fraternity. This was the entire revolution in France of the monarchy and by the sans gulats. It was ushered in the removal of hierarchies although of course with no internet this was just a ripple going through in that Napoleon entered the ghetto and entered Ancona and tore down the gates of the Jewish ghetto which is also so symbolic.
We’re going to come back to this dilemma and this incredible journey of this young woman but first I want to tell you a bit about Michelle. She’s a bona fide. Michelle Cameron is the director, is a director of the Writer’s Circle, a new jersey-based organization that offers creative writing programs to lots of people children’s, teens and adults. She is the author of other works of historical fiction and poetry. Beyond the Ghetto Gates, this spring. The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz which was published in 2009 and In the Shadow of the Globe which was published in 2003.
Moreover Michelle lived in Israel for 15 years including the three weeks in a bomb shelter during the Yom Kippur War. She served as an officer in the Israeli army teaching air force cadets technical English. Michelle lives in New Jersey now with her husband and has two grown sons which she says of whom she is inordinately proud. I’m not sure how you could get inordinately proud because of course there is no end to it when you’re a mother. One of the sons I believe is Alex, her muse to whom the book is dedicated. We’ll hear more about that relationship as we discuss the process of the book. Michelle’s website is michellecameron.com. You can find her there and learn more about her. I do think that the focus of this book is on this transformative aspect and time for women who were destined to remain constrained to family ties.
That would have been okay for Mirelle. She was very devoted. Her conflict became that she wanted to walk into her power as a competent young woman who was capable of managing the workshop, the Ketubah workshop following her father’s demise and was forbidden to do so. In fact there were repercussions against it in the community. I wondered Michelle because you’re so adept at introducing us to Mirelle’s inner dialogue, her questioning, her search for what she really wanted and how to sort through all of this. I wondered if you identified closely with her or how all of this very, very accurate relaying of her inner dialogue came about.
Michelle: I would say well certainly I think every author puts a part of themselves in a lot of their characters although certainly not all of them but certainly I did identify with Mirelle and with her struggles and with her wanting to realize her passion which was to manage the Ketubah workshop to help her family’s legacy and was forbidden from doing so as you’ve said. I definitely felt for her dilemma. I think every woman feels for this dilemma that they aren’t really still permitted to do exactly what they want to do, that there are social constraints on them. Absolutely, I identified with her and her struggles.
Diane: It is something that feels universal to be honest to women. I also want to elucidate the alternative was to marry. If you weren’t going to be able to be, what she wanted to do was really just to be a simple worker in the workshop. She wanted to manage the books and the business side of things. She was extremely sensitive and adept and adroit at handling the men who had trained in the workshops who were in fact indentured in the workshop in the laws of that time. They were not free actually to leave so that when other forces conspired to attempt to take over the workshop that of her evil aunt she was having to really wage a battle.
The alternative goal so the goal that her mother wished upon her Mirelle was to marry wealth, marry into wealth. Then the proposed suitor was someone who is the father of her then dear friend Dolce so imagine marrying someone the age of your father, the age of your friend’s father and David. The fascinating part to me is that these, the Morpurgo brothers, they existed in reality. Is that correct?
Michelle: That is correct. In fact Napoleon did in fact appoint them to the municipal council of Ancona when he took over, when he conquered the town. He took it out away from the pope’s control and made it a more independent sort of city government. They were in fact appointed. The Morpurgo family was a long-lived a family in Ancona and pretty much as wealthy as I have painted them but your point about her marrying someone older I realize has like this it factor to us today but if you take a look at the literature of the time it was very, very common for young girls to be married off to older men especially when they didn’t have a male heir. This was not unheard of in that period of time but yes, I think we all dislike the thought immensely.
Diane: I mean but there were role models for, there were a number of couples that could be cited even in the story. She, Mirelle also experienced in Beyond the Ghetto Gates a certain repugnance. She was a virgin but she even contemplating physically being with someone that she had regarded as something of an uncle all her life, a very kind and benevolent uncle. It just twists your mind in a way that you’re unprepared to switch roles. She was trying so hard to please her family and fulfil her duty in acquiring a wealthy husband so she actually did toy with the idea. She tried very hard to make it work if you could, if you would. She went so far as to promise to consider his proposal, David’s proposal and then there was the lightning bolt which was that one of the forces of Napoleon’s army was the dashing Christophe. Of course there is a massive intrigue.
We’ve got a few minutes left of this segment Michelle and in talking about Beyond the Ghetto Gates I feel as though it was this idea of getting beyond so many things, so many stipulations and scriptures of the day and how she went about it. Did she keep pretty much her own counsel in this or did she really have how did it work in your mind’s eye developing her as a character?
Michelle: She was an interesting character to develop because I have what I call personally my feisty heroine dilemma. Earlier on she was a much more demure character sort of more in keeping with her age but as I continued to develop her I realized she needed more agency. She needed to be more of her own person. That was something that needed to be w fleshed out over time because otherwise the book wouldn’t work.
There were also times that I played with different, this book was revised multiple times I have to tell you. There was a point in time when she was going to be more of an artist than a mathematician. Again it was a matter of what would actually work in terms of the storyline, in terms of the plot line. Mirelle underwent many changes.
Diane: In keeping though with the revolutionary times I think it’s important that she defy a stereotype and become the left brain logical mathematicians type. I think that when we come back from the break everyone is going to be keen to hear how she ultimately had a tryst, a very um intriguing and hot and steamy tryst and wound up defying the odds in addition to all of this. Don’t go away. We’ll come back on Dropping In with Michelle Cameron author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates. We’ll find out what happens to Mirelle in just a moment. Don’t go away.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Michelle Cameron, author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates just out from She Writes Press. It’s a historical novel that I feel will become an instant classic. It has all the elements including rampant and really well written sex scenes Michelle. My hat’s off to you. This was the time of enlightenment 19th century. We’re in Italy. Napoleon is occupying the City of Ancona. We find Mirelle there. She is supposed to be destined to marry a man as old as her father in order to have a suitable match who is Jewish and who also increases the family wealth so that the workshop of the kitubah that is her family business can continue and thrive however the dashing Christophe appears. He is a soldier with Napoleon’s forces and he is accompanied by Daniel who is in fact a very distant relation of Mirelle’s.
I thought it was so interesting her conflicts. You’ve just created such a wonderful character in Mirelle. She’s layered and nuanced and full of contradictions and competing versions of how to be, past traditions, future ambitions. Her now burgeoning sexuality. She’s coming of age. She’s a teenager. She’s like 16, 17, 18 finally and she becomes infatuated. She sees this dashing soldier. He’s a gentile. Of course, he is totally unsuitable. He is also totally unobtainable. He is quite the cad himself. He’s bedding down Italian women rampantly. Then Michelle she’s listening to different signals she’s getting but the one that starts it’s the voice of I’ve got to remain true to my family and to my traditions and to my faith and the other one is I’m lusting after this person. Her pulse is quickening. It a real bodice ripper in certain parts and thank heaven for it because it’s a really human dilemma.
Would you say that she had these voices in her head, these messages that were going back and forth, volleying for her attention? She wasn’t completely acting on her real gut self, a deeper intuitive level just yet would you say. She was coming into her own but not just yet.
Michelle: I think that’s true. I think that’s true. I think that any obviously again anyone who becomes suddenly aware of their sexuality, of their feelings for someone else they’re not quite where they need to be I think certainly at this age. I would say I would definitely agree that she’s not quite herself at this point.
Diane: Who has not experienced the question of is this love or is this infatuation? Is this a sort of animal desire, a sexual a desire or is this intimacy that would lead to love? It’s really for the most sophisticated person a challenge and here’s this young girl she’s contemplating all of this really pretty much on her own except for her confidant Dolce, who is the daughter of David, her soon to be betrothed, the older man who is on the municipal council who has achieved a position of power and wealth in the community but Dolce is her own Machiavellian character whom I adored because I think look, if you continue having young maidens be fair and sweet and docile it’s not enough. We haven’t joined the ranks of real characters until you create someone like Dolce. Don’t you think?
Michelle: I do think and I also love Dolce. I love the fact that she had her own agenda here and that she was willing to do anything including going into cahoots with Christophe, this dashing French soldier to try and make sure that Mirelle would not marry her father because any marriage to her father would endanger her own inheritance. If they had a male heir she had no idea what was going to happen to her. I like the term Machiavellian for her because that’s exactly what she was.
Diane: She was a strategist.
Michelle: Yes and it’s not until towards the end of the novel that Mirelle wakes up and realizes that she’s not truly a friend.
Diane: Yes but I loved that uncovering. That’s also a loss of innocence that goes on. I think that there’s something very Freudian about the relationship between Dolce and her father David even their names kind of resonate. Dolce’s mother perished and there was this gaping hole in their lives. She was a young and beautiful and cultured hostess, aristocratic as well but Dolce steps into her toes, into her shoes and becomes the sidebar for her father and helps him travel through society by hosting these lavish parties all of which by the way we’re treated to in this novel in very exquisite detail. We’re really very present in these rooms of these intriguing balls and soirees that take place in Ancona. I do think though that everyone needed something. Christophe needed Dolce to get to Mirelle because it was a losing battle to try to get her attentions and affections to come across because he could feel her throbbing pulse whenever he entered the room, their chemistry but she wasn’t able to act on it because she was imprisoned basically as we all are by our roles.
I wondered if you thought in general these hierarchies and within maybe the conservative Jewish community how active are some of these roles do you think even now? How much does this reverberate for young Jewish girls do you think?
Michelle: Well I think in sort of the more orthodox societies and anyone who’s seen for example the show Unorthodox will recognize that these girls truly are trapped and have to grow into sort of the whole wife and mother role but I truly also feel that anytime you have a society like this you’re going to have women who figure their way out of it, who figure out how to sort of take power. I really feel like that’s what Dolce did is that she was able to figure her way out of the social constraints, live within them but make them work to her advantage.
Diane: She worms her way through. She’s kind of just a really diabolical and fantastic character. In addition to Mirelle who is just eminently lovable Dolce, you really can’t wait to have her come into the scene because she’s going to do something and it’s just going to end up being shocking and appallingly unethical but she does claim her power and she carves out a role for herself and it’s recognized of course by her father. He knows her. He knows her inside and out. He knows she’s scheming. He knows that she’s preventing him from potentially future happiness with a young wife or another wife. It’s very interesting.
I mean of course this week I reflect on it so much the way a parent knows their daughter intimately. I loved also this very delicate equation David, who did exist historically. He was Morpurgo. He became a powerful municipal figure in Ancona. You talk about assimilation. He’s not wearing the ear locks. He has assimilated into society and he’s claimed his power in the government which I think was chafed at by several parties but tough luck. I mean he was not only worthy he was brilliant. He was a brilliant businessman. He was equitable. He had a fair outlook. He was entirely qualified and one has to say here’s a reason to love Napoleon Bonaparte.
I mean he was a great equalizer in this totally disparate society having torn down the gates but you talk about assimilation, the desire to blend in for conservative Jewish people in an otherwise ridiculously orthodox catholic community. They had their own scriptures and obviously they were ignorant of people. What do you think? What do you make of this way of assimilating? Simone, did not so much but David did. Is this something that you thematically explore and do you come to any conclusions about this?
Michelle: This is definitely a topic that is very important to me and that I have explored previously including a book that has not yet been published but the whole tug and pull, I mean I’m a secular American Jew. I happen to have lived in Israel for quite a number of years but I’m a secular American Jew. There is this tremendous tug and pull that I think we feel between wanting to maintain our religious identity, continue customs and things like that versus being considered just a part of the rest of society.
Absolutely, when the French revolution gave citizenship to the Jews for the first time literally in millennia and they had the same protections and duties as every other French citizen which is why Daniel is a Jewish soldier in Napoleon’s forces. Then there was the big question how far is too far. Where do you draw the line for yourself? I really feel that this is a struggle that we today still live. This is still an important struggle in terms of how much is too much. This is a very important theme for me.
Diane: It’s a very alive debate, an internal and cultural one. I look at the embodiment of Michael Bloomberg for example. I lived in New York City during the three terms of his mayorship and I can tell you there is no more outstanding leader. He clearly assimilated. He assimilated. To me he was the David Morpurgo of New York City. He was fantastically successful as a businessman Bloomberg News and he became mayor and was probably one of the more rational, equal-handed mayors of New York history. In any case he looked dressed, assimilated just like everyone. He was straight out of Ralph Lauren, another cultural icon who emerged out of I think a conservative Jewish background and became an icon for cultural or even appearance assimilation. I mean this is fascinating to me these aspects.
Michelle: It really is and again I mean I go back to the whole idea of what the French revolution really brought to the Jews of the time. One of the things that they did is they basically got rid of all religion for a period of time and one thing because the book is as long as it is I had to cut, actually it was actually longer and I had to cut a number of things. One of the things that I cut was I was explaining the French revolutionary calendar which was based on decades. There were 10 months of the year and 10 days a week. You only got to rest on the 10th day. That immediately got rid of Shabbat for the Jews and Sunday Sabbath for the Christians. This was why the Italians were so, Italian Catholics were so frightened of Napoleon’s military campaign and taking over their town. They were afraid that he was going to do to them what the French had done to their own Catholics.
Diane: Well then there’s La Dolce Vita too. I mean in Italy the concept of working for nine days. I’m not sure they can always make it through six without, it’s really a very luxuriant, everyone it’s replete with fabulous food, fabulous drink and of course all of that is it’s almost delectable in this book but I mean you can see the conflict. Yes, can see what you’re saying and that’s a fascinating detail taking away all religions.
I feel as though Napoleon he almost realized that he was going a bridge too far. He encounters the Madonna, the Madonna that speaks or is expressive in Ancona. He is taken with her. This is a religious reliquary in the cathedral and he gets a message from Madonna which is just fascinating to me. He could indulge in these conceits I think partly because of his own vanity but also he was susceptible to, I think he even talked about it allowing for rituals without having to completely annihilate and still preserving a kind of democracy. you’re going to have to tell us before the end of this but is this going to be, is the next book going to be the sequel because I’m all for it.
Michelle: Yes, it is actually. It is.
Diane: Good because you leave us hanging and I was hanging. I think the other and so I’m just delighted to be reacquainted and immersed with these characters again Michelle, author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates. We’re speaking with Michelle Cameron. We’ve got a few minutes left of this next segment. I like this idea that being introduced to individual characters and their way of life and their attachments, their longings, their passions, their family ties, their commitments, their heart is a way through to tolerance, to setting aside prejudices that were previously might have been there. Your comment on that Michelle? You’ve done, you’ve given us the gateway here.
Michelle: Yes, I think particularly in the relationship between Francesca and Daniel, we see that brought to life. Francesca was brought up as a devout catholic. She was raised by her family and the church to truly revile Jews. When she first meets Daniel, who is literally in her house holding her prisoner. She has a chance to study him much more closely. What she sees is not what she’s been taught. She really starts to question all of those deep held prejudices. It is a question can getting to know “the other” in quotation marks help overcome this kind of bias. Of course the hope is that it can but I won’t reveal what happens at the end of the book just to say that sometimes it doesn’t.
Diane: Michelle, it’s a very acute and astute point. I think that now we have to have a personal story to become acquainted, to remove the idea that the Jewish money handlers were not, they were in fact scapegoats. They were not responsible for the demise of Francesca’s husband. To learn when we come back from the break what happens to all of these people. Who survives and who departs. Don’t go away we’re on Dropping In with Michelle Cameron.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Michelle Cameron. We’re discussing her book Beyond the Ghetto Gates. There’s a personal love story. There are several love stories brewing for sure. There’s lots of lust. There’s lots and lots of violence. All for the good cause of each party involved, disparate goals I would say. There’s the acquaintance of individuals who transcend their cultural group, groupings and biases that we may have previously held and that certainly needed to be dismantled in the city of Ancona, Italy in 19th century when Napoleon’s forces were occupying.
Michelle, even with the gates symbolically being torn down by Napoleon there is the theme I think of isolation, the sequestering the enclave, the insider, outsider, the other in us, the other who is strange, the other who creates fear, paranoia, ignorance. I think that when we are even experiencing now are quarantining and our isolation we don’t even really view people the same way when we see them on the street. They’re potentially a threat. We don’t even have our true feelings of humanity, our sense of humanity about us right now. We want to and we were connected in ways that we never were before and I think we feel compassion for strangers in a way we never did before but that physical sense of I’m coming in contact with someone. Is that someone got it or it’s a sense of strangeness and a lack of humanity that we’re experiencing in a very, very minute level but it’s permeating.
I wondered about if you could talk with us about the actual integration of the ghetto into Ancona society or culture. It doesn’t really even happen once the gates are down.
Michelle: No even though and I do make the point the children are brought into the regular schools for a very short time. Of course you do have, it’s actually three Jews who do join the municipal council but there is a lot of feeling that this is temporary. In fact it was temporary. I mean once Napoleon lost in 1815 and the Congress of Vienna tried to put all of Europe back to where it was before this all happened. The pope took back over, the ghetto gates went back up throughout Italy. They weren’t really brought down until 1870 when the pope’s control left those parts of Italy.
The other thing I want to comment on is how ironic it is that I wrote this long before of course Covid struck and I never realized that social isolation was going to be so important to all of us. I’m doing a lot of, I had a book tour scheduled for the novel. Of course what I am doing, I’m doing you know via Zoom via other means to try and get the word out there because I can’t physically be in the place with people. You’re right. It is definitely something. We have more empathy for these characters who were stuck behind the ghetto gates now than we ever would have before this all happened.
Diane: Absolutely it’s poignant I just I think too when you’re talking about your book virtually and we find ourselves connected to strangers the lovely part that happens is we cut to the chase. We want to get to what’s the heartbeat, what’s the beating heart of this book, what are the themes? What is making these people tick? We do immerse ourselves maybe in some ways we’re kind of split open and a little bit vulnerable because of what’s happening to us. We climb, I did climb right inside of Mirelle and go on this very nuanced journey with her. Will she stay by her family? Will she abide by them? Will she go into the world of power and wealth with David? Will she go off with Christophe, her incredibly lustful tryst mate and paramour? We have then the very, very subtle inkling of Daniel as the far away cousin who is the good, the really, the conscience somehow of the whole book, of the whole story. He is trying to speak truth to everyone and it’s not so easy. He is an interesting character that you fabricated. How did he come about?
Michelle: Well I mean Daniel is again one of my favorite characters. He’s definitely going to feature in the next book but yes David is definitely I think he’s the conscious but he’s also the pragmatic character. I mean he is a Jewish soldier. He cannot keep kosher. He is clean shaven which was not the tradition for Jews at this point in time but he also recognizes when he is in war scenes. Parts of thou shalt not murder comes through his head. He’s conditioned by the culture he grew up in but he also recognizes that times need to change.
As you say there are hints of his attraction towards Mirelle but he’s also a very loyal character. Christophe is his best friend. He’s not going to mess that up. I loved Daniel. I mean I think Daniel is one of my favorite characters in the book and we will definitely be seeing more of him.
Diane: Yay because I really, I mean I just I find also what’s true to Daniel is his evolution in real time. I mean it feels much more authentic obviously than an arbitrary arranged marriage which was the proposal between Mirelle and David, the much older David. It’s very different than the urgency of a role in the hay with Christophe. That is a little spoiler alert. It does come to fruition. I’m to hand it to you Michelle because let’s get to fruition here in culmination because we don’t really want to be dangling but Daniel, it is um subtle. It’s kind of iterative. He has an appreciation for the family, for Simone, for Pinina who are Mirelle’s parents. He’s really of the fiber of the book. You say he understands there’s a time and the season to everything. He tries to live in accordance with what he knows to be true ethically and morally but at times there’s a need to step out but he doesn’t do so in such a precipitous way that we’re jarred. It’s coming along at a very slow boil which I’m thrilled to hear we’re going to experience with him in future sometime.
I also just wanted to note that the book it’s highly, highly cinematic. It has a character and a flavor that begs for a film to be made. I wondered in your mind’s eye did you, is it because you just entered the scene fully as an author or do you yourself see it as a film?
Michelle: My son, the one I dedicated the book to who works in publishing and he worked as an intern for a literary agent when he was in college. He said the worst letters that he got because he was handling the flush pile. The worst letters he got said I’m writing this novel so you can make a movie out of it which publishers hate to hear. I wrote this as a novel. Do I thrill a little bit when somebody says I can see this as a movie or as the kind of series that someone at the BBC would make. Of course I do. I would love to see that but no, this was my author’s eye that I was using to write it. I did by the way have Alex and his fiancé help me cast it because I wouldn’t know who to put in the lead roles anymore.
Diane: Who’s Mirelle?
Michelle: Now this is my problem like I said. I don’t even remember who they told me.
Diane: Oh don’t worry. I think it’s much, much, much to your credit Michelle Cameron, author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates with whom we’re speaking. It’s much to your credit because the book is completely, you enter its own world. You live in its own world and I’m very grateful for that because I needed to get out of my own world this week. I feel the importance and the potency of that.
When you read a novel that has been construed with the agenda of filmmaking in mind you can feel it. The plot points move differently. They move very deliberately A to B to C to D and yours are convoluted like real life. You have the complexity and the nuance and the texture of real life. Much to your credit that you don’t know who the leads are. I think I will just posit it that I think you’ve written something that’s so incredibly woven as a fabric. I think it would be a joy to behold.
When you think about the takeaways that you’d like your readers to embrace or enjoy in the few minutes that we have left just tell us what you would love, what was your fondest idea of what a person would take away from reading Beyond the Ghetto Gates?
Michelle: Well first and foremost I think that they enjoy the story. I mean I think that while writers have themes deeply embedded in them if they’re not storytellers first, if they’re not weaving a story that will as you’ve said immerse the reader then they are not doing justice to the form. Absolutely I want people to take away the sense that they have written a really compelling and fun story.
I mean but of course there are themes embedded in the book. We’ve talked about a lot of them. I want people to have a better understanding of what life was like for the Jews at this point in time. That they were struggling with issues of assimilation. That was something somewhat new for them. That of course the whole issue of anti-Semitism which unfortunately is gaining ground today. That there’s no logical reason for it and that of course is very important to me.
Diane: It is so important. That’s very important to revive the tolerance and appreciation for diversity so that the balance can be struck between cultures retaining individuality. I do think that what you’ve given us is not just this story which is elaborate and emotional and gut-wrenching and involving and engaging. It’s that you’ve delivered these characters Michelle. They are characters with whom we have an emotional, we’re in their emotional grip. We’re in their energy and we exchange this energy and this is the beauty of it. You get to know people as humans. This is a labor of love for Michelle Cameron. It’s called Beyond the Ghetto Gates. It’s a historical novel, sweeping, beautiful and classic. I urge you to read it. You can find Michelle Cameron at her website, Facebook author page Michelle Cameron Author. She’s on twitter @mcameronwriter and on Instagram Michelle Cameron Writer. Thank you so much for being with us today Michelle. We’ve enjoyed it very, very much. I dedicate this to my mother and I thank all of our listeners. Please stay safe everyone and be well.
Thank you so much for dropping in. please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at 8 AM Pacific Time and 11 AM Eastern Time on the Voice America Variety Channel. We’ll see you then.