Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Corie Adjmi Interview - The Marriage Box

Photo Content from Corie Adjmi

Corie Adjmi is the author of the short story collection Life and Other Shortcomings, which won an International Book Award, an IBPA Benjamin Franklin award, and an American Fiction Award. Her prize-winning essays and short stories have appeared in dozens of journals and magazines, including HuffPost, North American Review, Indiana Review, Medium, Motherwell and Kveller. She’s been featured in Travel and Leisure, New York Magazine, The Hollywood Times, Parade and BuzzFeed. Her forthcoming book is a novel titled The Marriage Box, was named a Must-Read New Book of 2022 on Katie Couric Media, and is due out in August 2022. When she is not writing, Corie does volunteer work, cooks, draws, bikes and hikes. She and her husband have five children and a number of grandchildren, with more on the way. She lives and works in New York City.


Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Speaking to readers. I wasn’t expecting that before publication as I’m kind of shy.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Motherhood. I loved being a mom but it made writing longer pieces more difficult. It was much easier to write short stories when my kids were small. As they got older, I found the time and space I needed to complete The Marriage Box.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I loved that book and it made me want to create something like it. The original first chapter of The Marriage Box was very much inspired by that novel. I ended up changing the beginning of The Marriage Box and made that chapter a stand-alone story. It appears in my collection, Life and Other Shortcomings.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Stories are a bonding force. A connection happens as a story is being told in the moment—one person to another. But stories also connect people on opposite sides of the globe. When we learn about others and their problems, we cultivate empathy. Stories teach and illuminate. They entertain.

Can you tell us when you started THE MARRIAGE BOX, how that came about?
I started The Marriage Box around 20 years ago on a whim. I’d been writing short stories and getting published. And I’d been getting good feedback. I thought I’d try writing a novel. I found novel writing much more difficult than short story writing. My first draft read like a long short story.

Tracey smiled at our handsome waiter and took two shots of arak off his silver tray. She handed me one. “Drink up,” she said. “You’re going to need this.”

“I want to get married. I want to do this,” I remember telling Tracey. But memory, like love, is fickle. It’s true, I thought my life would unfold like a romance novel, one scintillatingly evocative chapter after another. When you’re eighteen, you think your dreams are undeniable truths. At least I did. I had no clue my brain was still developing or that during my first year of marriage, I’d grow an inch.

Later that night, alone in my room, I tried them on, prancing around in a bra and panties, modeling the boots in front of the full-length mirror behind my locked door. At Franklin Prep, the kids in my class wore Lacoste and corduroy. I thought I’d never wear purple boots. Ever. Turns out, teenagers have little say in their own lives, and who could have predicted I’d be leaving behind my preppie school, moving to New York, and bringing the boots with me.

Michael falls asleep, and as I doodle, I recall how not all that long ago, Michael brought home a wok from Macy’s. I stir-fried snow peas and broccoli in soy sauce and drizzled in some sesame oil. Kissing me hard, Michael pressed me against the kitchen cabinets, the sizzling vegetables music to our ears. When he dabbed soy sauce on my nose with a finger, I brushed his cheek with a stalk of hot, wet broccoli. He let the brown liquid drip like sepia down his unshaven face, before reaching into the wok and gathering a handful of vegetables. He threw them at me, and snow peas clung like barrettes in my hair. We wrestled, pushing against each other, laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe, thinking our lives would always be as playful as a food fight.

  • The Marriage Box is fiction but it’s based on parts of my life.
  • It’s my first published novel.
  • It took twenty years to write.
  • Casey, the main character, was named Candy until right before publication.
  • The Marriage Box had three different beginnings.
  • One of the original beginnings of The Marriage Box became its own short story, which is in my short story collection, Life and Other Shortcomings.
  • For ten years, The Marriage Box had a totally different ending.
  • It was originally written in chronological order and all in past tense.
  • Over twenty years, I have written sections of The Marriage Box in bed, at my bedroom desk, in cafes and bookstores all over NYC, on airplanes, and in hotels all over the world—New Orleans, California, Florida, Italy, Greece, Israel, and more.
  • Years into the writing, an agent suggested I move on and write something else. I’m super proud of this novel. I’m glad I stuck with my intuition and didn’t listen.
What is the first job you have had?

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?

What event in your life would make a good movie?
My family moved from a reformed Jewish community in New Orleans to an orthodox Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn when I was 16.

Casey Cohen, a Middle Eastern Jew, is a sixteen-year-old in New Orleans in the 1970s when she starts hanging out with the wrong crowd. Then she gets in trouble and her parents turn her whole world upside down by deciding to return to their roots, the Orthodox Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn.

In this new and foreign world, families gather weekly for Shabbat dinner; parties are extravagant events at the Museum of Natural History; and the Marriage Box is a real place, a pool deck designated for teenage girls to put themselves on display for potential husbands. Casey is at first shocked by this unfamiliar culture, but after she meets Michael, she’s enticed by it. Looking for love and a place to belong, she marries him at eighteen, believing she can adjust to Syrian ways. But she begins to question her decision when she discovers that Michael doesn’t want her to go to college; he wants her to have a baby instead.

Can Casey integrate these two opposing worlds, or will she have to leave one behind in order to find her way?

You can purchase The Marriage Box at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CORIE ADJMI for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Marriage Box by Corie Adjmi.

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