On 'chick lit' and disability
DB: Would you categorize ‘A Great Place for a Seizure’ as chick lit?
TT: I've wondered about that question before. Sure, why not? It's about a chick and it's written by one. It's interesting, chick lit generates a lot of controversy. Some people criticize it for being light and shallow, overly focused on boy-friend despair, friendship roller-coasters, husband-hunting, and motherhood. For me “chick lit” is a book with a female lead character and a focus on relationships along with a heaping dose of humor, sarcasm, and absurdity. When people criticize chick lit, I've always wondered 'why isn't there a genre called “guy lit” and what is the standard criticism of that imaginary genre?'. Sometimes I think “chick lit” is a way to isolate fiction written by women. People see the curly font on the cover with the pastel-colored design and presume that the book is frivolous “chick lit.” Maybe it's just “lit” and women writers need Penguin Books graphic artists to introduce a new style of dust-jacket art. Forgive me, that answer wandered into the navel-gazing world of literary criticism.
DB: You say the book is about “the choices we make that make us who we are”. Can you tell us about a choice in your life that has helped define you?
TT: Having a child has helped define me and has continued to do so every day. I came to terms with the fact that I had limitations. Believe it or not, there is a kind of freedom found inside limitations. Ironically, it's the first step to pushing the boundaries of those limitations.
I called my epilepsy a disability for the first time in my life when I had my child. When I recognized that I had a disability I had to build a framework to consider my daughter's safety. That included adjusting to different work schedules, proactively searching for new medications that wouldn't affect her, and taking time-off to be a stay-at-home mom. I also decided to work on advocacy issues for the disabled and write this novel.
DB: Where is a great place for a seizure?
TT: The Assembly Hall of a 5-star hotel hosting an international diplomatic event with a thousand people present, as portrayed in Chapter 19, is one great place. That actually happened to me. I would say that the combined absurdity, contradictions, and the courage to stand up and go back to work is what makes it, for me, a great place to have a seizure. Obviously, no one really expects it. It throws people off-guard. Then, when I return to the event there's a new level of humanity in my dealings with people . We're no longer just diplomats. They are people who helped me and witnessed me in my most vulnerable state. They also realize that I represent a nation, the United States, that allows an ethnic minority female with a disability to speak and negotiate on its behalf. Not too many countries would let someone with that profile into their diplomatic corps. I was very proud of my time at the State Department. If I can bounce back after situations like that, it is what assures me that epilepsy has taught me quite a lot and I've allowed myself to learn.