Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Author Interview: Benjamin Berkley

In conjunction with my review of Against My Will, I was given the opportunity to do a short interview with author Benjamin Berkley.  I had some questions about the motivations behind the plot and some of the character and Mr. Berkley was kind enough to give me some insight.


1 – Intertwined in this story are two examples or horrendous victimization—the holocaust and marital rape.  What made you decide to tie these two things together?

The character of Irene is based on my former client, Irene Opdyke who worked as a housekeeper for a commandant during the war.  And she  was sexually abused by the commandant in order for him to maintain his silence knowing that she was protecting Jews in the basement of his home.  Likewise, I needed to contrast Irene’s horrendous experiences with that of a young girl who was also faces issues of survival.  And marital rape unfortunately is a common occurrence, though  not often reported, in the Jewish Orthodox community.

2 – The main character, Danielle, has lived a very sheltered life.  She even says that, before her honeymoon, she never left the state of New York.  Did this lead to Danielle being willing to marry a man she knew she did not love?

Danielle wanted to please her father.  And truly believe, though it was naïve, that he father knew best.  Likewise, that she would learn to love Jacob.

3 – Along those same lines, Danielle’s mother died when she was very young.  Did the absence of her mother play a role in her not being able to recognize the warning signs in her own marriage?

Danielle was raised by her grandmother (Nana Rose) and her father.  And her Nana was a surrogate for her mother and played an active role.  Likewise, Danielle recognized the warning signs but looked away thinking that it would bet better. 

4 – Danielle is from a very devout Jewish family.  Do you feel that sometimes religion and religious traditions make wives feel that they need to just tolerate their husband’s abuse?
Yes, as I said this is a common problem in the Orthodox community and abuses often go unreported.  Also, the divorce rate is extremely low.  Further, even if a wife filed for divorce in a civil court, she must still get what is known as a  “GET” which is permission from her husband so that the divorce could be recognized under Jewish law.  Otherwise, she can never remarried. And Orthodox men rarely consent to giving a Get.

5 – Danielle really comes to her own when she moves to California.  Why is this?  Because she left home, because she left Jacob, or a combination of the two?

Danielle has her first taste of independence when he arrives in California.  And for the first time, she feels free; free of her marriage, free of worrying whether she is pleasing her father.

Thanks again to Mr. Berkley for his time and willingness to answer my questions!

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