Corie Adjmi joins the Spotlight to discuss her novel, The Marriage Box
Author Name: Corie Adjmi
Book Title: The Marriage Box
Book Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: 5/2/2023
Publisher: She Writes Press
Welcome, Corie! Please tell us a bit about The Marriage Box.
Forced in the early 80s to leave her all-American lifestyle in New Orleans at 16 and return to her parents’ roots in the Orthodox Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, Casey Cohen faces two opposing worlds as she explores the unfamiliar culture and finds love.
What sparked the idea for this book?
The Marriage Box is fiction but based on my real life. Just like Casey, I moved with my family to the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn when I was 16.
How long did it take for you to write the book?
Over twenty years!! I think this novel was difficult for me to write and took so long because the story was too close to my real life. I spent many years protecting my characters. When I was finally able to let my protagonist and her family misbehave, the fun (and the magic) began. But also, I was the mother of 5 young children and didn’t have the time to devote as I do now.
Did you do any research?
I did a little research on New Orleans and some on Sephardic culture and traditions but overall this story is based on much of my own lived experiences.
What drew you to women’s fiction?
I write what I want to read. I write about relationships, family, and marriage. Men write about those topics too but when women do it it’s called women’s fiction. I am also interested in psychology and social issues such as patriarchy, domestic violence, infidelity, and gender inequality. Women like reading stories about other women. We like to see heroines who stand up for themselves and persevere.
What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author?
The flexibility. I get to choose when I work and where. For the most part, I get to decide if I’ll create something new or edit what I’ve already written. And some days I do research. Honestly, I enjoy all of these tasks. I feel very lucky to have found this path.
What do you find challenging?
There seems to never be enough time to do all I want to do. I want to write and publish more—both fiction and essays. I have an interest in graphic stories and there seems to never be enough time to draw or read. I sometimes have to stop and take a deep breath, reminding myself that it’s all OK and I’m doing the best I can.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read The Marriage Box?
I hope people will want to read The Marriage Box because it is an entertaining and fun read. But there is substance as well. Some hefty themes are addressed in my books and my wish is that my writing serves as a catalyst for interesting, thought-provoking, and important conversations.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
The Marriage Box is largely an exploration of family and community expectations. While my book is focused on the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, the narrative could describe many close-knit communities. Cultures across the globe value adhering to cultural beliefs as opposed to satisfying individual needs. What are the potential pitfalls, risks and consequences of that? I hope this book unites those living in wildly different communities and sheds light on how people are different but also the same.
What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?
Writing and publishing take time. I’m a slow writer and so there is that. Submitting, getting rejected, and submitting some more may take months or even years. And even once a book has been accepted for publication, it may be an additional 18 months until the book hits shelves.
Any words of wisdom you give your pre-published writer self (or to a new writer)?
Never give up, keep learning, work on your craft, read, submit, repeat.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I like to bike, hike, and cook.
Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.
I’m working on another adult novel. The story is told from 6 points of view and was inspired by an article in the New York Times about a teacher who was abusing his students at a private school in NYC. I used to be a teacher and the news was upsetting. At the time, I was watching the television show Banshee and reading Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler. I was motivated to try and create something equally as disturbing, mesmerizing, and entertaining.
Where can readers find you (website, blog, social media, etc.)?
Website/ Blog: corieadjmi.com
Thank you, Corie! The Marriage Box is out TODAY.
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, men pray daily, thanking God they’re not women; 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 appalled 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?