Sunday, May 14, 2023

Q&A with Sarah Cypher

From my Q&A with Sarah Cypher, author of The Skin and Its Girl: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I love titles that create a syntactical hiccup. For instance, there's Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties and Andrea Lawlor's Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl. The title for The Skin and Its Girl came very late, but I warmed up to it as I thought about all the ways that the various members of my fictional Rummani family struggle with identities determined by the bodies they're in.

I wanted to know, what determines agency: the body or the person? What is the tension between these alternatives? There's Betty with her cobalt-blue skin, Nuha and Saeeda as aging Palestinian women in post-9/11 wartime America, Nuha with her body's queer desires, and Betty's father with his missing hand and scarred arm.

Readers will see the hospital staff reacting to Betty's newly blue skin in the first scene, so there is an early connection to the title. Of course, as the story unfolds, the title takes on new layers, gathering toward a late twist. This novel is an unconventional narrative--stories wrapped in stories--and it deserved a title that hinted at its strangeness.

What's in a name?

So much! My narrator, Betty Rummani, is...[read on]
Visit Sarah Cypher's website.

Q&A with Sarah Cypher.

--Marshal Zeringue