An American Weakness

By Sarah Hoenicke for Anomaly

Gypsy MothIn a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Julia Fierro writes: “Weakness or, to be more specific, showing or admitting to weakness, seemed both un-Italian and un-American.” Fierro is writing here about the impact of Zoloft on her life, and more specifically, her writing career. Before Zoloft, her anxiety and OCD made it impossible to create. Since, she’s written two books.

She hits on something deeper than her personal experience with that line. Afraid of appearing weak, she hid her struggle. All of us do this. We hide parts of ourselves to protect ourselves from the consequences (anticipated or actual) of not fitting in with the American ideals of strength, individuality, and self-reliance.

This is certainly true for the characters in Fierro’s second novel, The Gypsy Moth Summer, out this month from St. Martins. With this book, Fierro encapsulates the life cycle of Avalon Island’s inhabitants, and shows that every person hides their secret self, their quiet worries, the voices they hear. Rife with thinly-veiled racism and class struggles, the tensions on Avalon come to a head as gypsy moths take over.

Fierro sees the world, she says, “through a very intense filter.” She describes her first book, Cutting Teeth, this way: “Modern parenting in the over-saturated information age.” The adults in this book about family, privilege, and paranoia are intense. They are each the center of a very small world, working to mask their weakness.

Continue reading here.