Bestselling author Linda Habib chatted with Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos about her book “Against the Glass.”
With a lifelong passion for learning, reading, and teaching, Linda earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in literature from Hunter College of the City University of New York, and secured a position as a teacher of English in a rare, all-girls New York City public high school of three hundred students, in Manhattan.
She enjoyed a thirty-three-year career in New York City schools moving from Manhattan to the Bronx. Among her favorite books to teach were Jane Eyre, Ethan Frome, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Bluest Eye, The House on Mango Street, and Things Fall Apart.
She eventually embraced administrative roles as English department chair and assistant principal of one of the largest schools in the Bronx, 5,600 students. In the latter position, she remembers fondly the delightful opportunity to accompany groups of students to the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, with a particularly enterprising teacher, to have monthly conversations and pizza with authors, and a one-time opportunity to act as liaison for the duration of the time the crew filmed scenes for Finding Forrester, about an aspiring writer and a reclusive Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. The idea of writing a novel reemerged from where it lay in her days as an English major. Where would she find the time?
Retirement. When she no longer had to fight the ice and snow on her commute, she found staying home too confining. Off to the beaches of Florida. The ice of the North was replaced by the ice-clear waters of the Gulf, the snow by the sugar-white sand, which she insists her brain still sees as snow! The Gulf Coast had lured her as it does the sea turtles who were born on those beaches.
Among her many volunteer experiences in Florida, she had the pleasure of working with Turtle Watch, a group that protects the eggs buried deep in sea turtle nests in the sand.
She also engaged in unearthing eggs, following strict Department of Interior protocols, after which they were transported to the East Coast during the oil spill of 2010. The beach also brought back childhood memories of summering, building sandcastles, and living, on Staten Island. There are many ways to go home again.
Synopsis of the book
When Candy’s ability to birth a legacy is ripped away, can she rise above her suffering and forge a new path?
New York City, 1966. Nineteen-year-old Candy Krzyzanowski believes she can have both marriage and a career. But she falls in love and becomes pregnant, only to be devastated when the father, a local
football hero, strong-arms her into an illegal abortion. And when the dangerous procedure leads to an emergency hysterectomy, she wakes up barren and abandoned.
Battling through depression knowing that her family’s line will end with her, Candy vows to soar beyond society’s conventions and pioneer her own future. And as she sets out to achieve her dream to support women, she’s determined to overcome abusive professors, tumultuous personal relationships, and the painful guilt that won’t let her go.
Will she triumph in a male-dominated world and finally learn to forgive herself?
Against the Glass is an emotion-drenched historical novel. If you enjoy women’s literature with inspiring heroines, journeys of self-discovery, and windows into the past, then you’ll adore Linda M. Habib’s deftly painted tale.
All great books have a back story, and ‘Against the Glass’ is certainly an exceptional read. What inspired you to write this book?
There were several threads involved here: My childhood fascination with scallop shells, my love of Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, and my admiration of early advocates for women such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Simone de Beauvoir, and Betty Friedan. The scallop shell, I eventually learned, has been a symbol of fertility, the world over, since ancient times.
The Birth of Venus oozes fertility in its imagery and title. And the early feminists, if one calls them that, recognized the impact of women’s reproductive ability on their status. I wove all of these ideas into my novel through my protagonist. Of course, some of my own experiences played a part.
Candy Krzyzanowski is a strong and rather extraordinary character, who goes through a lot in this epic story. Did you conjure her up with your creativity and wit or did you base some aspects of her on someone you know? Or was it a bit of both? It was definitely a bit of both!
Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire’s dance partner, famously said that women do everything men do, but backward and in high heels. (At the café, Serendipity, Candy orders A High Heel Pump sandwich from the fanciful menu.) While I don’t believe women are victims, I do believe the world is harder on them. So much is expected of them, and they achieve in so many ways. They are not bound to be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen. They can be agents of their own autonomy, whatever that is for each of them. Candy is such a character, pieces taken from literary and actual women.
One of my favorite literary characters, who developed a voice over the course of the novel, is Janie Starks from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. The opening scene, as I recall, where young Janie is stung by a bee, with her boyfriend nearby, inspired me to make Candy a budding entomologist.
In many ways in ‘Against the Glass’ New York City is a character in the book as well. It is a really beautiful aspect of the book. What was it like for you to include this iconic city in your work? What was your favorite spot to write about?
My grandparents had settled in Manhattan; both of my parents, myself, and my children were born there. It’s in my DNA. There’s so much I love about New York City and its storied history. When I decided to write a novel, I wanted to include it in a big way. When Candy had an important moment, I tried to think of the best NYC scene to use as a backdrop.
I used experience and memory, but also some wonderful histories of NYC which my son had given me. It was a joy to write them in. Trying to choose a favorite spot is like trying to choose a favorite child! But my answer goes to Caffè Reggio for its history, its connection to Italy, to the Renaissance, especially the Medicis. It’s authentic, and I’ve been there with my grandfather and my daughter.
A good story is all about the setting, the descriptiveness, and the raw energy that captivates, all coming together to have the reader turning the pages effortlessly. Your book includes all of them, what is one of the keys that you find is critical when getting into the writing zone?
Once I’ve established my characters, and I’ve outlined where I think they’re going, I like to visualize them and inhabit their skins, much as I imagine actors might do. I play all the parts. I dream of them, even while walking or doing mindless tasks. It can be draining, enervating, but the creativity is invigorating. I think it breathes life into the characters.
‘Against the Glass’ has been such a hit with readers and reviewers. Do you have another book in the works you can tell us about?
I’m sure your fans are dying to know. I’m excited to reveal that I do have a new idea. It will be about the criminal justice system. The protagonist I currently envision is a female prison therapist, a strong, empathetic woman. The working title is “Don’t Forget to Say Goodbye.” I already see some of the other characters, through a glass darkly.
“Against the Glass” is available on Amazon by clicking here.