Evans discusses family, roles, influences

By Keri Hayes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Elizabeth Evans is an award-winning author and a professor in the University of Arizona's English Department. She has been honored with the James Michener Fellowship and best fiction prizes from Crazy Horse and The Nebraska Review. The Wildcat spoke with her about her newly released first novel, The Blue Hour, an intriguing tale of the downfall of a 1950s family haunted by role expectations.

Wildcat: How long did it take you to write The Blue Hour?

Evans: Everyone always asks me that. It's something that started a long time ago. The story actually started ten years ago; it was a story, a novella, then I put it away for a time. Finally I just decided I needed to spend some time with those characters.

WC: Is family a topic you deal with a lot in your work?

EE: Family is something I write about a lot ─ family dynamics. You know, the kind of expectations for their roles people have.

WC: In The Blue Hour, you deal a lot with the roles women are expected to fulfill. How do young women deal with confusing role models?

EE: That's basically the environment I grew up in ─mothers were home; it was expected that they act as if that was the role they chose, when really I think it was social pressure that caused them to choose those roles. Here I am now, a professor at a university. My husband has been very involved in raising our kids; in fact he's home-schooling our younger daughter right now and working part time. So there have been big changes in the way in which I have led my life. But, those old pressures have affected me. Now it's that 'supermom' thing, where I have to be competing professionally while still being nurturing and cooking wonderful meals at home. It may make you a little screwed up, but now you can at least laugh about it.

WC: How do you think women have made changes since the 1950s?

EE: I think that the sexual revolution, when I was a young woman, was important. Feminism had a real heyday about 1970, which I was really excited by. Just seeing, having this light shed, on all these [female] pressures we had accepted as really natural, and seeing that's just something society has presented as the ideal, but it's not the natural ideal. Going to college was really important to me; I was an art major, and I got a lot of positive feedback for what I was doing. It was a process of defining my life differently. A lot of those pressures are still there, but the other options are more visable and seizable.

WC: A lot of women who are involved in relationships like that in The Blue Hour don't have a lot of control over their lives ─ is that linked to controlling their bodies in destructive ways, like using amphetamines?

EE: People who don't have control get into this type of depressed state. You're told that this is the role you're supposed to enjoy. Here's this bright intelligent woman for whom none of this has been fostered by living out this role, and so she turns her unhappiness against herself.

WC: How do you think female role models influence women's lives now?

EE: It certainly makes a big difference. I have two daughters, and they feel the pressure of the culture. I think all women get a dose of the model syndrome; you'd almost have to go live on a mountaintop to avoid it. I think the options my children see are certainly clearer; they can see that I have a job, that I'm the main breadwinner in the family, that my husband and I have a quite equal relationship.

WC: You're on sabbatical this semester to work on a new novel. What is the hardest stage of constructing fiction for you?

EE: I love editing, fine tuning and playing around with the words and images. What's hard is just getting the structure together so that the meaning comes clear, giving it seaworthy legs.

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