Feminist Author Sontag Discusses New Novel About Immigrant Life

Feminist, activist and author Susan Sontag last night discussed her latest piece of historical fiction, In America: A Novel, a work that she insisted is not only a story, but is a novel about storytelling.

"The stories that attract me are the ones in which I can tell other stories," Sontag told a crowd of over 150 people in the Graduate School of Education's Longfellow Hall.

In America tells the story of a family of Polish immigrants who come to America in the 1870s. The protagonist, actor Maryna Zalewska, decides to simplify her life, moving with friends to California to start a farm.


Zalewska is forced to return to the stage and continues her career as a successful actor when her utopian dream of farm life falls apart.

Sontag discussed the plot, characters and writing process behind her novel, emphasizing that Zalewska re-invents herself and lauding the character's search for self-transformation and openness to change.

Change is familiar to Sontag, who has written on topics ranging from photography, AIDS and revolution, to pornographic literature and fascist aesthetics.

Although born in New York City, Sontag was raised in Arizona and California and entered the University of California, Berkeley, in 1948 at the age of 15. She transferred to the University of Chicago in 1949, and attended graduate school at Harvard from 1955 to 1957.

Before embarking on her career as an essayist and novelist, she studied in Paris and lectured in philosophy and religion at various New York universities.

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