A Reader’s Guide-Part One

In the new paperback edition of I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War, there is a Reading Group Guide in the form of a rich conversation with the author.  Jerome has given me permission to share the guide with you, which I think will enhance our reading and be a wonderful prelude to our conference call on February 15th.

The guide has 13 questions.  Today’s post will share the first two.

These two opening questions and Jerome Charyn’s responses speak to some of what June Hirsh writes about in her post yesterday—about getting to know Jerome through reading his wonderful novel of Lincoln.

 Reading Group Guide Excerpt

How did you decide to write I Am Abraham in Lincoln’s own voice?

Jerome Charyn

It was an impossible task, and I needed to attempt the impossible.  I needed to be on a tightrope ready to fall. [When I wrote The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson] it was much easier to find the music of Emily Dickinson’s voice, not only because we have her poems, but [because] we have those extraordinary letters where she assumes so many masks.  She can be Scarlett O’Hara, or Cleopatra, or a total witch in the same sentence.  I didn’t have the same luxury with Lincoln. I had to invent the voice, from his speeches, from letters we have, and from the tall tales that he told. But somehow from the start, I always had Huck Finn in mind, and I thought, what would Huck Finn sound like when he grew up? And that’s how I dreamt my way into Lincoln’s voice.

Was Lincoln’s depression important to you?

Lincoln had two serious bouts of depression during his life–at least two times that we can confirm.  The first followed the death of Anne Rutledge and the second came after he “jilted” Mary Todd, and these depressions were a way for me to enter the novel and also a key to unlock his voice.  But, as novelist Jay Neugeboren said to me during a debate at a Manhattan bookshop, I wasn’t really writing about Lincoln, I was writing about myself, and in a way I put on Lincoln’s beard and stovepipe hat and wandered into his White House, and I’ve never been able to wander out.


P4P Conference Call

with Jerome Charyn

 Sunday, February 15th at 7 pm EST

Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

2 thoughts on “A Reader’s Guide-Part One

  1. Brightest Blessings To All: This was My first time reading Historical fiction and I have got to say I was touched, tickled, and, being African American, moved by the freeing of slaves yet kind of dismayed at why Lincoln did it… Although He seem to be torn about slavery, He could have went the other way and not freed us if that had of won the war BUT with that being said Jerome Charyn first person depiction of Abraham Lincoln’s life was AMAZING… I Am Abraham was a very hard book to put down and when I had to put it down to “rest” My eyes or go to bed, I couldn’t wait to get back to it… I almost started re-reading it, and as long as the book was it was like not that long at all, it had over 400 pages yet when it ended I was look NOOOOOO… Oh My Everything, I do believe Mrs. President would have been the end of His presidential career in this day and age and by Her antics one would think that would have been Her intention… I was actually yelling while reading, had to put the book down and come back to it after I kind of calmed down… Lincoln’s life, disappointments and successes were inspiring, yet it is bothersome that when one’s political opponents cannot win they resort to assassination… I wonder what could have became of this country had He not been killed, His push and shaping of a united Union seems to be lost with time… People political desire for separation to control and conquer is still scary and still holding, I hope as we all seek a fairer democratic process that those Presidents who’s will were to unite us all beyond race and money find solid ground…
    Thank You Politics 4 The People for the book and Thanks Jerome Charyn for the book itself…

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