Lee Zacharias, What A Wonderful World This Could Be
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Lee Zacharias, in conversation with Richie Zweigenhaft
What Alex, illegitimate daughter of an alcoholic novelist and an artist, has always wanted is family. At 15, she falls in love with a 27-year-old photographer, whom she will leave when she comes under the spell of Ted Neal, a charismatic activist on his way to Mississippi for 1964’s Freedom Summer. That fall Ted organizes a collective that turns to the growing antiwar movement. Ultimately the radical group Weatherman destroys the “family” Alex and Ted have created, and in 1971 Ted disappears while under FBI investigation. When Ted surfaces eleven years later, Alex must put her life back together in order to discover what true family means in What a Wonderful World This Could Be.
Lee Zacharias brings the 1960’s and 80’s to life with a poet’s precision and a novelist’s sense of drama in this luminous, riveting story. Spare, unflinching, and deeply compassionate, What a Wonderful World This Could Be is both a historical novel about political, artistic, and sexual awakening (and re-awakening), and a powerful mirror for our own time. I was gripped from the first page to the last. Alex’s journey from brilliant, neglected teen to mature artist broke my heart and renewed my faith in humanity in equal measure. This novel is a gift. —Abigail DeWitt, author of News of Our Loved Ones
One of our finest novelists and a first-rate photographer, Lee Zacharias weds visceral language with lush visual imagery as she modulates main character Alex’s voice to match shifts in time that dramatically render her unforgettable experiences as a 15-year-old who falls in love with a 27-year-old photographer, as the wife of a 60’s New Left activist, and as a photography professor who, in 1981, reconnects with her first love. What a Wonderful World this Could Be is about art, it is about political change, but most of all it is about enduring love. —Allen Wier, author of Tehano and Late Night, Early Morning
Lee Zacharias is the author of three previous novels, Lessons, At Random, and Across the Great Lake, a 2019 Notable Michigan Book, as well as a collection of stories, Helping Muriel Make It Through the Night, and a collection of essays, The Only Sounds We Make. She has received two silver medals from the Independent Book Publisher Awards, won North Carolina’s Sir Walter Raleigh Award, and held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council. Her work has been reprinted and frequently cited in the annual volumes of The Best American Essays.
Richie Zweigenhaft, Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology at Guilford College, received his BA from Wesleyan University, his MA from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the co-author with G. William Domhoff of a number of books on diversity in the American power structure and the co-editor with Eugene Borgida of a book on collaboration in psychological science. He is also the author or co-author of many academic articles and some articles that have appeared in more popular publications, including the New York Times and Mother Jones.
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