I know this will be hard for many readers to believe, but until today I never realized I’d written a book about sex and violence. Writing various versions of the book over two years, preparing it for sale, then marketing it for five weeks, I thought I wrote a book about domestic violence and recovery. To me, the heart of the book was and is about recovery from abuse, as an individual, as a larger family and community, and as a grassroots group of women.
But much of domestic abuse is sexual in nature—either actual sexual abuse (which can be a euphemism for rape) such as Tony’s mother and sister experienced, or physical violence in the midst of sexual activity, which is what Rosa experienced. Some domestic violence is just violence, like when Joey beat Rosa or her brother Pete beat Paola, but most of the time sex is lurking nearby. Tessa’s abuse in the high school hallway was sexual, and so was Carmella’s, and Pilar’s, and even Sister Mary’s. So the book has a lot of sex in it, in addition to the violence. I always knew that.
Then there’s the nothing-to-do-with-violence sex. Rosa’s plot progression is she gets divorced, gets horny, and never gets a man again until the book’s last ten pages, when she gets him good, and at length. As Rosa tells us several times, horny and alone do not mean sexually inactive. Tony’s tongue is on display in Chapter One, and he deploys it every time a strong, straight woman makes herself available. Or a tavern woman, strong or not.
Jojo and Lee leave one scene because they’d talked long enough about naked women and they suddenly had other priorities. Though she barely restrains herself, Mama desperately wants to disclose whatever she did before she met Papa that makes her an authority on bisexuality.
So I wrote a book about sex and violence and failed to market it that way. What a fool. Now that we know, when your friends ask what the book’s about, the answer is, “sex and violence.”