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Barbara Kingsolver. “The foster care system is run, as it often is in America, like a for-profit business.”

INTERVIEW – The new novel by 2023 Pulitzer Prize winner Barbara Kingsolver, They call me the Copper Demontakes us on the Appalachian Orphan Trail.

“I deal with delicate subjects, not so glamorous at first glance: colonialism, child abuse, climate change… But because I’m an educated person, I think I have to keep my end of the bargain with the readers; if you trust me I promise to make you cry, laugh and love like you’ve rarely done before.” So says Barbara Kingsolver, winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize They call me the Copper DemonIt’s a great rewrite David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, where we follow a battered orphan in rural America disrupted by the opioid crisis. Although born in a mobile home, Demon Copperhead, so named for his red hair, which resembles the color of the region’s copper vipers, tries to make his way through the failures of the foster care system and the torments of addiction, and leads us. away in a vibrant coming-of-age novel with her unique and irresistible voice. Meeting with the great lady of American letters.

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Madame Figaro: Why did you want to write about orphans and endemic poverty?

Barbara Kingsolver. Because I live where I do, Appalachia. I could live almost anywhere, and I have lived almost everywhere, including France, but I chose to settle in Appalachia because it is home. I love landscapes, countryside, beauty. But it’s a place that faces terrible challenges with history, and in particular with the history of companies that came to exploit our natural resources: wood, then coal, then tobacco, and finally opiates. They came to harvest our pain and sorrow on purpose. They looked at the data and the maps and they saw that we’re a vulnerable population, we have very little medical care, a lot of injuries because of the type of work that’s going on in the area. Many people are disabled. And they concluded that we can make them a lot of money.

Addiction is a disease that tears apart families and communities.

Barbara Kingsolver

How did these companies do it?

Representatives were sent out en masse and flooded the system with deals like: “For every hundred patients you prescribe oxycodone to, you’ll be offered a vacation to Hawaii…” They bribed nurses and receptionists with candy and flowers, used all kinds of tricks to promote their products. I don’t blame doctors who see their patients once and sometimes never because it’s difficult for them to see a doctor and who can’t refer them to a specialized pain clinic. They only have one option: to prescribe a drug that they believe is safe. And within a few years, the entire culture of the region was affected. Addiction is a disease that tears apart families and communities. People who become victims betray their loved ones and friends, fall into irreparable debts, abandon their children. We no longer count children who are being raised by someone other than their parents, who have been sent to prison, become drug addicts, or died of overdoses…

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What made you take on this story?

I had a feeling that it was not said. There have been investigations and quality journalistic reports that have condemned the crimes of pharmaceutical companies; I am thinking about such a job. Empire of pain. The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, who described the lawyers’ fight to convict these companies. But I was afraid that the public would say it’s over and we’re going to leave it at that. But for all the orphans born of addiction, the story will never end. they have experienced so much trauma, so many needs and difficulties that no one is able to fix… Not to mention that many people with opioid addiction turned to heroin when it was legal. drugs were withdrawn from the market. But we don’t have the money needed to finance medical care and care for patients and their children. That’s why I wanted to tell this story. I’ve been thinking for two years about the form I can give to the novel, so that I don’t let people get distracted from the topic by telling them that it’s not about them, that it’s none of their business, that it only happens to “other people…

Is this where the choice of the novel “Dickens style” comes from?

Indeed. I happened to be staying at Charles Dickens’ house with my husband and saw his manuscript David Copperfield. It was his favorite novel, it was his story. he came from a very modest background, his father was imprisoned for debt, he himself started working at the age of ten, and I really had the impression that he handed me his pen… It was as if someone had cast a spell on me, and I began to write. They call me the Copper Demon and I didn’t stop. I took inspiration from that down to the structure. I downloaded the manuscript that I re-read and everything was there, both plot-wise and character-wise, with regular twists, all the twists I needed. cliffhangers:. Sixty chapters I have spread out before me to give a modern version of trying to transport the realities of Victorian England to Appalachia.

The social system is collapsing and there are very few options, very few solutions for those suffering from addiction.

Barbara Kingsolver

However, you have made some important changes…

From the beginning, I wanted to deconstruct the clichés about Appalachia; these preconceived ideas that we are stupid, poorly educated, poorly educated, from a very homogenous culture… Although, like everywhere, the population is ethnically, sexually diverse. That’s why Demon’s best friend is gay, and the female characters have also been modernized, from Demon’s mother, who is the first to let him down, to June, who is strong, willful, non-conformist and determined not to let it go. , through his adoptive mother or Angus, his confidante. I also had to make sure that Demon’s voice remained in our heads, that we could identify with his thirst for love as well as his cynicism, put ourselves in his emotions and follow in his footsteps.

Is that why you chose the novel rather than the essay?

Yes! The foster care system is run, as it often is in America, like a for-profit business, and children are viewed and treated as products. The reason for its failure is this. the priority is not the well-being of those placed, but profitability. The social system is collapsing and there are very few options, very few solutions for those suffering from addiction. I work through the fiction to find the weakness in the armor. Diaries and essays are important, but the novel works differently. It allows you to enter the character’s head and skin. His mother becomes yours, his experience yours, his existence yours. Investigation is for your brain, fiction for your heart. That’s all the difference. If we want to change the world, we have to start by changing the way people see the world, and that’s our job as novelists.

Source: Le Figaro

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