I got the idea to “interview” Miriam Levine, the protagonist of my historical novel BEGUILED from a post in Women Writers, Women(s) Books. I’m intrigued with the idea, particularly because it allows me to use my imagination again. Miriam was born in 1900 in the West End, the vibrant multi-ethnic community in downtown Boston. Her parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants who came to the US in the 1880s, hoping to find safety, freedom and more opportunity for their children, like many immigrants of today and like most of our own ancestors.
KK: Miriam, you are almost 16 years old, an intelligent beautiful girl with spirit and aspirations. What is your fondest dream of how you want to live your life?
ML: Karma, I always dreamed of going on stage, of dancing, singing, playing vaudeville. I know I could do it! Why, ever since Pop took me to theater and the movies when I was a little girl, I practiced dancing and reciting in front of Ma’s mirror. But, I’m so torn… I know that Pop has worked himself to the bone to make a good life for me, for Ma and me. Even though he loved theater, he thinks it’s not for his darling girl to go on stage. I know him. He thinks it’s for low-class girls. He thinks men will take advantage of me, even by looking at me. And he wants me to go to college… so does Miss Marbles, my teacher. I don’t want to let them down, but shouldn’t I be me, shouldn’t I? Should I do what others want for me or be myself? I just don’t know.
KK: Miriam, that’s probably a dilemma many women grapple with, but how many really do what they want? What do you imagine your life would be like if you went on stage?
ML: Oh I’ve dreamed about this many times, many, I tell you. I so much want to do this, but I’m afraid Ma won’t let me do it. When I imagine myself on stage, I see all eyes on me, I see people adoring me, giving me a big ovation. The bright lights, the wonderful costumes, the beautiful stage set. And I see myself performing in one of those movie palaces that Pop’s taken me to forever. I’m the most beautiful, talented performer up there, just like when I was in RAPUNZEL when I was just twelve years old.
KK: How do you suppose you’d get the experience to do this, Miriam?
ML: Now my teacher arranged for me to try out for a real stage performance, with grownups, not just children. The Wizard of Oz., with people from all over Boston. I so much want to do this. I’m deathly afraid to tell Ma, but I must do so. I’m going to tell Ma and Pop on my 16th birthday. Which is coming up in a few days. Wish me luck!
KK: And what if your parents vehemently object? What then?
ML: Well, I don’t even want to consider this possibility, but I know it’s a possibility. Then… well… I’ll try to take up acting and performance at a college. There must be colleges that offer performance training, don’t you think? But, I know I don’t want the life that Ma’s had. I don’t want to grow up to be angry and sad like Ma. To have a husband I don’t even like, that I never hold hands with, never hug. I don’t want to have children, babies who die before I even know them. Babies who die when they’re still children. That would be just too miserable. I’d be like Ma for sure, maybe even worse than Ma.
KK: I hope that you get what you want, Miriam. I see that you feel sorry for your Ma, for all that she suffers.
ML: I do, but you can’t tell Ma that. She’d take it the wrong way and just tell me I’m the one who makes her suffer. If I only were this or that, or did this or that differently, then she’d be happy. But, I know now that I’m big, I know it’s not me, it’s her. It’s that she doesn’t like her life.