Cari Luna originally started writing her debut novel, “The Revolution of Everyday,” as a Dear John Letter to New York City. She was born there and lived there on and off until 2007, when she just couldn’t afford to stay any longer. But after she moved to Portland and got some distance, the book became a love letter as well.
The story is about a group of people squatting in New York City’s Lower East Side in the ‘90s. It was the early days of gentrification, when then Mayor Rudy Guliani was cracking down on squats, meaning the characters are living under constant threat that their building will get torn down.
Now the novel is one of five finalists for the Oregon Book Award’s Ken Kesey Award for Fiction. You can hear our conversations with the other four finalists in our Fiction Episode.
In this extended interview, we cover a range of topics:
What Luna wanted to write about
“What came first was the idea of how new york had changed in the time I’d been there and gentrification.”
“It’s one thing to move into a neighborhood that already has an existing population and culture and try to fit yourself into that and join the neighborhood and be part of the community. It’s another thing to try to change the neighborhood to resemble what you came from.”
Occupy Wall Street
“It was wonderful to see there was a genuine appetite for radical protest in the country. It was really disheartening, though unsurprising, to see how it was squashed. My daughter…was eighteen months old when the Portland campus cleared, and I had been going down there for general assembly that day. We watched the Occupy Portland get evicted from a safe distance, because she was a little one. That was hard and really disappointing. I thought we were placed in a moment where real change might happen”
New York and Portland’s fights for affordable housing
“I feel a little guilty as a transplant from New York. Though I think we are less vilified than the transplants from California. I’m hoping that Portland does a better job at protecting its citizens and its housing than New York has…”
And here’s Luna’s full reading that we excerpted in the Fiction Episode.