by Len Lear
“I recently read an article by a 24-year-old woman who’d been dealing with chronic illness for 10 years. In her piece, she wrote, ‘I’ve yet to read a book that features a relatable, young, chronically ill protagonist. Where are they? … Where are the authors who really understand what it means to live life in this way?’
“I nearly jumped through my computer when I read this! I wrote ‘Cursed’ for her — and for the countless other young people who feel invisible and misunderstood, whether that’s due to medical conditions or any other reasons.”
These are the words of Karol Ruth Silverstein, a Mt. Airy native who will be speaking in the next two weeks at three area locations about her “Young Adult” novel, “Cursed,” which essentially chronicles a lifetime struggle with a debilitating illness.
Silverstein will speak at Lovett Memorial Library in Mt. Airy at an event for local authors on Wednesday, July 10, 7 to 8:30 p.m.; also on Saturday, July 13, 4 p.m. at Mt. Airy Nexus, 520 Carpenter Ln. (sponsored by Big Blue Marble Bookstore across the street), and Barnes & Noble, Rittenhouse Square on Monday, July 15 at 6 p.m.
Silverstein suffered with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and still does, even as an adult.
“Arthritis is different for different people,” she told us last week, “and it’s hit me particularly hard. I’ve had 16 joint replacement surgeries and identify as disabled.”
How long did it take Silverstein to write “Cursed?”
“Forever. Seriously, longer than I’m willing to admit. In my defense, I’m always working on multiple projects, have a part-time job and had to deal with a few medical dramas during the time I was working on the book. I also decided that with this particular book, I would allow it to take however long it needed to take. It’s extremely raw and personal — not the kind of story one can bang out in a couple weeks.”
Silverstein was not one of those people who “always knew she wanted to be a writer.” On the other hand, she remembers creating ongoing soap-opera-like stories with her dolls and stuffed animals. They were divided into families and would have romances, fights and reconciliations. She later became hooked on film and television producing as a young adult.
“It took me a while to realize that writing was my greatest joy, first focusing on screenwriting and then beginning to write children’s books as well.”
Silverstein, who moved to Los Angeles in 1990 and now lives in West Hollywood, is not your typical interview subject, if there is such a thing. When questioned, “May I ask how old you are?” her reply was “You may certainly ask!”
Although we do not know where Silverstein went to high school, I can say that she attended Community College of Philadelphia and went on to La Salle University, graduating magna cum laude from in 1990 with a dual major in English and Communications. She has also taken college-level writing courses at UCLA Extension, as well as countless writing workshops.
After attending the American Film Institute in L.A., Silverstein had a short-lived career as a Producing Fellow.
“It was physically very difficult for me, and I really wanted to write rather than produce. I worked at a small independent production company for a year, which was a great experience, and did a season on the Fox TV show, ‘Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.’ That was a thrill, as I was big fan of the show.”
Silverstein, who is still a freelance screenwriter, was asked which films and TV shows she has not worked on are your favorites?
“An impossible question! On the TV side, I’m a sucker for medical shows and watch virtually all of them. I think ‘Lost’ was one of the best shows of all time and recently realized that watching ‘The Monkees’ every afternoon as a kid is probably what made me want to live in Los Angeles. More recently, two movies that completely blew me away were ‘Whiplash’ and ‘Eighth Grade.’”
Which talent that Silverstein does not have would she most like to have?
“In an alternate universe, I’d love to train and compete as a Ninja Warrior. (I’m OBSESSED with ‘American Ninja Warrior!’) I also think it would be super-cool (not to mention handy) to have some basic carpentry and auto mechanic skills.”
What does Silverstein miss most, if anything, about Philly?
“My family. No question. But I don’t miss the weather one bit!”
If Silverstein could live at any earlier time and place in history, where and when would it be?
“I grew up in the ‘70s but always lamented not being born a little earlier, believing that I’d have made a great flower child. Like, how cool would it have been to go to Woodstock? Then again, there was no ADA, and options and protections for disabled people were pretty dismal. Maybe I’m better off right where I am?”
While many famous authors and playwrights, starting as far back as Sophocles and including J.D. Salinger, Eugene O’Neill, Edgar Allen Poe, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, just to name a few, have written about their own dysfunctional families, Silverstein could not be more proud of her own family.
“My mom, Mary Silverstein, is a Chestnut Hill resident currently and was a teacher in Philadelphia for over five decades. She’s had a significant and positive impact on literarily hundreds of people. Talk about a good role model! “And then there’s my sister, Deb Silverstein, who also lives in Chestnut Hill but lived all over the world while serving 24 years in the U.S. Navy. My protagonist in ‘Cursed’ has a really special bond with her really special sister, and that’s totally an homage to my own sis. To use a word my mom hates (because she thinks it’s overused), Deb is awesome!”
For more information, visit KarolRuthSilverstein.com