Author Nancy Grossman Visits West

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Author Nancy Grossman Visits West

By Fatima Farha

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Nancy Grossman, author of “A World Away,” attended the Niles West Book Club meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 30, joining students for their discussion of her book. This marks the first instance of the actual author of a book visiting a club meeting.

Grossman attended University of Illinois, where she received both her MSW and BSW degrees. After deciding that social work was not the career for her, she went to Columbia College to earn her MA in Teaching of Writing. She is currently the Assistant Director of the Honors program at DePaul University. She is also the sister of psychology teacher Steve Grossman. “A World Away” is her debut novel.

This novel follows the life of a young girl who was raised in an Amish community. At the age of 16, Eliza is on the brink of rumspringa, a tradition of the Amish to allow the teenagers in the community to experience the outside world for a while. At the end of the rumspringa, these young adults are then asked to choose between the Amish lifestyle and the other world outside of that community. The book depicts the journey that Eliza faces in the real world and ends with her final decision.

“When I was in high school… I would go out on different trips. I went to Pennsylvania to this Amish community and saw a 15-year-old girl who was serving me. She was done with school because they only go up to eighth grade. I kept thinking about her. I tried out different narratives about this experience, but I realized it was the girl’s journey.  I wanted her to visit the world we live in,” Grossman said about her inspiration for the story.

According to Grossman, she wanted to portray the story of a girl who literally went from one world to another. She wanted to show a teenager who was like a “fish out of water,” so it would be a story that many young adults could relate to and connect with. Grossman felt that it was important for young adults to have novels that are more about them than anything else. When asked how she would feel about this book if she had read it as a teenager, she said she would be “so happy that a book was written for her.”

In order to make the story more realistic, Grossman did elaborate research on the lives of teenagers by asking her own daughter as well as her nieces and nephews. She also read many books on the Amish and visited more Amish communities. Most of her novel focuses on adolescent ordeals and how teenagers are teenagers, no matter where they are from, and how they experience many common situations during those difficult years of transition between childhood and adulthood.

“I love the ‘fish out of water’ concept. Part of being an adolescent, we feel like a fish out of water at some point. That’s who we are,” Grossman said.

The students who read the book for the meeting found it to be an unique story.

“It was interesting to see someone else’s view of our life in a big city and the conflicts that arise here,” junior Andra Sabou said.

Book Club meeting sponsor and English teacher Sharon Swanson also found the novel very thought-provoking. According to Swanson, the book made her want to learn more and find out what kind of lives the Amish people led.

“When I really like a book, I go and look it up. I actually felt like researching the book and learning about the Amish. It was really very interesting,” Swanson said.

Grossman has now begun working on her next novel.