Kushner, Eve 1968-

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KUSHNER, Eve 1968-

PERSONAL:

Born September 22, 1968, in Winston-Salem, NC; daughter of Jack (a neurosurgeon and businessman) and Annetta (Horwitz) Kushner; married Haroon Chaudhri (an engineer), April 12, 1992. Ethnicity: "White." Education: Attended University of CaliforniaSan Diego, 1987, and University of London, 1988-89; Dartmouth College, B.A., 1990. Politics: "Liberal, feminist." Religion: "Non-practicing Jew."

ADDRESSES:

Home—463 Arlington Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707. Office—1730 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94709. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER:

Dharma Enterprises, Oakland, CA, proofreader, 1991-92; Spruced up Manuscripts, Berkeley, CA, editor, 1991-99; freelance writer, 1991—.

WRITINGS:

Experiencing Abortion: A Weaving of Women's Words, Haworth Press (Binghamton, NY), 1997.

Contributor of essays and articles to newspapers and journals, including San Francisco Chronicle.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

Wild Buildings, Wild Lives.

SIDELIGHTS:

Eve Kushner's decision to write a book about women's personal experiences of abortion came out of her own experience; confronting an unplanned pregnancy in her early twenties, Kushner came face-to-face with abortion not just as a political issue but also as an experience loaded with emotional considerations. As she once told CA, in Experiencing Abortion: A Weaving of Women's Words, "I aimed to explore how abortion resonated in a woman's life, particularly in the months after the procedure." The experience of researching and writing the book, a collection of interviews with women of various ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, had an unexpected benefit: "It allowed me to make contact with dozens of women on a soul-to-soul level. Women spoke about the people they loved, the dreams they had, the way they felt about their bodies. This level of honesty touched me deeply."

Kushner's interviews are grouped under chapter titles such as "Moving through Moodiness" and "Making Peace with Our Bodies." Interviewees are identified by an alias, by race, and by age, and many details of personal information are left out or obscured to ensure the interviewees' confidentiality. Reviewing Experiencing Abortion, a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "some of the most interesting considerations here come from women who feel political pressure from both pro-choice and anti-choice factions." One twenty-two-year-old born-again Christian in the book, for example, speaks of how an unplanned pregnancy in the middle of her college career challenged her pro-life politics; she never told her Christian friends about her abortion experience. A twenty-five-year-old pro-choice woman said, "I felt like if in any way I was unhappy, then I was just fueling the anti-choice fires."

Kushner more recently told CA: "For a year I have immersed myself in writing a nonfiction book called Wild Buildings, Wild Lives, for which I have not yet sought a publisher. In this book I'm profiling five visionary architects who believe that their brand of architecture can change something fundamentally wrong in society.

"It may seem arbitrary for me to be writing about mostly male visionary architects. After all, my first book, Experiencing Abortion, was about women's intimate, emotional experiences. Nevertheless, this new focus feels just right, and I'm amazed at the curvy path that led me to where I am.

"Everything changed for me in March 2002, when I interviewed an artist who makes paper. Given the relatively narrow topic, I didn't expect much to come from that interview, but it turned out to be the best I'd ever conducted. That night, still charged with the electricity of the interview, I took a leisurely walk. Insanely happy, I tried to recall whether any past projects had made me feel so alive. I knew I'd felt stimulated when interviewing women about their abortions. It was riveting to hear people divulge intensely private bits of their lives, voicing the unspoken (and seemingly unspeakable). To create a shocking level of intimacy with a stranger, to dive beneath the veneer of everyday life, to talk honestly for a change… who could ask for more?!"

"After I published Experiencing Abortion, I did a few other inspiring interviews, though they were few and far between. I mainly wrote articles and essays about anything from Japan to restaurants and databases. The diversity of topics held my interest but lent my life little coherence and meaning.

"As I walked along on that March evening, I sifted through my most positive experiences with writing projects. And the throughline quickly jumped out at me: I love interviewing people about matters of utmost importance to them. Clearly, that's what I needed to do again. And it would be most satisfying if I did so as part of a book project, rather than writing piecemeal articles that gratified me only temporarily.

"I wondered what kind of book I could write. In and of itself, that question felt radical. For years I had maintained that I didn't want to write another book. I felt exhausted whenever I remembered the immense work that went into Experiencing Abortion, as well as the crushing rejections, the hurtful comments from prospective agents and publishers, and a few other obstacles that caught me by surprise. Whenever a book idea popped into my head, I asked myself whether it would be worth all that pain, and it turned out to be.

"Before I walked many more blocks, an idea crystallized. I decided that I would profile people with fascinating niches, people who had taken specific pursuits to extraordinary lengths. I would seek people who cared about that passion enough to center their lives around it—and who stayed the course, no matter what others thought. After publishing an article about each person, I would collect these articles into a book.

"I got to work immediately, starting with the papermaker. And the project took off as nothing in my life had before.… These articles often elicited passionate responses…. I understand the enthusiasm. It's exciting to hear about people going to all lengths to pursue their dreams. And when this pursuit meshes with deep beliefs, the stories have even more resonance. I think many of us would create such vibrant, meaningful existences if we knew how. What's more important than crafting a purposeful life?

"Knowing that these articles had found an eager audience, I felt sure that a book-length collection would fare well, too. But when I consulted with two marketing experts, they informed me otherwise. The fascinating individuals didn't fit together in a coherent group, and this, I learned, would not make for an effective book. Deeply frustrated, I kept writing articles about passionate individuals. In July 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle ran my profile of visionary architect Dan Liebermann. And that's when things started happening. I received an invitation to Eco Wave 2003, a conference. I realized that, more than anyone I had profiled up to that point, the architects at the conference clearly lived by their passions and beliefs. I decided to set aside my other profiles and to write a book about visionary architects.

"I realized this book is about more than architecture. Primarily it's about self-actualization. Through the example of visionary architects, I'm exploring what it means to fulfill your potential—to become the person you must be, the person only you can be."

"My book has surprised me with its oddly organic quality. Every chapter ends up assuming a far different shape and purpose than I expected. I have never written this way before. Writing profiles is a complicated and endlessly stimulating process. I'm buoyed by the thought that I can do this indefinitely. After the architect book I hope to do a book in which I profile several comedians. And after that… who knows where all this will take me?! As with the writing itself, I'm letting the process carry me along."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Kushner, Eve, Experiencing Abortion: A Weaving of Women's Words, Haworth Press (Binghamton, NY), 1997.

PERIODICALS

Express Books, August, 1997, review of Experiencing Abortion: A Weaving of Women's Words.

Family Medicine, Volume 30, number 7, p. 521.

Publishers Weekly, April 7, 1997, review of Experiencing Abortion, p. 86.