Interview with Eileen Pollack - Part 2

Eileen Pollack tells us more about her new novel, A Perfect Life, and the issues she will address regarding women’s role in science.

What advice do you have for today’s young women? Is there anything that you would have liked to hear yourself when you were still in the sciences?

“It’s not you.” I would have wanted to hear that it wasn’t my imagination that it felt harder for me than for the men around me. I don’t think it should be all on the young women to tough it out. I think that once you’re aware of what’s going on and why you feel the way you do, it becomes so much easier to laugh it off, change the system, ignore the system… you can’t fight an enemy that you don’t recognise.

I kind of wrote the book for women who went into the sciences and now wonder why they feel unappreciated. But a lot of what I talk about in the book can apply to all the women who got discouraged early and aren’t in the room at all. Maybe we can reach them too!

A Perfect Life, your new novel about a female genetics researcher, comes out in May. What was your inspiration?

In the 1980s, there was a woman named Nancy Wexler whose mother died from Huntington’s chorea. Nancy had a 50/50 chance of carrying the disease herself and was trying to find the gene. She had decided not to get married or have children unless she knew she didn’t have the gene. Around that time, Arlo Guthrie [son of Woody Guthrie, country singer] was also 50% at risk, since his father died from it. I then got the idea: What if these two people fell in love? As a couple, the risk is even higher. Are human beings going to make their family decisions in the future based on genetic knowledge? Are we going to try to have perfect risk-free lives by doing all these tests and studies?

In A Perfect Life, what issues will you address regarding women’s role in science?

I didn’t write my new book to create a role model for women in science. I wrote it because Nancy Wexler’s research and life story fascinated me. But I do think that we all need to see TV shows and read books that have women who are scientists who aren’t crazy, nerdy geeks the way Amy on “The Big Bang Theory” seems to be. It should feel more natural for young women to want to be scientists!

Have you ever read a book by Eileen Pollack? Let us know at @4womeninscience

For Women in Science

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