Carol Edgarian: “Vera”

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Author, Carol Edgarian. Photo courtesy of Carol Edgarian

Vera is a fifteen-year-old girl who cobbles together her life, and gains access to her destiny, following the tragic 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent widespread fires. Carol Edgarian’s “Vera” is the story of this strong, capable, and independent girl whose voice is the voice of the book. Vera handles everything: the corrupt mayor, the man who may have been her father, and the search for her lost mother. The book follows the stories of those who rise out of the ashes of a crushed society—marginalized characters who seize an opportunity to find agency and redefine themselves.

Excerpt from “Vera” by Carol Edgarian.

Vera
A Novel Excerpt
by Carol Edgarian

I always thought of my city as a woman. But the house, it turned out, was a woman too. When the quake hit, she groaned. Her timbers strained to hold on to their pins, the pins snapping. And the rocks beneath the house? They had voices too. And if I ever wondered how long it would take for the world to end, I know: forty-five seconds.
      An unearthly stillness preceded and followed the shaking. It’s what we did and didn’t do in the stillness that determined the rest of our days.
      I lost two mothers that year. The first was Rose. I can’t say where she was born or where her kin came from. The fact is, I don’t know what mix of blood flows through me. I suspect there’s some Persian, possibly Armenian. I understand there may be some Northern African and Spanish in the mix too, and a good pour of French. Spanish by way of Mexico. None of this Rose would confirm or deny. “We’re mutts,” she said, and left it at that.
      One of the harlots claimed that Rose had been found as a waif in the slums of Mexico City. For a fee, she was brought north. I believe that; I believe most anything when it comes to Rose. She spoke five languages; her hair was blue-black, her skin copper, her eyes green. In San Francisco she became a much-favored prostitute, catering to the gold rush miners. Her next clients were the fellows who came after the miners, the suit-wearing bankers and merchants, who thought they could gentle a murderous, gambling, whoring town; they thought they could gentle Rose. Instead she became the grande dame of the Barbary Coast, the Rose of The Rose. She did not raise me. That duty fell to a Swedish widow employed to bring me up to be, I suppose, anything but a hooker. In that, Morie Johnson was successful. I am not a hooker. I am only a thief.

Excerpted from Vera© 2021 Carol Edgarian. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Credits

Host:
Michael Silverblatt

Producers:
Shawn Sullivan, Alan Howard