|photo: Leonora Anzaldua
Celia Laskey's debut, Under the Rainbow, was a finalist for the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Laskey''s writing has appeared in Guernica, the Minnesota Review, Day One and elsewhere. She has an MFA from the University of New Mexico and lives in Los Angeles with her wife and their dog, Whiskey. Her second novel, So Happy for You (Hanover Square Press, June 7, 2022), is both a send-up to our collective obsession with the wedding industry complex, and an unexpectedly poignant depiction of female friendship in all its messy glory.
Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:
Robin, a queer academic, reluctantly agrees to be the maid of honor for her best friend, Ellie, who'd kill for the perfect wedding.
On your nightstand now:
I just finished Matrix by Lauren Groff, which was absolutely sublime. I think it's now my favorite book by her. Much like the subject matter, reading it felt like a religious experience! I'm currently reading (and almost finished with) The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang, which is also so good and so cinematic. I can really see it as a film while I've been reading.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I'm not sure if this counts as "child" (probably more like teen), but The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was the first book I ever read that knocked me on my butt, language-wise. Also, a book about a man obsessed with another man appealed to me in some way I couldn't articulate. To a straight reader, Nick is simply interested in Gatsby because he represents the American Dream. But to a queer reader, Nick is interested in Gatsby for other, more private reasons.
Your top five authors:
Well, it would have to start with our lord and savior Alice Munro, followed by Alexander Chee, Amy Bloom, James Baldwin and Garth Greenwell.
Book you've faked reading:
Probably Swann's Way by Marcel Proust in college.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The most recent book I've been an evangelist for is Milk Fed by Melissa Broder. I read it in a breathless trance and gulped it down in two days. And the classic book I'm an evangelist for is Edinburgh by Alexander Chee, which I think is the perfect novel on every level: structure, character, language, etc.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I don't know if I've ever actually done this! I'm very scrupulous and cheap, and I tend to want to know everything about a book before I buy it. That said, a recent book cover I've loved is Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder. I'd also want to buy it for the title! In addition to having a perfect cover and title, the book is also an absolutely absurd (slash hyper-realistic?) gem of a novel.
Book you hid from your parents:
If I had even known of any queer books when I was younger, then I probably would have hidden them! But sadly I just read what everyone else was reading and didn't start reading queer books until my 20s.
Book that changed your life:
This is a really unconventional answer for me, but as research for a future novel I actually just read a nonfiction book called Cured: Strengthen Your Immune System and Heal Your Life by Jeffrey Rediger. He is a reputable doctor who spent 15 years researching patients who experienced spontaneous (and lasting!) remission from terminal diagnoses in order to try to find out why some people survive against all odds. It's very much about the mind-body connection and suggests that our mind has a lot more to do with our healing than we think. I've spent the last year learning a lot about the mind-body connection as a way to manage my migraines, so this book sort of drove home that message and more. Even though I originally picked up the book for novel research, I ended up getting a lot more out of it than I thought I would. It's given me a lot of hope for how I can take a really active role in my health.
Favorite line from a book:
I love the opening line for Amy Bloom's short story "Love Is Not a Pie": "In the middle of the eulogy at my mother's boring and heartbreaking funeral, I began to think about calling off the wedding." I use it all the time when teaching how to open a piece of fiction!
Five books you'll never part with:
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Edinburgh by Alexander Chee, What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell and Come to Me by Amy Bloom.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. It's just so stunning on a sentence level.
The point you're trying to make with So Happy for You:
I wanted to highlight the absurdity of the wedding industrial complex and the harm of the immense societal pressure for women to get married and have this "perfect day." Due to this pressure, I really think many women enter into a form of temporary insanity in the months leading up to their wedding and on their wedding day: they will do anything for it to be perfect.
I also wanted to explore the tension in friendships between people who are eager to conform and people who are loath to conform. In my book I use this expression "the ladder" about the typical journey of getting engaged, having a big wedding, buying a house and having kids. Can people who are climbing the ladder remain friends with those who refuse to climb it?