Books Magazine

On Women’s Rights with Author Juliette Fay

By Anovelsource @thenovellife

Y’all don’t think me too crazy for geeking out over a conversation with Juliette Fay, author of The Tumbling Turner Sisters. Not only has she written 4 award-winning books, she is also quite the impressive person herself!  Her early days were spent as a Jesuit volunteer working with the homeless. She then went on to graduate from Harvard with a master’s degree in public policy. Ms. Fay has seemingly spent a lifetime caring for others while bringing attention to social issues.

In The Tumbling Turner Sisters, {my review here}, the focus is on early 20th century social issues like racism, women’s equality and anti-Semitism. Reading this book made me glad to be living in this time period yet also fascinated by how far we’ve come as a society in a hundred years. And unfortunately, how much further we need to go.

Please join me in welcoming Ms. Juliette Fay!

Juliette Fay

Photo Credit: Kristen Dacey

You write about such controversial issues that were prevalent in 1919, like racial inequality and women’s rights. How did you find a way to approach them with respect and grace?

The sexism and racism of the time was so ubiquitous, such a part of the fabric of everyday life, that most people didn’t see it. It was just the way things were. As with so many forms of prejudice and inequality, it was only when it affected someone you actually you knew that you might say to yourself, “Gee, that’s not fair.”

The two narrators of The Tumbling Turner Sisters are working class teenage white girls from a relatively small town. I had to approach it through their eyes, feel it through their skin. They don’t even know any African-Americans until they meet Tippety Tap Jones.

But they do get to know him, and find him to be helpful, hardworking and tremendously talented. When his race is used against him in such a blatant way, right before their eyes, they are treated to a shocking dose of what he goes through on a regular basis. This changes them, makes them question the social norms they take for granted—and not just about race. About everything. It leads them to look more closely at the inequalities they face as women, and to be ready to stand up and challenge them. To live, as they say, “larger lives.”

Inequality, racism & anti-Semitism tackled in #thetumblingturnersisters

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You highlight the struggles that women had to endure in the 1900’s. Why did you feel it was an important issue to share with women today?

I chose the year 1919 for the novel precisely because it was a time of great social change, especially for women. The question of whether they were competent to vote had raged for 70 years, and was just about to be settled! A big part of that debate was how women’s suffrage would affect society at large—there was genuine fear that if women could vote, they would suddenly become “political,” throw off their apron strings and stop feeding their children. The American family would disintegrate. It was a lot like the argument for slavery: we need someone to do this work, so let’s make it virtually impossible for them to do anything else.

Women and people of color have it vastly better than their forbearers, but society is still rife with racism (though it tends to be more covert) and women still only earn about seventy percent of what men make for the same work. I hope readers will feel both grateful for how much headway we’ve made, and at the same time more aware of the fact that we still have a ways to go. I hope they’ll think about it, talk about it, and maybe even be inspired to take action that keeps us moving in the right direction.

Juliette Fay is the award-winning author of four novels: The Tumbling Turner Sisters, The Shortest Way Home, Deep Down True, and Shelter Me. She received a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree from Harvard University. Juliette lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children. Her website is

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