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Mary Eber­stadt spoke at the CCA this past week. | Wikipedia

Mary Eber­stadt spoke at Hillsdale College this week for the Center for Con­structive Alter­na­tives lecture series on the 1960s, where she spoke on “Para­doxes of the Sexual Rev­o­lution.” A senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute and graduate of Cornell Uni­versity, Eber­stadt is an American essayist and nov­elist whose pieces have appeared in mag­a­zines including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the Wash­ington Post, National Review, First Things, and The Weekly Standard. Eber­stadt also served as a speech writer to Sec­retary of State George Shultz during the Reagan admin­is­tration. She is also the author of a few non­fiction books, including “Adam and Eve After the Pill: Para­doxes of the Sexual Rev­o­lution.”

 

What is the sig­nif­i­cance of writing in your life? Have you always loved writing?

My main vocation hon­estly is being a wife and mother, but I have been writing since I could hold a pencil. I always hope that some­where down there it serves the greater good and tells truths. I regard myself as a counter-cul­tural writer in the sense that a lot of what I do is against the main­stream grain, and that’s not because I want to be con­trarian, it’s just that a lot of what is hap­pening in the main­stream is wrong and bad for people. What I try to do is tell stories, whether in fiction or non­fiction, that tell truths and to do so respect­fully. I also try to engage the other side, and that’s the hardest thing about writing: the other side doesn’t want to talk back.

In all of the dif­ferent types of writing you have done, from speech writing, to essays, to novels, what has been your favorite?

Last year my novel “The Loser Letters” was turned into a play, and it ran for two weeks at Catholic Uni­versity in D.C. That was very exciting and it makes me want to do more fiction writing and more stage writing. This year I have a lot of essay writing and speaking going on, and probably a book that will include what I did here today and a few other chapters. After that I want to get back to fiction.

What do you hope to instill in the hearts of your audience?

One thing is that there are truths they may not be aware of, and I’m trying to impart to them. Another thing is to give people morale who feel like they are a minority, they’re not a minority here on this campus, but out in the wider world I’m very aware of how coun­ter­cul­tural a tra­di­tional Christian message can be. Part of what I try to do, espe­cially with stu­dents, is give them ammu­nition, in a fig­u­rative sense, so they feel like somebody’s got their back and somebody under­stands how hard it is for them to be coun­ter­cul­tural too. Part of it is intel­lectual, but part of the work is of the heart.

Is there someone you grew up admiring, maybe an author or another role model you’ve always hoped to follow in their foot­steps?

Intel­lec­tually there are so many, but I draw a lot of inspi­ration from the Russian nov­elists. Tolstoy, Dos­to­evsky, Solzhenitsyn,and the reason is that they were crawling out of a serious place and time in their dif­ferent eras that they put a primacy on the truth. Solzhen­itsyn espe­cially writes bril­liantly about truth telling and the impor­tance of it.

From what I under­stand your husband is also an author. What does he write about? How did you meet?

He’s an econ­omist and a demog­rapher. He’s done a lot of work on inter­na­tional issues including world poverty and North and South Korea. We’ve been married for almost 30 years. I was single and working at a mag­azine, and he had written a piece and I wrote him a sort of fan note. It was the only time I’ve ever done some­thing like that. I thought he was some sort of estab­lished old pro­fessor. When he came out to New York, he said he was going to take me out to lunch because he liked my note. When he came through the mag­azine door, he was 30 years younger than I thought he was.

 

Living in a society where the culture is strongly opposed to con­ser­v­ative Christian values, how do we stay true to our values and be that light to the world?

I’m not sug­ar­coating it; it’s really tough, and I think it’s espe­cially tough to be a young Christian today. On the other hand, there is a lot of reason for hope. Part of what we’re meant to do is bring other people in, including through our example. The strongest thing our side has going for it, and it’s the same thing Chris­tianity has always had going for it, is that we have an actual com­munity. That’s why I remain an optimist because that sense of com­munity draws people in.  

 

What’s your per­spective on Hillsdale College? Is this your first time here? What have you heard about the school?

Yes, this is my first time to Hillsdale College, but what I’ve heard is that the stu­dents are intel­lec­tually serious, that the faculty are very ded­i­cated, that it’s vibrant, and every­thing I have seen here has affirmed all of those impres­sions. The spirit here carries on after people leave here and it’s won­derful to see.