Seeing as your shoes are soon to be on fire
Q: What’s The Deal With Your Book With The Funny Title?
LM: On a trip to Seattle, I bought my toddler a board book I spotted in the gift shop of the Chihuly glass exhibit. It’s called Beautiful Oops, and there’s a quote from it that encompasses why I wrote Seeing As Your Shoes Are Soon To Be On Fire (and pretty much my entire philosophy):
“Oops! When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something… beautiful!”
My goal had been to find lasting, beautiful love, but my love life til then consisted of one OOPS! after another. Out of the (sometimes literal) wreckage emerged many lessons, culminating in these essays, composed in the wake of my piece When Mom Is On The Scent And Right for the Modern Love column in the New York Times .
Shoes chronicles misadventures in the search for love, bound together under the watchful eye of my eccentric, single mother, a “profiler” for the U.S. State Department who claims to discern someone’s true nature simply by looking on Facebook. She uses her professional aptitude to try to weed out the “wrong” men in my life. But things take a strange turn in response to a piece of feedback I received about the article. A reader wrote in: “This mother has done an awful lot to tell her daughter about who’s wrong for her, but what has she really done to help her find one who’s right?” So my mother began taking an active role in trying to find me “the one” – she started a blog and sent me on dates. The results were enlightening and surprising, and led to some central dilemmas:
How do we go about finding love in our times? Is a personal ‘profiler’ any better than a digital one? Do our parents really know best? And what happens when, rather than trying to evade a controlling parent, you hand her the reins to your (love) life instead?
Some answers to these and more are found in Seeing As Your Shoes Are Soon To Be On Fire. (So is the answer to the question of the odd title. Hint: it’s literal.) Find me via the contact form to send advice questions or have my mother “profile” anyone you’re dating or thinking of giving the opportunity to enter your heart-space. Here, we talk about all this on LA’s awesome NPR affiliate, KCRW.
The Marriage Act
After her traditional engagement to her high school sweetheart falls apart, Liza Monroy faced the prospect of another devastating loss: the deportation of her best friend Emir. Desperate to stay in America, Emir tried every legal recourse to obtain a green card knowing that his return to the Middle East—where gay men are often beaten and sometimes killed—was too dangerous. So Liza proposes to Emir in efforts to keep him safe and by her side. After a fast wedding in Las Vegas, the couple faces new adventures and obstacles in both L.A. and New York City as they dodge the INS. Their relationship is compounded further by the fact that Liza’s mother works for the State Department preventing immigration fraud. Through it all, Liza and Emir must contend with professional ambition, adversity, and heartbreak and eventually learn the true lessons of companionship and devotion. This marriage that was not a marriage, in the end, really was.
The Marriage Act is a timely and topical look at the changing face of marriage in America and speaks to the emergent generation forming bonds outside of tradition—and sometimes even outside the law.
- “Despite its breezy style, Monroy’s provocative memoir offers more emotional food for thought than can possibly be digested in one sitting. After only reading the introduction, one might wish to remain quiet for a few minutes and ponder her use of the phrase gender-neutral marriage. As such, this phraseology perfectly embodies Monroy’s intentional marriage to a gay man. Though fraught with one psychological or legal time bomb after another, the marriage worked, despite the unimaginable odds. The book is bright. It’s chatty. But Monroy manages to deliver a hefty emotional wallop.”
— Booklist, Starred Review
- “A tender, true exploration of human relationships.”
— Interview magazine
- “This book is a blast — it’s a political act, a buddy story, a love story, and a family saga gone beautifully and tenderly wrong. Read it.”
— Anthony Swofford, New York Times bestselling author of Jarhead
- “The Marriage Act is a gripping, cinematic page-turner that, as the best memoirs do, opens avenues to larger, zeitgeisty conversations. Here, immigration, civil rights, gender issues, and same-sex marriage are high-stakes backdrops of a deeply personal, affecting tale of love, friendship, and family.”
— Julia Scheeres, bestselling author of Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives
- “With The Marriage Act, Liza Monroy portrays a critical moment in our nation’s troubled history of attempting to legislate love while also opening a space for future iterations of the institution that go beyond arguments of gender and into notions of friendship, passion, and dedication. A remarkable and generous book.”
— Cris Beam, author of To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care
- “Love is not a limited commodity. Sexuality enjoys limits far beyond heterosexual monogamy. And marriage is a promise limited only by those who make it. The Marriage Act doesn’t just change the game when it comes to how we think about love and sex and marriage. It creates an entirely new one that we’re all about to play.”
— Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage
- “Monroy’s timely memoir rises beyond sex and politics, ultimately revealing that only two partners themselves can determine what makes their love and union authentic.”
— Publishers Weekly
- “Through an absurdly beautiful act of devotion, which forced her to become an outlaw, in a time (now) and a country (ours) where the laws are cruel and outdated, Liza Monroy emerges as both an artist and a hero.”
— Nick Flynn, bestselling author of The Reenactments, The Ticking Is The Bomb, and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (aka Being Flynn)
- “An irresistible blend of candor, humor, insight, lively prose, and plain old humanity, this roller coaster of a memoir about relationships, place, and displacement is so much fun to read!”
— Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait Inside My Head and To Show and to Tell: the Craft of Literary Nonfiction
- “The best part about the gay marriage debate (and its reality) is the opportunity for each of us to think about what marriage means to us — to name and practice the values it represents. For Liza Monroy, marriage is a path to justice, a commitment to a friend, and, above all, marriage is love.”
— Jennifer Baumgardner, Publisher of the Feminist Press and author of We Do! American Leaders Who Believe in Marriage Equality
- “Monroy questions the meanings of friendship, love, discrimination, and breaking boundaries. But her wicked sense of humor makes THE MARRIAGE ACT a brisk, entertaining read. You’ll never think of ‘love and marriage’ the same way again.”
— Leora Tanenbaum, author of Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation
- “Monroy’s absorbing view of jet-setting Mexican teens raises the deepest questions about how young people piece together their cultural and personal identities and move with confidence into the adult world.”
- “A pungent characterization of Mexico City, where political assassinations and bribery are commonplace in a 12th grader’s life.”
— Kirkus Reviews
- “Monroy, whose own coming-of-age— surprise! closely tracks Mila’s, marvelously captures modern Mexico City, from the perpetual smog that obscures the stars to the frenetic pace in the touristy downtown Zona Rosa. Through Mila’s eyes, we see anew that bad things happen to good people; that we all make poor choices but get some do-overs; and that the growing pains of these years can be excruciating but also liberating.”
— Elle Magazine
- “Monroy renders Mexico City in all its contradictory aspects — poverty, beauty, danger, pollution, opportunity — and makes Mila’s struggle to find herself very real. The title, which suggests south-of-the-border hallucinogens, doesn’t really suggest the complexity and honesty of this excellent debut novel.
— Seattle Times
- “Liza Monroy, wise beyond her years, brilliantly portrays the highs and lows and loves of school life, the episodes we’ve all experienced and never forget. Spirited, harrowing, and utterly compelling, Monroy’s captivating voice will be with you long after you’ve finished reading.”
— Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
- “Liza Monroy’s coming of age story set in Mexico manages to be hot, hilarious, and heartbreaking — all at the same time. A stunning debut.”
— Susan Shapiro, author of Lighting Up and Five Men Who Broke My Heart
- “Liza Monroy has a magical voice, the kind that makes you want to read the next sentence and then the one after that to see what turn her writing will take next. She is observant, funny, and curiously wise about the culture we live and flounder in.”
— Daphne Merkin, author of Dreaming of Hitler and Enchantment
- “Really entertaining, incredibly well dofe, almost too good to have been written by someone her age”
— James Frey
The daughter of an American diplomat, Mila has spent her childhood moving from country to country. When her mother is reassigned to Mexico City for Mila’s senior year of high school, Mila has no idea what to expect. Mexico seems to be a country with the ultimate freedoms: the wealthy students at her private international school — the sons and daughters of Mexico’s ruling class — party hard at exclusive clubs, dress in expensive clothing, and see more of their housekeepers than they do of their globe-trotting parents. But Mila has more in common with them than they know: her father, whose identity has been kept from her, is a high-ranking politician with whom Mila’s mother had a one-night stand in her hippie days. Now Mila is determined to discover who he is, whatever the cost may be.
Mexican High is a coming-of-age story about identity, belonging, and first love. In a setting rife with sex, drugs, and political corruption, it is also a revealing look at elite Mexican society and its freedoms, dangers, and excesses. Monroy’s flawless evocation of the brink of adulthood, in many ways mirrored by the turmoil of Mexico City itself, makes this a truly memorable debut.