Since Cheryl Pearl Sucher married a New Zealander in 1999, she has been living between two worlds: the Greater New York City area and the Hawkes Bay of New Zealand, two places that are about as far apart on the planet as one can travel. Though she has often felt torn between her very different lives, she has also felt that her life experience and artistic vision has been enhanced by living as both an insider and an outsider in such different but extraordinary places. This interview series is born out her experience between these worlds, and as a published fiction writer, bookseller, journalist, memoirist and avocational musical traveler.
In this edition, Cheryl talks to Dawn Raffel about her book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney, an extraordinary tale of how a mysterious immigrant "doctor" became the revolutionary innovator of saving premature babies—by placing them in incubators in World's Fair side shows and on Coney Island and Atlantic City. As Dawn Raffel artfully recounts, Dr. Couney figured out he could use incubators and careful nursing to keep previously doomed infants alive, and at the same time make good money displaying these babies alongside sword swallowers, bearded ladies, and burlesque shows. How this turn-of-the-twentieth-century émigré became the savior to families with premature infants, known then as "weaklings"--while ignoring the scorn of the medical establishment and fighting the climate of eugenics--is one of the most astounding stories of modern medicine. And as readers will find, Dr. Couney, for all his opportunistic entrepreneurial gusto, is a surprisingly appealing character, someone who genuinely cared for the well-being of his tiny patients. But he had something to hide.
Dawn Raffel is a journalist, memoirist, and short story writer whose work has been widely anthologized. A longtime magazine editor, she helped launch O, The Oprah Magazine. She has also taught creative writing in the MFA program at Columbia University; at Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia; Montreal; and Vilnius, Lithuania; and at the Center for Fiction in New York. She now works as an independent editor and book reviewer.
Cheryl Pearl Sucher is an award-winning journalist, essayist, reviewer and fiction writer who lives between Cranbury, New Jersey and the Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Ka Hua E Wha: The Southernmost Jewish Community in the World, her contribution to Jewish Lives in New Zealand was published in 2012 by Random House NZ and she has been a frequent contributing book reviewer and feature writer for The NZ Sunday Star-Times and The NZ Listener. Her first novel, The Rescue of Memory, was published by Scribner so long ago she has forgotten the exact date and an excerpt from her second novel in progress, Lost Cities, was published in 2013 in Printer's Row, the Chicago Tribune's literary supplement. From July 2013 to April 2016 she was one of four presenter/interviewers for New Zealand Hawkes Bay Television's half hour interview program CHATROOM.