Gotham Ghostwriters Craft Interviews highlight the extraordinary talent of our writer community. Each month, L. M. Archer interviews a member of our network about one of their books, delving into their inspiration and creative process.
This month, Archer asks writer Raina Lipsitz all about her book, The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics.
You have a new book coming out. When is the book due out, and what was
the impetus for writing it?
My book, The Rise of a New Left, is coming out on September 27th.
I was inspired to write it because I’d been covering a new generation of political candidates who were challenging old orthodoxies, and I wanted to take a closer look at the leftward shift in U.S. politics. Interviewing people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who is, at this point, almost a mythic figure—made me want to dig deeper and paint a more nuanced portrait of who these new leaders are and where they’re coming from.
I also wanted to spend time with and write about not just political celebrities but the people on the ground who are helping to elect candidates like AOC nationwide.
How long did the process of writing the book take, from start to finish?
Over three years, depending on what counts as “start” and “finish.” I was first approached about writing it in early 2019 and it’s coming out in late September 2022.
I did the bulk of the research and writing between July 2020 and April 2021, the bulk of the revisions between July 2021 and April 2022, and have been working with my agent and publisher to promote it since May of this year.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered while writing it?
The biggest challenge was the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, I would have met more of the people I interviewed in person and attended more in-person events. It was challenging to describe people I’d had intense, in-depth conversations with but hadn’t actually met in person.
It was also extremely challenging to write what I hope is a lively, compelling, and readable book at a time when businesses were shut down or restricted, it was dicey to travel, and a lot of people, myself included, were mostly staying at home.
Any unexpected lessons learned while writing the book?
I was surprised and moved that so many people, the vast majority of whom I had never met, were willing to speak with me on the record for a book. It takes a great deal of courage, trust, and willingness to be vulnerable to say “Yes” to a reporter.
I also learned that I am capable of writing a book; I think some people, especially but not only men, are born knowing that, but I’m not one of them. It was a relief to figure that out!
Any favorite chapter(s) and/or section(s)? If so, which one(s) and why?
The preface, because it’s—hopefully!—funny, engaging, sets the scene, and reveals a little bit about me, and chapters 4 (“Sanders-Style Populism Comes to Pennsylvania”) and 5 (“A Country on Fire”).
Chapter 4 contains some of the book’s best scenes, because I actually went to Philadelphia shortly before the 2020 presidential election and met some of the people I was writing about face-to-face.
And I think chapter 5 does a good job of capturing the nightmarish quality of 2020, and the many ways in which the country was both literally on fire and metaphorically aflame.
How has your affiliation with Gotham Ghost Writers (GG) helped inform your writing life?
GG has been such a great resource for so many years. Among other things it has helped me learn how to truly listen to and understand another person and channel their voice, which is a crucial skill for a writer and incredibly useful and transferable in other contexts as well. What I appreciate most is the opportunity to learn from other writers and to feel like I’m part of a community.
Where may readers obtain a copy of your book?
You may pre-order it directly from Verso’s website or request it at your favorite local, independent bookstore. (It’s also available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but I encourage supporting local, independent bookstores whenever possible!)
Anything else I haven’t asked you that you think is important for GG readers to know about your new book?
I’d just like to say that while I was beyond thrilled to sign a book contract, particularly with a publisher I admire as much as Verso, I was also terrified and often felt like I had no idea what I was doing and no business doing it.
I’m incredibly grateful for everyone who spoke with me for and about this book and cheered me on. The book itself is a testament to the human spirit and the resilience of millions of people, some young and some not, who will never stop fighting for a more just world. I wrote most of it before it was clear who would win the 2020 presidential election or what the Biden administration would be like or what new challenges we would face as a society in 2022. Some things are better now and some are decidedly worse. Writing it taught me that the arc of the moral universe is long, and it doesn’t bend toward justice without sustained human effort. Joining that effort is not just an obligation; it’s a path to joy and hope.