Ruta Sepetys Talks About 'I Must Betray You'

Ruta Sepetys Talks About 'I Must Betray You'

By The New York Times

The Book Review

Friday, 4 February

Ruta Sepetys writes Y.A. historical fiction that draws plenty of adult readers as well. Her new novel, “I Must Betray You,” is about a Romanian teenager who is blackmailed to become an informer for a Communist regime. On this week’s podcast, Sepetys talks about why she turned her focus to the epochal events of 1989, and about what she wants readers to see in them.

“What I want to get across is the strength and fortitude of the Romanian people, particularly the young people,” Sepetys says. “Oftentimes what we don’t think about is that these authoritarian regimes or totalitarian regimes, they often are disassembled from within. And that’s what happened here. And it was the young people, on Dec. 21, who took to the streets, completely unarmed, and in some cases were attacking tanks with their bare hands. They put themselves in harm’s way. The courage, it blows my mind. And the leader gunned them down, until the military switched sides and sided with the people.” 

The novelist Jami Attenberg visits the podcast to talk about her first memoir, “I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home.” Having written about fictional characters for so long, Attenberg says it was initially a challenge to make herself the central figure.

“It was really hard at first because I couldn’t see myself in that way,” she says. “At some point I did have to make a decision of which version of myself I was going to show to the world, because there are so many versions that are possible.”

Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world, and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

“The Black Prince” by Iris Murdoch

“Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” by Olga Tokarczuk

“Death Be Not Proud” by John Gunther

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.

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