T Cooper, a native of Malibu, is working on a third book after the successful release of her novel “Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes.”
By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor
A former summer employee at The Malibu Times, T Cooper has made a name for herself in the literary world with the publication of her second novel, “Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes.” The book, which was released in March, has appeared in the Top 10 on the Los Angeles Times’ bestseller list and has received rave reviews from several critics nationwide.
“Lipshitz Six” is an American immigration story with a twist. The novel begins with the Russian Jewish Lipshitz family’s escape from the Kishinev pogroms of 1903 to America. While at Ellis Island, the family’s blond-haired, blue-eyed son goes missing. The parents are unable to find him, and eventually move to Texas. Years later, the mother becomes convinced that the blond-haired, blue-eyed Charles Lindbergh is actually her son. She becomes obsessed with the aviator, with her obsession affecting those around her. The story continues into 21st century New York City with the last living Lipshitz, T Cooper (the character is a man, the author is a woman), who works as a Bar Mitzvah entertainer who impersonates rapper Eminem. When Cooper returns to Texas to bury his suddenly deceased parents, he learns about his family history and tries to make sense of its many loose ends and distortions.
“My book deals with the question of ‘Can you write a family history?'” Cooper said in a recent interview from her Manhattan apartment. “History gets distorted so much. [The book] was very much about, ‘Can you tell the real story, and does it really matter what the real story is?'”
Cooper’s book is loosely based on her own family. Her mother’s side of the family came to the United States from Russia around the turn of the 20th century to escape their homeland’s persecution of Jews. After the family arrived in America, one of the boys disappeared.
“That’s the story that was passed down,” Cooper said. “No one really knows.”
For this book Cooper did a great deal of research about turn-of-the-century immigration to the United States and Russian history. She spent many hours reading numerous books on the subjects, wanting to make sure she had all her facts right about the subjects, despite the fact she was writing a fiction book.
“There is so much history, and you just want to get it right,” Cooper said. “It [“Lipshitz Six”] was not fun to write by any means, it was hard as hell.”
Although doing the research for the book and writing it were difficult, Cooper said, in some ways, writing her second novel was easier than writing the first one.
“I had more confidence in my writing [this time],” she said. “I saw the mistakes that I had made in the past. I very consciously made a decision not to make them this time. It also helps knowing your book will be published. When you write your first book, you don’t know if it’s going to be published.”
And this time Cooper has stepped up with the size of the publisher. While an independent company published her first novel, “Some of the Parts,” Cooper’s second novel was published by Dutton, a division of the Penguin Group.
Thirty-year-old Cooper, whose full first name is Teresa, grew up in Malibu. She is the daughter of longtime locals and former owners of the Malibu Beach Inn, Vicky and Marty Cooper. T Cooper attended Middlebury College in Vermont and in the summer between her freshman and sophomore years she worked for The Malibu Times.
Cooper taught English in New Orleans for a couple years and moved to New York City in 1996. She has worked in a variety of editorial departments and written for a few magazines. Cooper earned a master’s degree from Columbia University’s writing program. Her first book was released in 2002.
Although she still returns to California regularly to visit, Cooper said she prefers New York.
“I’ve always felt very alive here,” Cooper said. “New York is just a fit for me, culturally and architecturally. It’s kind of like the biggest pond you’re going to go to.”
An anthology book edited by Cooper and Adam Mansbach, “A Fictional History of the United States with huge chunks missing,” will be released next month. The book is a collection of fiction stories about American history in the spirit of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”
“I like playing with the notion of history,” Cooper said. “The winners tell history. That’s a very powerful truth that’s been around since the beginning of time. The minute history is happening, they’re rewriting it and funneling it for the press. I think it’s important to reclaim history for ourselves.”