An Interview With Debra Green Author of ‘The Convention of Wives’

July 28, 2022

“The Convention of Wives is a captivating story about friendship, marriage and survival, but also opens our eyes to the impact of genetic disease and emerging treatments. A delightful and timely read!”

— Karen A. Grinzaid, MS, CGC, Assistant Professor and Executive Director of JScreen at Emory University


About Debra Green

Debra Green has always been drawn to good storytelling, especially historical novels and Broadway musicals. Her debut novel, The Convention of Wives, is a portrait of a friendship born of shared circumstances whose characters bring to life the ever-evolving messiness of friendship and marriage, and the wonder of survival.


What inspired you to write the book? 

Several years ago, I was one of fifty or so ‘convention wives’ accompanying our husbands to a medical meeting. There we sat, propped up on pool lounges reading novels. I wondered what choices these women had made along the way. Unlike me, had they been able to figure out balancing being a wife and mother and working outside the home? What other struggles had they experienced along the way? If only I’d had the nerve to draw several into a sharing circle to garner some wisdom. Instead, I outlined The Convention of Wives.


What do you hope the reader takes away from it?

For women, living within the values and expectations imposed by the era into which we are born is particularly difficult. I fear that my own cohort of young wives and mothers, in the 1980’s and ‘90’s, were so busy digging in our heels to justify our choices (whether staying at home with children or working outside the home), that we rarely showed compassion for each other or admitted how unsure we were about our decisions. My friends and I also discussed our spouses’ level of supportiveness regardless of the choices we’d made, but aside from commiserating, I’m not sure just how helpful or constructive these conversations were. We may have simply lacked the tools we needed to help weather such complex dynamics. I am hopeful that, after reading this novel, discussion of these issues will help women find commonalities of experience, connection, and an expanded perspective.


As significantly, Gaucher disease plays a supporting ‘character’ if you will, in the novel, and I am hopeful this will promote interest in genetic disease testing and treatment in general and an awareness of Gaucher.


What’s one thing that you learned while writing the book?

That life imitates art. Or perhaps art imitates life. 


The ‘character’ of Gaucher helps uncover the family secrets that have remained hidden. My background in healthcare no doubt seeded my imagination with the idea of incorporating a medical issue as one of the underpinnings of the plot.


About six years ago, while considering featuring Gaucher in the book, I attended the Gaucher Foundation’s annual meeting in New York City.  It was eye-opening. I met and spoke with families who were resolutely focused on learning as much as they could about current treatments and the progress of the research. They were— to a person— strong and caring people. Soon afterward, out of curiosity more than anything else, I tested myself for Gaucher using JScreen and came up negative for Gaucher. I went on writing the book and chose to feature Gaucher. A few years later, my older daughter, who had recently gotten married, told me that she also had done testing through JScreen and was a Gaucher carrier. So, somewhat ironically (especially if you read the novel), my husband, who has never been tested for Gaucher, appears to be a carrier. That knowledge profoundly affected me and added another dimension to my feelings about the choice I’d made for the plot of the novel.


JScreen is a non-profit, community-based public health initiative dedicated to preventing Jewish genetic diseases. Headquartered in Atlanta at Emory University School of Medicine, the JScreen initiative is a collaboration among clinical geneticists, socially minded businesses, and nonprofits to provide everyday people with a ready access point to cutting-edge genetic testing technology, patient education, and genetic counseling services.