Hunter Liguore’s book, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup was published by Yeehoo Press on 24 August 2021.
Hunter kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup.
The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is a rumination on our ability to recognize our interconnectedness with ‘all’ people. It is wisdom passed down many generations through my own nanni, who understood that in order to eat a single meal, it takes the whole world to make it.
Our dinner table doesn’t end at the four corners, but is reciprocal; it extends to all those faceless helpers involved with making sure we’re nourished—and that’s a very beautiful thing! When we take the time—through slow-cooking—to see and talk about ‘all’ people in a bowl of soup, then we can begin to notice it in other areas of our life with the same care and unity.
The more we see our oneness, the more each meal—each bowl of soup—becomes a celebration, and our struggle with each other falls away, and the harmony we experience within will be reflected back.
2. What inspired the book?
Reciprocity (shu, 恕). In the case of WWINS, it’s more than an intellectual understanding of ‘I will treat others with the same respect I want to be treated.’ It goes deeper and implies, ‘Who I am on the inside is the same as what is on the inside of others,’—and if that’s true, we can experience and discover for ourselves the delicate thread that connects all people.
When we meet others, we can do so with an awareness that their suffering is our suffering, felt and experienced the same way, and through empathy, through not wanting suffering for ourselves, we will not want it for another (ji suo bu yu, wu shi yu ren 己所不欲, 勿施於人)—thus, we will seek harmony and peace in all our words, actions, and relationships.
This was the foundation of the story, which can be practiced while making soup! As our understanding of reciprocity grows, so does our empathy. The circle of life expands, as we recognize we’re not able to live without those beautiful helpers, which we can now honor with our thankfulness, our kindness, our understanding, our patience, and most of all, our self-responsibility that discerns: we are the root of others’ suffering when we set aside our interconnection.
We can always take time to recognize our interconnection with others. Even in a bowl of soup!
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
Let’s see… writing is very much a way of life, for me—meaning, it’s a constant motion, one that has long stopped being a separate weave in the course of a day, a year, or life. Rather, it’s become an integration, that with time and perfection, the art and craft of it becomes sacred—it’s like when the outer pulls or distractions gradually dissipate, and the focus shifts inward, becoming more intuitive and harmonized; it’s no longer separate… but whole. I am never not a writer writing; every breath is writing, and every execution of writing is a sacred pact where I’m given an opportunity to bring love, and unity, cooperation, harmony, and perfection into my craft and into my art, creating for the sake of creating.
4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that surprised you?
I truly trust whatever comes, allowing and moving with it, so no surprises, but more a genuine evolving. It has been a joy to experience the sweetness and heart of our collaboration—between editor, Helen Wu, and illustrator, Vikki Zhang. For me, we’re three seamless workers with a unified goal to bring forth something truly beautiful to others. You can see/feel the harmony of our work in the finished book, which rings with wholeness, above and beyond our individual efforts. To me that’s the jewel of the book and collaboration.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
Our ability to deconstruct our current reality, shifting it, evaluating, contemplating it, and reinventing or recasting it in new miraculous ways—in what is experienced as a cycle, one that is both in flow and encouraging our natural beauty to unfold—to me is constant, never-ending. In this deep, mental workshop of practice and craft, though you’re constantly evolving and working, there is also great stillness. It is far removed from the busyness of tedious/mental rushing, so there is no tiring, no rest period needed, just a whole (or unified) worker creating, innovating, and mastering the next challenge of their intuitive, endless imagination, as the next effortless harmony.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Books (may) represent the collective consciousness in words, and the hope, for me, would be that I’m reading and learning, experiencing and applying, and evolving—so while there are books to treasure at different points of one’s life, it is also wonderful to keep engaging, growing, reading, and expanding to other books that can be cherished and also left, in favour of dismantling the way forward to new vistas and discoveries :-).
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Maybe, ‘what is the most challenging story you’ve written, why, and how did you resolve it?’ The mystery writer Agatha Christie wrote in the opening to one of her books, “I had written this book because it was so difficult to do that the idea fascinated me.” It is very easy to write, to tell a story: we essentially do it all day long, verbally or otherwise. But the act of crafting something that hasn’t been visible or possible for you before is another matter altogether.
When I look at my canon of work, I took on the difficult, the challenging, the impossible, to ensure I could do it, for no one but myself. It’s the type of work that Italian author, Elena Ferrante describes as going into a drawer, meaning, that publication, or if it sees an audience, is not too important in the measure of craft and the physical rendering of what was once impossible to you.
About the Book
There’s something special bubbling in Nanni’s big metal pot. And it smells delicious! What ingredients might be inside? When Nanni lifts the lid on her soup, she reveals the whole world inside: from the seeds that grew into vegetables, to the gardeners who lovingly tended to the plants, to the sun, moon, and stars that shone its light above them. And, of course, no meal is complete without a recipe passed down generations of family, topped and finished with a Nanni’s love.
About the Author
Hunter Liguore’s work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Porridge Magazine, Irish Pages, and more. The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is now available from YeeHoo Press. For more, visit: www.hunterliguore.org or @skytale_writer; link to book: https://www.yeehoopress.com/books/the-whole-world-inside-nans-soup/