Archive for the ‘Figs and Pomegranates and Special Cheeses’ Tag


On the day I was born the stock market crashed hitting the wealthy top percent very hard. That was October 28, 1929; the news didn’t reach the papers until the next day. On October 27 the front page had assured readers that all would be well. All had not been well for a long time for folks at the bottom of the ladder and lessons at the top were learned the hard way. I was among the very fortunate. My parents brought me home to a brand-new house with two older siblings and a mortgage. Fortunately my father remained employed and we kept the house – the same house whose photo is on the cover of my newly published book, My Father’s House: Remembering my Swedish-American family. If you want to learn about my family and the historic times in which we lived, that’s the place to do it.

Intellect, learning, religion, and the English language fed discussions around our dinner table where the family gathered every night to enjoy food for the soul as well as for the healthy body. I guess that’s what lay behind my career path. Academic degrees — BA (Connecticut College for Women), MA and PhD (Boston University) — fueled a long teaching career from Johnson Teacher’s College in Johnson, Vermont, to the University of Vermont to Psychology Professorship and Department Chair at Southern Connecticut State University.

In the years before I retired from SCSU (in 1986) I was involved in the teaching of a new course – the Psychology of Women – cobbled together in the early 70s from various readings because it was too new a topic to have a textbook. Together with women faculty from the History, Political Science, and English departments we established a new women’s studies minor. And I did talks around town on “A Healthy Woman is a Crazy Person,” often challenged that if we women had our way it would ruin marriage. And there was once a whole group who walked out on one of my talks because I said, “Abortion is a women’s issue.” People were sensitive. And Oh! what changes have come about since: women reporters in all places on all issues, women pharmacists, women anchors on the evening news, women pilots, women firefighters, police, even captains. 

Maybe that work did destroy marriages. My twenty-year marriage ended in 1976, having produced a son and a daughter with whom I exchange happiness, and two grandchildren, one of each traditional sex. 

It’s probably no surprise that my retirement from teaching morphed into an active private practice which was reduced mightily when I chose Minnesota for my new home in 1995. I refused then to have anything to do with managed care – not the best decision financially. But I did get the opportunity to teach again – at the Adler Graduate School. That pretty much ended when I totaled my car in 2015, a story you can find on my web site:

Before leaving Connecticut I had developed a new interest – the Psychology of Forgiveness. In 1999, four years after arriving in Minnesota When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time were the tangible results. That’s when I learned that one doesn’t make money writing books.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. When I was thirteen I decided I would become a Lutheran minister. That’s the only time I remember my supportive parents ever laughing at me. That’s when I learned I was the wrong body type – female, you know.  But by 2009 my three interests – women, forgiveness, and religion – had come together with the publication of Mrs. Job. Unfortunately people tended to read “Job” as if it referred to a paying occupation, and besides, I had left the PhD after my name. As a consequence, it appeared to be a self-help book for married women seeking work, or something like that. 

Then a new publisher came along wanting to produce it with some new bells and whistles and a different title. So they had me take Mrs. Job off the market while I worked with their editor and we planned on a new title and cover. Sadly, after over a year, they ran out of money. So I self-published the slightly modified book (with no PhD after my name) giving it the title “Figs and Pomegranates and Special Cheeses.” Then, as you might expect, some people thought it was a cookbook. If you’re interested in where the title comes from, it’s on p.50: “Love changes over time. I guess you could say at first it is like feasting on figs and pomegranates and special cheeses, and later it is like enjoying the evening potage. The thrill may not be so great later on, but each day it fills the empty hole that would be hunger if you did not have each other.”

I’ve learned a few lessons in the authoring process. (1) It’s the rare writer who makes money at the craft – or maybe I’m the rare writer who doesn’t. (2) Writing is a pleasure when you own the topic. (3) The best of all worlds is when all one’s interests fall into place. Which brings me to the question why I spent years researching and writing My Father’s House: Remembering My Swedish-American Family. Maybe the best answer lies in the author’s name, Mona Gustafson – Swedish, you know. A way of recapturing the person who has carried an Italian name since 1955. 

And another recent product of the COVID-19 quarantine, This Sucks! I Want to Live, published as a memorial to my friend Nick Spooner who died too young as a result of two glial blastomas. Goodreads hesitated to let me include that book on my site since I had listed Nick as the author and myself as editor. The core of the book is his entries in Facebook from the time of his diagnosis until his final entry less than two months later – the source of the books title. And why did I put it together? I just plain wanted to do it in memory of a man who worked so hard and long to build a good and admirable person only to be snatched away too soon.

I’m not sure what comes next, but I am aware that, given what I’ve learned in my recent studies of racial equity, I would teach a course in personality or developmental psychology differently now. I can see that what the textbooks, and therefore I, used to present was the psychology of middle class, white, European-sourced men (and, after the 1970s) women. Maybe some small book is in the making. I’m open to suggestions.


Yes, this is blatant marketing. But that’s the nice thing about blogging. You don’t have to do any face-to-face explaining. Just feel free to delete.

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and rich storytelling and character development
April 15, 2017
“Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses: A Love Story” is a beautiful novel unlike anything I’ve read before. I am a spiritual person as well as a lover of literature, and I have a special appreciation for the rich literary elements of Biblical narratives. I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this work, yet I didn’t know quite what to expect from this particular vantage point of the trials of Job. In retrospect, I don’t think I could have imagined just how rich and moving Dara’s story would be. While the reader is most likely to assume that the relationship between Dara and Job is the love story referenced in the book’s title, I believe that what makes this book so special is that Mona Gustafson Affinito has provided us with two other love stories. Those love stories are the long-running and often-tested friendship between Dara and Adah, and most importantly in my opinion, the story of how Dara learns to love the woman she becomes. Dara acknowledges the different and connected identities she has as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, and a mother. Yet what I enjoyed the most was the experience of Dara owning her identity as a questioner, and acknowledging both the strengths and faults that come along with that identity. I love that Dara never abandons her own personal growth. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the complexity of Biblical narratives, interesting interpretations and depictions of early feminism, and an in-depth look into the concept of unconditional love.”






39th Review of Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses   8 comments

I’m excited to share with you the latest Amazon US review of Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses. Of course, I would love it if one of these days the book would catch on and I’d see something other than a flat line in the report of sales. But it’s good for the soul to know that someone else has appreciated it. And I certainly am made happy by Kerstin Volbrecht’s kind words.

“By Kerstin Volbrecht on March 26, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a beautiful book about love, friendship (a different manifestation of love), spiritual and personal growth, told by means of the story of Dara and Job. The book starts with Dara’s childhood in a nomad tribe, where she is raised with the values of respect, self-consciousness and the acknowledgement of the Other. The story is told as if one is reading a diary of her life, including her reflections about the occurring events and about how things just are.
Although I’m not inclined to the bible or any religion, I take the religious aspects as metaphors and lessons that are to learn.
The characters are described in a very profound manner, making it easy to get familiar with them and understand their reactions and thinking patterns. The way the book is written is very clear and precise.”

Go to amazon to see this review and all 38 previous.

Thanks, Mona

LATEST REVIEW OF “FIGS … “   8 comments

I’ve been having so many delays since my monitor went back on me and I had problems getting, installing, and working my new one. My writing – even my e-mailing and my walking a half-hour each day–  is way behind.

But I do have time to share this latest review of “Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses” posted on amazon on December 4.

“Wow! What a great book! From the title, I was a little apprehensive because it didn’t seem to describe a book I’d like to read. The title came together later and was very appropriate. I was captivated from the beginning, I loved the main character Dar. She was strong and aware and thoughtful and faithful as well as a good friend, wife and mother. I love the story of Job and this story was a nice addition to the things about Job I already knew. I would have liked to know more about Job and Dar’s children, their personalities and interests.
I think Mona did a great job in capturing the historical element of the time period, keeping the reader wanting more and building relationships with characters. I would read more from this author!
*Note: I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.”

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