At home with Piedmont novelist Lisa Braver Moss

Shrug, Moss’s second novel, will be published in August.

Artists and writers go to all kinds of lengths to design their own creative spaces, but stepping into the loft of Lisa Braver Moss’ Piedmont home still offered a surprise. The walls are completely blank, and the room is empty, save a  chair, desk and laptop.  

When asked about it, she explains that it is easier to work without distractions, so she had created an environment that fit her writing process. Outside the writing room, her home is filled with unique paintings and other artwork, and her record collection is piled high with everything from the Beatles to Bach.

The two worlds within her home may reflect the huge changes in Moss’s own life, from her Berkeley youth to her quieter life today as a writer, 27-year Piedmont resident and mother of two grown boys. Moss is the author of many essays and books, including her upcoming novel Shrug, which explores the life of Martha, a high school student in her teens in the midst of the cultural turbulence in Berkeley of the late 1960’s.

Shrug tackles some difficult themes, capturing the political turmoil of its setting, as well as the personal and internal turmoil of its protagonist. The novel’s title is derived from Martha’s compulsive tic — a shrug of the shoulders — an affliction that arises from abuse and neglect at home. Moss’ previous books have dealt with family issues, health, Judaism and humor.

Moss’ previous books have dealt with family issues, health, Judaism and humor

This difficult subject matter was something Moss had to make some tough decisions about, deciding what was too much for readers and what was necessary to tell the story properly. As she explained, the setting of her book is a “pre-Oprah” time period in which mental health issues were not properly addressed or openly talked about. Despite the radical and insurgent nature of the era, Moss said, it was “not radical enough.” There was no open dialogue for survivors to discuss their abuse, leading to a certain shame for survivors who felt it was something they had to struggle through alone.

Shrug explores the life of Martha, a high school student in 1960’s Berkeley.

In reading Shrug, Moss hopes readers will feel less alone. “Reading fiction,” she says, “can really make you feel more connected and less alone. And the more we can break through that kind of shame that some people tend to feel, the more healthy for all of us.” She adds that this book was a long time in the making, and yet she felt an extreme sense of urgency to get it out. She wants to ensure that readers of her book don’t feel like they’re being force fed.  “Fiction that’s didactic is pretty deadly,” she says, “and it’s more powerful if it’s just the person just gets absorbed in the story.”

Throughout her adult life as both a writer and a parent, Piedmont has been a reassuring place for Moss.  The connections she made to her neighbors and community instantly won her over and have helped keep her in town since first coming here in the early 1990’s. Moss and her husband Mark raised their two sons in the same house they live in today, and she credits the neighborhood for many of her children’s fondest memories. She says she still reminisces about her kids’ first day of school, describing the adorable scene as the kids “all strapped on their backpacks and walked to school together.”

Moss her home writing loft: “I actually enjoy being in my interior world and creating out of that”

An active contributor to the local writing community, Moss says she felt the supportive environment cultivated by her neighbors has helped bolster her writing career. “I had a column for a couple of years in the Piedmont Post,” she explained, “and I would write about things around town sometimes or even just pet peeves. They were mostly sort of humorous columns. And I also wrote columns that were more thoughtful, and it really made me feel connected.” 

The Piedmont community surely continues to feel the connection, too.

Shrug will be published August 13. On August 21 the author will be on hand for a reading and book signing from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at A Great Good Place for Books,6120 La Salle Avenue in Montclair.

To support your local independent bookstore, pre-order Shrug on Indiebound. Also available for pre-order on

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