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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Jennifer S Brown and ‘Modern Girls’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Jennifer S. Brown is the author of the novel Modern Girls. She has published fiction and creative nonfiction in Fiction Southeast, Cognoscenti, The Best Women’s Travel Writing, The Southeast Review, and Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her essay “The Codeine of Jordan” was selected as a notable essay in 2012’s The Best American Travel Writing. She has a BFA in film and television from New York University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Washington, Seattle. This makes her uniquely suited to write film reviews, which would be great if she hadn’t stopped going to the movies when her kids were born

About Modern Girls

Modern Girls is the story of what happens when, in New York in 1935, an immigrant mother, Rose, and her unmarried 19-year-old daughter, Dottie, both discover they’re pregnant. The news upends their lives: Rose had eagerly anticipated returning to the political activism of her youth, and Dottie, with a promotion at work, had great career ambitions. With war on the horizon and traditions to uphold, the two must wrestle with their beliefs and their consciences as they decide how to reconcile their longings with the realities of this new modern world in which they live. Kirkus Reviews called Modern Girls “a clear-eyed view of the sharp, difficult choices facing women on the cusp of equality.”

SONIAH KAMAL:First author/book you read/fell in love with?

JENNIFER S. BROWN: I was a voracious reader as a child so picking the first is difficult.  I would say the books of Judy Blume, but that feels a little cliché and I can’t be sure that’s correct. I also loved Anne of Green Gables, the Nancy Drew books, and The Chronicles of Narnia. The first book I was passionate about, though, was a picture book that was read to me, Beady Bear . Reading it now though (as I still have my childhood copy), the message is terrible. Beady Bear, a wind-up toy bear, goes off to explore but gets stuck when he winds down. So the message is don’t be adventurous because you’ll end up scared and alone and in need of rescuing? Eek!

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Bourbon! And more specifically the bourbon drinks my husband makes, which depending on mood, is either a Black Manhattan or a Sazerac.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

I still have not read Wuthering Heights nor Jane Eyre. I own copies of both and they stand, forlorn, in my to-be-read pile. Both are on the top of my “summer books” pile. Alas, I will admit, it’s not the first summer that they’ve been on top of the pile.

A favorite quote from your book 

“…I realized that what takes just a moment in time can be stitched into an entire story that lasts an entire lifetime, can be tattooed and never forgotten. That one moment would stay with me across continents and oceans; through marriage and deaths; against the distance of decades, and that one moment is as real and current as the feel of my sweat on a August day or my son’s hand tugging on the bottom of my dress or a kiss from Ben under cover of the dark on a Shabbes night.”

Your favorite book to film?

In general, I’m not a huge fan of the book to film. I prefer either to watch the film or read the book. Invariably, when I do both, I’m disappointed. However, the one time I was completely enamored by both a book and its film (well, a mini-series) was Middlemarch (trailer). The miniseries on PBS enchanted me and didn’t suffer in comparison to the novel by George Eliot.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Indie books stores are my happy place! For many years, my favorite local indie was Porter Square Books. Porter Square Books is still dear to me, but my loyalty is now divided because an amazing new bookstore even closer to my home has opened, Belmont Books

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

That being published is not a panacea. Don’t get me wrong: I’m beyond thrilled my novel, Modern Girls, is in the world. But it wasn’t a magical key to happiness and it doesn’t make writing books any easier and it doesn’t make me feel like an accomplished writer. I’m still struggling now as I did before.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Gads, no! In fact, I think it makes it harder because now you have these little voices whispering, “Is it as good as the last one? Will your readers like it? Will your agent like it?” Before being published, I only had to worry about what I thought. I’m learning to tune out those voices, but it’s challenging.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I’m desperate to own a cat but my husband, daughter, and mother are all allergic, and apparently it’s bad form to make your family sick.

Favorite book cover?

This version of Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  is so gorgeous, I had to be talked out of buying it, as a different version included the sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. While I like that cover too, I’m still tempted to buy the first version simply to display on my shelf. (And if you haven’t read these, they are magnificent windows into life in the 1920s and totally fun reads.)

Favorite song?

Right now I’m grooving on “Havana” by Camila Cabello, because the sound reminds me so much of home (Miami Beach, Florida). However, I also adore the old jazz standards, and Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s “They Can’t Take that Away from Me” always gets me singing (which isn’t necessarily a good thing—I’m a terrible singer).

Ideal Vacation?
I’m a city girl through and through, and while I’m charmed by the idea of sitting by a lake with a book, I’m happiest when I’m simply wandering a city, discovering new things. As I write this, I’m in New York, and I’m dragging my husband around to simply look at buildings. Because I’m enamored of history (and hence historical fiction), I like knowing what was here before. The New York Public Library has a web site and app called OldNYC.org. It’s a map of New York and you can look up any corner and find archival photos from the NYPL digital collection. We’ve been wandering the Lower East Side, stopping every block so I can see what it looked like in the 1930s and 1940s (yes, I’m a geek). I love seeing the tidbits of history that remain.
Favorite painting/art? 
My mother is an artist and I grew up surrounded by artwork. She earned both her BFA and her MFA in sculpture when I was a child. While other mothers in South Florida worked as lawyers or stayed at home baking cookies, my mom learned how to weld. I’ve visited countless museums and I could name a million pieces I love that everyone is familiar with (and I especially love those that now charm my children; my daughter and I have made it a point to visit as many Degas “Little Dancer” sculptures as we can), my mom’s work is my favorite. Of all of her work, the one that sparks my imagination the most, is an installation called Seduction Forest 
Literary Festival Anecdote?
I can’t tell my favorite anecdote, because it involves naming names, and I don’t think I can do that. 🙂 However, I will tell my most disastrous reading: I flew to Florida (from Boston) for a talk/reading. On Wednesday, November 9, 2016. Oy! Of course I’d had no sleep the night before, as I’d been up late and then I couldn’t sleep so I was up early. What I remember most from that day is not the reading, but seeing the “Trump Triumphs” headlines on the New York Times. The turnout was, understandably, small, and the folks at the venue were so flustered they hadn’t made arrangements for my presentation to be projected. So numb with shock, without my visual aids, to a very small room, I gave my talk, which, considering it’s about reproductive freedom and immigration to the U.S., felt hauntingly timely. The audience was lovely. The organizers apologized and said they normally get a larger crowd, but I assured them, if I hadn’t already said I’d be there, I’d have been at home, curled up in a fetal position. That was a tough one!
Favorite Jane Austen Novel and screen adaptation?
I don’t mean to be a cliche, but Colin Firth! I watched that Pride and Prejudice, I don’t know how many times, just to see Colin Firth in that wet shirt. 

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

I subscribe to a teeny-tiny journal called Inch, put out by Bull City Press. I mean teeny-tiny quite literally. It’s eight pages long and isn’t much bigger than my hand.  The prose is under 750 words and the poetry not longer than nine lines. Flash fiction is an obsession of mine, so it’s exciting when a new issue arrives in my mailbox.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Amy Bloom’s White Houses. I’m working on a novel based on a real person, and although I have a gigantic stack of books based on real people (wonderful books! The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict, Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman, Euphoria by Lily King…), when I saw the book on the new release table at Belmont Books, I couldn’t resist. I’ve read about Mrs. Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok in Loving Eleanor, but I was interested in a new take on it.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Anne Boyd Rioux and “Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters”

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Anne Boyd Rioux is the author or editor of six books about nineteenth-century American women writers, including Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, which will be published on August 21, 2018. She has also written Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist,  named one of the ten best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune. She is a professor of English at the University of New Orleans and the recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, one for public scholarship.

About Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

Soon after publication on September 30, 1868, Little Women became an enormous bestseller and one of America’s favorite novels. Its popularity quickly spread throughout the world, and the book has become an international classic. When Anne Boyd Rioux read the novel in her twenties, she had a powerful reaction to the story. Through teaching the book, she has seen the same effect on many others. In Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Rioux recounts how Louisa May Alcott came to write Little Women, drawing inspiration for it from her own life. Rioux also examines why this tale of family and community ties, set while the Civil War tore America apart, has resonated through later wars, the Depression, and times of changing opportunities for women. Alcott’s novel has moved generations of women, many of them writers: Simone de Beauvoir, J. K. Rowling, bell hooks, Cynthia Ozick, Jane Smiley, Margo Jefferson, and Ursula K. Le Guin were inspired by Little Women, particularly its portrait of the iconoclastic young writer, Jo. Many have felt, as Anna Quindlen has declared, “Little Women changed my life.”  Today, Rioux sees the novel’s beating heart in Alcott’s portrayal of family resilience and her honest look at the struggles of girls growing into women. In gauging its current status, Rioux shows why Little Women remains a book with such power that people carry its characters and spirit throughout their lives.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?

ANNE BOYD RIOUX: Betsy, Tacy, and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace because it transported me to a simpler time of evenings gathered around the piano and afternoons roaming the outdoors with your best friends. I wanted desperately to go there. And ever since I’ve had a romantic attachment to the 19th century. Go figure.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine, preferably Sauvignon Blanc.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? 

Little Women because we all need to read more books about women and girls and this one is the best for thinking about what it’s like to grow up in a female body and to adjust your dreams along the way.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Little Women—sadly I didn’t read it until graduate school. Although it did me a lot of good in my early twenties, I wish I had read it earlier, and I think it’s an important YA book, although it’s often pigeonholed as a book for little girls.

 Favorite quote from your book

This is from Elena Ferrante’s acclaimed novel My Brilliant Friend (2011).

Lila and Lenú meet every day for months in the courtyard to read Little Women together, “so many times that the book became tattered and sweat-stained, it lost its spine, came unthreaded, sections fell apart. But it was our book,” Lenú explains, “we loved it dearly.”

 Favorite book to film?

I’d sound like a broken record if I said Little Women, so I’ll say Pride and Prejudice. I loved the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth. I think I watched it twenty times, and I had the soundtrack on cassette tape. I listened to it while I was studying and writing all through graduate school.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Octavia Books in New Orleans. They are amazing.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. I keep being surprised by it. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned, though, is that, as a nonfiction writer, I need to tell the story in my own voice. As an academic, I learned to let other people tell the story and to quote a lot. But I’ve had to retrain myself as I write for a general audience now.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Yes, thank God! There are still many things to learn, though, as each project is different.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Both really.

Ideal vacation?

English countryside with a trip to London.

Favorite book cover?

I’m a sucker for the Penguin Classic black covers.

Favorite song?

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2

Favorite painting/art?

I’m quite fond of the art of Charlie Harper and William Morris

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

I love meeting fans of Little Women and hearing their stories of how they read the book to rags growing up. The most astonishing was from a woman in her fifties who recited Beth’s death scene from memory, although she hadn’t read the book in decades.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

I’m not sure if this counts as a small press, but I’m very impressed by the books being put out by the New York Book Review Classics.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Becoming Americans in Paris: Transatlantic Culture Between the World Wars—because I’ve become fascinated with an American woman writer, Kay Boyle, who lived in France between the wars and actually stayed there until 1941, only leaving when she had to after the German invasion.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen

Kristen Miller Zohn: The Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars, novel

Chaitli Sen, The Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Devoney Looser and ‘The Making of Jane Austen’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Devoney Looser is the author of The Making of Jane Austen (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), named a Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book (Nonfiction). She is Professor of English at Arizona State University and the author or editor of six other books on literature by women. Her recent writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times, Salon, The TLS, and Entertainment Weekly, and she’s had the pleasure of talking about Austen on CNN. Looser, who has played roller derby as Stone Cold Jane Austen, was named a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow, in support of her next book project on the once-celebrated, now-forgotten sister novelists, Jane and Anna Maria Porter. She’s on Twitter at @devoneylooser and @Making_Jane. You can learn more about what’s she’s up to at www.devoney.com)

About The Making of Jane Austen

Just how did Jane Austen become the celebrity author and the inspiration for generations of loyal fans she is today? Devoney Looser’s The Making of Jane Austen turns to the people, performances, activism, and images that fostered Austen’s early fame, laying the groundwork for the beloved author we think we know. Here are the Austen influencers, including her first English illustrator, the eccentric Ferdinand Pickering, whose sensational gothic images may be better understood through his brushes with bullying, bigamy, and an attempted matricide. The daring director-actress Rosina Filippi shaped Austen’s reputation with her pioneering dramatizations, leading thousands of young women to ventriloquize Elizabeth Bennet’s audacious lines before drawing room audiences. Even the supposedly staid history of Austen scholarship has its bizarre stories. The author of the first Jane Austen dissertation, student George Pellew, tragically died young, but he was believed by many, including his professor-mentor, to have come back from the dead.  Looser shows how these figures and their Austen-inspired work transformed Austen’s reputation, just as she profoundly shaped theirs. Through them, Looser describes the factors and influences that radically altered Austen’s evolving image. Drawing from unexplored material, Looser examines how echoes of that work reverberate in our explanations of Austen’s literary and cultural power. Whether you’re a devoted Janeite or simply Jane-curious, The Making of Jane Austen will have you thinking about how a literary icon is made, transformed, and handed down from generation to generation.

Check out The Making of Jane Austen’s three-minute book trailer. (link? https://youtu.be/wrb3TMfqqf4)

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

DEVONEY LOOSER: My first favorite book to have read to me was Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle, but when I began reading on my own, I adored the Nancy Drew series.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Coffee, wine, or preferably both.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.”

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

I couldn’t read the Chronicles of Narnia past The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I tried. I am not proud of this.

A favorite quote from your book 

The Making of Jane Austen . . . charts old and new fashions, things that change and those that endure, setting out on an expedition to redraw Austen-Land on a few more maps, across time as well as oceans.”

Your favorite book to film?

Might I choose two? Pride and Prejudice mini-series (BBC, 1995), from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Clueless (1995), from Austen’s Emma (1816)

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

In New York City, The Strand.

In Phoenix, Changing Hands.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

That there is no magic hour of the day to write or place to write or writing process trick that you are going to learn from someone else that makes it all fall together for you. You have to do it regularly enough that you find your own right answer.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Only if you let it!

Dog, Cat, Or?

No pets, but we have sons, who are not as easily trained as pets and certainly not as loyal. However, we are lucky to have a neighbor’s dog as our occasional foster dog: Dolly, a toy poodle.

Devoney & Sons reading her book’s first one-star review on Amazon.

Favorite book cover?

My friend Tara Ison’s cover for her short-story collection, Ball.

Favorite song?

The Upper Crust’s “Let Them Eat Rock.

Literary Festival Anecdote? 

The Decatur Book Festival was such a blast and a literature-loving blur. One moment I found myself in the food line, talking about memoir writing with rocker Richard Lloyd, of Television fame, and the next moment I was dancing with Shannon Hale (author of Austenland). You just never know where Jane Austen will take you, even at a literary festival!
Ideal Vacation? 
My ideal vacation would always include London. There’s still so much I haven’t seen in and around London, including Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House. I’d revisit Chawton, Bath, and Stratford-upon-Avon, but I’d love to go on a longer literary pilgrimage that included more British writers’ homes and literary sites. I’ve never been to the Brontës’ Haworth, Scott’s Abbotsford, or Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage.
Favorite work of art?

I would hate to have to choose just one, but any list of my top 10 would include Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes (c. 1614-20). Seeing Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party with my mom in the 1980s, when I was a college student, was an incredibly memorable art experience. I love following contemporary art, too, and am a huge fan of the work Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Jeffrey Vallance

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation? Why?
Again, making a Janeite choose a favorite one is a painful exercise! My favorite Austen novel has long been Pride and Prejudice. For sheer beauty, laughter, and fun as a reading experience, it just doesn’t get better than that for me. I wonder if my opinion will ever change?
My favorite film adaptation has changed more often, but Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility (1995) is at the top of my list of those films working to be faithful to the original to some degree, and Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (1995) is at the top for those that aren’t. I’m sure that my love of those has everything to do with the time in my life when I saw then—in my late 20s, when I was first embarking on a career as an Austen scholar and first teaching Austen to college students.

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

Small press: Feminist Press

Literary journal: The Superstition Review.

Last impulse book buy and why?

I got a gift card to Shakespeare & Co. for my birthday and bought The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders (2018) by Stuart Kells. I’m looking forward to reading it!

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Kristen Miller Zohn: The Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars, novel

Chaitli Sen, The Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk On Ink Q & A with Kristen Miller Zohn and “The Currency of Taste: The Gibbons Georgian Silver”

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Read Jaggery Issue 12, Fall 2018

Art historian Kristen Miller Zohn lives and works in Columbus, Georgia, where she is the Executive Director of the Costume Society of America.  She also serves as Curator of Collections and Exhibitions for the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel, Mississippi.  Ms. Miller Zohn has an M.A. from Florida State University and a B.A. from Salem College in North Carolina, both in Art History.  She is a 2016 graduate of The Summer School of the Attingham Trust for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections.  Miller Zohn has written numerous exhibition catalogues and is a contributing author to Central to Their Lives: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection (Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 2018) and Grandeur of the Everyday: The Paintings of Dale Kennington (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2017). She has published articles about Jane Austen and the visual arts in Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) publications, Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line.

About  The Currency of Taste: The Gibbons Georgian Silver Collection of the Lauren Rogers Museum of ArtT.

Kristen Miller Zohn’s most recent publication is The Currency of Taste: The Gibbons Georgian Silver Collection of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.  This full-color, 136-page book explores silver implements associated with dining, drinking, and luxury. The publication offers insight into the production, use, and aesthetics of Georgian silver.

 First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?

The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover by author Jon Stone and illustrator Michael Smollin.  Grover reads the title and begs the reader not to turn the pages, but the monster turns out to be him.  I loved Sesame Street and Grover in particular, and this book was read to me in a most dramatic fashion. I also adored Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series , because our library had diminutive vintage editions with green hardback covers, and I loved them as objects.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine, or even better, Bourbon

Tell Us About Georgian Silver

The Georgian period in British history is regarded by many as the pinnacle of elegance and refinement in art and architecture, and it produced some of the finest silver and other decorative arts ever made. In order to live in polite society, a Georgian needed to possess “taste,” or the ability to recognize and appreciate beauty and excellence, which they showed off with expensive possessions such as silver objects. Moreover, the gustatory pleasures of the beverages and foodstuffs involved in sumptuous Georgian meals were enhanced by the visual aesthetics of these objects.  Georgian silversmiths used the diverse styles of the 18th and early 19th centuries (Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, Regency) to produce multitudes of silver objects, from the simplest of spoons and the plainest drinking vessels to elegant personal objects and dramatic table centerpieces.

Rococo coffee pot

Storr Tureen

Paul Storr, London, Soup Tureen on Stand, 1794–1795, Silver,

A Lauren Rogers Museum of Art purchase in memory of Thomas M. Gibbons 76.10

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? Why?

I can’t think of anything that should be universally mandatory, but I would suggest that everyone should have their own favorite of each.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Middlemarch by George Eliot. I started it three times, the first in my teens, but could never get past the first few chapters. It is too verbose for my taste.

Favorite quote from your book 

From the chapter on Silver for Alcohol and Other Household Luxuries: “Madeira was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite wine, and it was used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence, thus signaling the end of Georgian rule in America.”

Favorite book to film?

The 1995 Pride and Prejudice produced by BBC. The almost six-hour length allowed the inclusion of most of the plot and dialogue, and the casting, costuming, set design, and score were all spot-on.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Hills & Hamlets Bookshop in the Serenbe development of Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. Owners Josh Niesse and Megan Bell curate an intriguing collection of new and antique books.

Dog, Cat, or?

Dog.  I am partial to the Italian Greyhound, a miniature breed.

Bo Bartlett (American, born 1955), Enzo, 2018, oil on panel

What is your favorite painting/art piece? 

As an art historian who has seen multitudes of artwork, it has always been hard for me to choose a favorite. Until recently, that is. The painter Bo Bartlett is known for large-scale figurative pieces, and pet portraits are not part of his oeuvre. However, he repaid a favor from me by producing a portrait of my dog Enzo. It is absolutely the best painting I have ever seen!

 Ideal vacation?

Traveling to any location with excellent museums, architectural history, and foodways.

 Favorite book cover?

The Birmingham Museum of Art’s The Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection by Graham C. Boettcher, cover design by James Edward Williams.

Favorite song?

Blackbird by The Beatles

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

In 2012, Dr. Cornel West was one of the speakers at JASNA’s Annual General Meeting. His enlightening presentation “Power and Freedom in Jane Austen’s Novels”  was like a sermon, and we all felt so proud to be Janeites after hearing him speak. Later, as he stood for pictures with his new acolytes, he called us sisters and brothers, and bent his tall body down so that his face would be on the same level as ours. He is a very gracious person.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

JASNA’s journal Persuasions is excellent, and Nathan Moehlmann at Goosepen Studio & Press does amazing work in graphic design, book design, and production.  He designed and produced The Currency Of Taste.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power by Philip Dwyer because I thought I’d see what the French were up to during Austen’s life.

Unknown English maker, Coffeepot, 1773, Silver and wood, Gift of Thomas M. and Harriet S. Gibbons LRMA 82.16

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars, novel

Chaitli Sen, The Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

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