I am very excited to welcome Jenny Nelson to Book Club Exchange. A few days ago, I reviewed her very fun novel GEORGIA'S KITCHEN. This book truly is perfect for the summer because it combines New York, Italy and food! What could be better?
I love to hear about authors and their personal book club experiences, and I especially enjoyed this essay about Ms. Nelson's fun times with her book club. It should come as no surprise that food is an important element of her meetings since she did write a book about a chef!
I remember forming my first book club, back when I had just graduated college and made my move to the Big Apple. Living in New York City on an assistant’s salary, I had very little money for food and rent, much less books. Still, when a new friend, and fellow assistant/indentured servant, suggested we start a book club, I happily agreed. There was something so adult, so New York, so literary about gathering with friends and talking books. Despite my measly paycheck, my horrible apartment, my pitiful wardrobe, I was in a book club. Though my bank account hovered in the double digits, triple if I was flush, I managed to build in the cost of one hardcover book to my monthly budget. It meant two less lunches out per week, or two less post-work drinks, or one less cab ride home after drinks (thank goodness for the bus) and absolutely no new lip gloss unless I really, truly needed one. (This was hard to justify.)
Our first mutually chosen selection was Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate. I offered to host at my apartment, and I distinctly recall buying a few bottles of Gato Negro, a box of Bremmner Wafers and a hunk of brie, tossing some vaguely Indian throws over my threadbare furniture, and finally sparking the fig-scented candle I’d resisted lighting for a year. The wine may have been, um, lacking – not that we noticed or cared – but the cheese was delish and my apartment smelled incredible. Four women and one guy arrived at my place, toting shiny copies of the book and bottles of their own. We talked about forbidden love, and food, and the dishes Tita cooked, and about magical realism and overbearing mothers and soul mates. We questioned and prodded and argued and read underlined passages. And, most important, we laughed. Boy, did we laugh (the Gato Negro probably didn’t hurt!). I still think about that book club and that book – it’s when I first realized how emotional and how intimate an experience cooking could be. A decade-and-a-half later, the book and the group still loom large in my mind. When I decided to start writing a novel, I knew who and what I wanted Georgia to be – a chef!
Having experienced firsthand how powerful and meaningful a book club can be, I am so excited to start visiting local book clubs. If your book club is reading Georgia’s Kitchen, I’d love to call in and be part of it. Just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jenny Nelson grew up in Larchmont, NY and graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Colorado at Denver. A former web editor and producer, she worked for companies such as iVillage, Vogue.com and Style.com. She lives with her husband, twin daughters and dog in Millbrook, NY and Manhattan. Georgia’s Kitchen is her first novel.
I am so grateful to Ms. Nelson for writing this fabulous guest post (and for making me very hungry.) Remember, Ms. Nelson is willing to call in to discuss GEORGIA'S KITCHEN with your group. I can almost guarantee that it would be a terrific meeting especially if you serve some yummy food!
If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.