The ProsenPeople

Jennifer Gilmore's Newest Voice

Tuesday, March 04, 2014 | Permalink
This week, Jennifer Gilmore, the author of The Mothers, Something Red, and Golden Country blogs for The Postscript on finding her newest voice and a new writing style The Postscript series is a special peek "behind the scenes" of a book. It's a juicy little extra something to add to a book club's discussion and a reader's understanding of how the book came together. 

To "host" Jennifer at your next book club meeting, request her through JBC Live Chat

My book, The Mothers, tracks close to my own life. My protagonist is my age and lives where I live, and she is going through the same horrible adoption process I went through for several years. It was a difficult time, but the experience brought up so many issues—of race and class and motherhood and identity—that interested me as a novelist. I wanted to make this material interesting to myself and to a reader so that what I was going through could be put toward something positive, to my work.

I wanted to write this differently than I have written my other books. Those books—Golden Country and Something Red—were big novels about Jewish families. They took place in the past and so were heavily researched. They were written in third person and spanned decades and dealt largely with how we are all haunted and invigorated by the near and far past. They were about how we as individuals, as families, and indeed as Jews, have informed history and the way history has informed us. I considered using this technique—of a broad social sweep—to take on the topic of adoption. I thought deeply about writing it historically, taking on how adoption began in this country and the way it has been transformed and affected so prominently by the political history of our country. And yet for this particular book that felt very false and it felt as if I were avoiding something emotionally important. That emotional resonance was just as important to me in this book as the social history and the ramifications of the past.

What felt real and important was finding this particular voice – which, I would like to add, is not my voice. Jesse, my protagonist, is a pretty desperate woman. She’s utterly imperfect. Even though I arrived at her voice fairly easily, it took me a while to find her story and not merely her emotional state. In the end, what was most interesting to me in writing this book was the immediacy of wanting to have a child, not being able to get a child, and the inevitable consequences of that. This was lived experience instead of researched experience. It is a story about wanting. That is just as dangerous a topic to take on as any I know.

What is the Story?

Thursday, April 11, 2013 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Jennifer Gilmore wrote about the overlap between her personal concerns and writerly concerns. She has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

The Mothers is the first book I’ve written that does not primarily consist of Jewish characters. It’s a little weird that with my first book—where there are pretty much only Jews, even in the department stores and hotels, at the theater and the market—I had no idea I was writing an American Jewish novel. I was just telling this family’s extensive story. I was writing an American story.

This book is also an American story. But similarly, I had no idea that this book was dealing with “cross cultural issues,” which is what some reviewers and readers have reported. I wrote a book chronicling a couple’s struggle to have children. But what I didn’t realize is that, because they are from different backgrounds—the wife, Jesse, is Jewish, the husband, Ramon, is first generation Italian and Spanish—they handle their highs and lows of their experience differently. Though her family has not been particularly observant, Jesse’s memories and her experiences are distinctly Jewish, in addition to being particularly American. She has memories of Passovers with her family, as well as growing up with her sister in suburban Virginia. She remembers the seventies when her mother working was an unusual situation. Her mother was one of the few women she knew who held a job.

Ramon is European and his experience—of speaking many languages and traversing a European landscape embedded in the past—differs from Jesse’s. The two argue over how they will raise the child they don’t even yet have. They don’t know the gender or the race of their potential child, nor do they know where in the country he or she will come from, or when, and still these issues of identity and how the child will be raised are of huge concern to them.

What happens when how we raise our children becomes an intellectual pursuit? Jesse has had more time than most to think about what it means to be a mother. As we know, it all becomes clear once a child arrives, but Jesse is stuck in a zone where she can only think about the future hypothetically. What is lost and what is gained from a shift in cultures? As a mother, what will she bring with her from her past? What will she choose or be forced to leave behind?

Do writers always know what we are writing? No. I am always—always—surprised by what readers take from my books. And they catch things that a writer doesn’t. This book is about Jesse’s struggle to become a mother, but it is also about a marriage. Because this is a story about two families joining up. It’s about sameness; it’s about difference. It’s about being yoked to another and about being freed. I think this is a story about wanting. But you, reader, might find an entirely new and other story being told.

Jennifer Gilmore's newest novel, The Mothers, is now available. Read more about her here.

Lost Stories

Tuesday, April 09, 2013 | Permalink

Jennifer Gilmore's newest novel, The Mothers, is now available. She will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

The Mothers is my third novel but it’s the first novel I’ve written that tracks so closely with my own life. I had to make a leap as a novelist to write in the first person, to examine a single woman’s inner life, as opposed to the bigger sweep of the multi-generational novels, Golden Country and Something Red, that were written with an eye toward history and the way it affects families.

This book is all about families really, or about a couple who wants to make one desperately. If my other books deal with what happens to families over time, this character—Jesse Weintraub—is most concerned about time stopping. About the story, as it were, ending with her.

I, like Jesse, struggled for a long time to make my family (even though I do believe that it’s not just children that make a family…). And like her, my spouse and I were involved in a terribly long and particularly harsh adoption process that has only ended a few weeks ago. My most private concerns, a sadness I could only tell myself, were the same concerns I am interested in as a writer. These were in part involving what gets passed down through the generations. The history of our families, the voices of my grandparents and what they went through. What if it all that stopped with me?

What if all the stories just stopped with me? All those voices? At the bottom of it, this is what Jesse feels deeply. She wants to see a new generation grow. She gets a little despairing, she acts a little wild, but at the bottom of it, she wants to pass on all of it, the good, the bad, the painful, the joyous, so the cycle will keep going, so everyone’s story, including hers, gets told.

Read more about Jennifer Gilmore here.

Book Cover of the Week: The Mothers

Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Jennifer Gilmore's forthcoming novel, The Mothers (April 2013, Scribner), has a new cover! 

Book Cover of the Week: The Mothers

Thursday, June 14, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Although Jennifer Gilmore's newest novel, The Mothers, won't be available for almost another year (sigh!), it already has a cover. And a gorgeous one at that. Obviously, you'll hear more about this one in 2013...

TODAY: Twunch and Talk

Wednesday, June 02, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Don’t miss the fourth Jewish Book Council Twunch and Talk Twitter Book Club with Jennifer Gilmore (Something Red) today at 12:30PM. Need more details/instructions? See below:

Find the Twunch and Talk at #JBCBooks and follow JBC on Twitter (@jewishbook)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010
12:30PM-1:00PM EST

We will be reading Jennifer Gilmore’s Something Red: A Novel and she will be joining our discussion for this book!

Twitter Book Club Twunch and Talk #4: Jennifer Gilmore

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

The fourth Twitter Book Club Twunch and Talk will be on JUNE 2nd, 12:30PM-1:00PM EST. We’ll be discussing Jennifer Gilmore’s Something Red. As usual, the author will be joining us on twitter for the book club. More information about Twunch and Talk, as well as how to participate, can be found here.

Movies and Music plus Jewish Authors

Friday, April 09, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Two of our favorite authors delve into the world of film and music:

Etgar Keret on adapting his work for the screen for Jewcy here

Jennifer Gilmore shares her Something Red music playlist with the Largehearted Boy here

Jennifer Gilmore Profiled in PW

Monday, March 08, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Craig Morgan Teicher profiles Jennifer Gilmore (Golden Country and Something Red) in this week’s Publishers Weekly:

If you work in publishing, you probably know Jennifer Gilmore as the former publicity director at Harcourt. She left that job not long after her first novel, Golden Country (Scribner, 2005), was published. Shortly after that, the publishing industry underwent a series of changes, in some ways making it almost unrecognizable to someone who hasn’t been paying attention. Read On.

View the trailer for Something Red:

Last Weekend…

Monday, August 10, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Jennifer Gilmore, author of Golden Country, posted the book trailer for her upcoming title from Scribner (April 2010), Something Red here.

And, Nextbook threw the coolest book release party ever (co-sponsored by JDub Records) for the paperback of Douglas Century’s Barney Ross: The Life of a Jewish Fighter, a Nextbook/Schocken Jewish Encounters title. The evening featured JDub Records artist DJ Soulico, author Douglas Century, today’s biggest Jewish boxer, Dmitriy Salita, and a live boxing match.


Douglas Century, author of Barney Ross, and Editor-in-chief of Tablet Alana Newhouse



Dmitriy Salita



Boxing Match

Update: Jewcy has posted much better photos from the event. Check them out here.