Something Red by Jennifer Gilmore

Jennifer Gilmore’s first novel, Golden Country, was named a New York Times Notable Book and was A Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. Praised as “an ingeniously plotted family yarn” (New York Times), readers delighted in Gilmore’s deft ability to tell the individual stories of a full and varied cast of characters. This particular gift is taken to new levels in her bold and moving second novel, Something Red.

It’s 1979 in Washington D.C. and life inside the Goldstein home is as tumultuous as the shifting landscape of the times. Benjamin is heading off to college and sixteen-year-old Vanessa is in the throes of a rocky adolescence. Sharon, a caterer for the Washington elite, ventures into a cult-like organization. And Dennis, whose government job takes him often to Moscow, tries to live up to his father’s legacy as a union organizer and community leader.

The rise of communism and the execution of the Rosenbergs is behind them, and the Cold War is waning. Carter is president; the soldiers who fought in Vietnam have all come home. The age of protest has come and gone and yet each one of the Goldsteins is forced to manage the changes the new decade will bring and explore what it really means to be a radical.

Something Red is at once a poignant story of husbands and wives, parents and children, activists and spies and a masterfully built story that unfurls with suspense and humor. This bold and moving novel brims with wit, intelligence, and pitch-perfect observations about an American family. 

Below you can find the Twitter discussion of Something Red with author Jennifer Gilmore that took place June 2, 2010. Make sure to follow Jewish Book Council (@jewishbook) for more Twitter Book Club events! 

jenwgilmore: join us over here: #JBCbooks for 1/2 hr discussion of Something Red, ok? thank you!:

erikadreifus: Hi, Jen. So glad I met the deadline and finished the book last night! #JBCbooks:

JewishBook : Welcome everyone to our 4th Twunch and Talk! Today we will be discussing Jennifer Gilmore's "Something Red" with the author #JBCBooks: 

JewishBook : Thanks for joining us Jennifer! Lets start with the basics: Is there any part of the book that is autobiographical?#JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishBook I'm glad to be joining you! Ir takes place a little before my time, but it's set where I grew up, just outside of dc #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore @erikadreifus hi Erika! so glad you could join, and thanks for reading.: 

erikadreifus : Picking up on the time issue: What do you imagine Ben and Vanessa would be up to now, 30 yrs later? #JBCbooks: 

stava89 : Hi everyone! Why was Something Red your title. Let's talk about its reference in book (I SPY game) and more obvs communist Russia? #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishBook Thanks.It's less autobiographical than one might think though I do relate to that feeling of wanting to affect change! #jbcbooks:

nycbook : are you a brandeis alum too? you had all the names of the campus buildings...#JBCbooks: 

maryleenextbook : #JBCbooks why 3set the book 30 years ago?: 

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus That's an interesting ?I see them as healthier,perhaps + maybe grown out of some of their immature look at th world. #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @nycbook I am a Brandeis alum! Graduated in 1992#jbcbooks: 

stava89 : Immediately coming to mind (re: title)...spying, searching, having belief in something beyond YOU...identity..#JBCBooks:

jenwgilmore : @maryleenextbook 1979 was hte prefect time-waning cold war, cultural blossoming, hangover from 60"s, grain embargo #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @maryleenextbook I was interested in the way food plays out in the house and in the world. food as politics was big in '79! #jbcbooks: 

jeffisraely : @jenwgilmore #JBCbooks something red felt less like jewish lit than golden country. but maybe just evolution of jewish american experience?: 

jenwgilmore : @stava89 Hi! welcome...Yes,spying takes on many casts here. espionage is really for everyone in a way. In the family and the world #JBCBooks: 

erikadreifus : So much about Carter, hostages. I wondered if you'd considered ending the book in early '81? #JBCbooks:

jenwgilmore : @jeffisraely Hi! I was interested in the next generation who had dispersed to the suburbs, what happened to the Jews politically. #jbcbooks:

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus ending the book when the hostages came home? Regan was in office then, and the world had changed. Malaise was gone. #jbcbooks:

maryleenextbook : #JBCbooks I too am curious about what makes a novel Jewish -- the characters, the author, the issues dealt with:

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus I was interested less in the "80's, more in that time when people were so unsure. My characters are in flux.#jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @jeffisraely Why do you think it was less like Jewish lit? This interests me! #jbcbooks:

jenwgilmore : @maryleenextbook What makes a novel Jewish is comlicated. I used to teach Jewish Am Lit--it's hard in 140 characters! #jbcbooks:

erikadreifus : @maryleenexbook Big question for 140 characters!#JBCbooks:

jenwgilmore : @maryleenextbook But we talk so much about what being jewish means culturally, I wanted to examine that history politically. #jbcbooks: 

JewishLibraries : i think everyone in the jewish book world struggles with what makes a book jewish-and everyone has their own ideas, priorities. #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @maryleenextbook Interestingly, though, there is no religion in either of my novels really. And yet I do consider them "Jewish". #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishLibraries this is very true. I think we have that same trouble--what makes something Jewish--in life as in fiction. #jbcbooks:

jeffisraely : @jenwgilmore: Why do you think it was less like Jewish lit? This interests me! #jbcbooks maybe bc the suburbs were the central character.: 

erikadreifus : Jen, speaking of politics: Have you been in touch w/the Rosenberg sons/their families? Do you know if they've read the book? #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishLibraries But there are themes that emerge if we look at it purely historically, some stereotypes, others not.#jbcbooks: 

stava89 : The role of activism in the book was interesting as each character takes on a diff form of it... #JBCBooks: 

JewishLibraries : i think everyone in the jewish book world struggles with what makes a book jewish-and everyone has their own ideas, priorities. #jbcbooks: 

jeffisraely : @jenwgilmore: Why do you think it was less like Jewish lit? This interests me! #jbcbooks and in suburbs everything starts to BLEND...: 

stava89 : and it taking both positive and negative turns...depending on the character, who they are, what they believe... #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishLibraries @maryleenextbook and yet, what makes a Jewish book recognizable as such? #JBCbooks: 

JewishLibraries : JBC book chat going on right now- follow#jbcbooks: 

JewishLibraries : @jenwgilmore usually starts w/author but not always. lots of great exceptions. manseau, zuzak, etc. then subject, themes, etc #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus don't know if rosenbergs have read the book. I watched the documentary don by the granddaughter,which was wonderful.#jbcbooks: 

nycbook : do you feel like activism is sort of a 'Jewish' thing? (not exclusively of course) ...part of what makes up the Jewish feel?#JBCbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @stava89 thanks--that's what fuels the book for me. That everyone thinks they're a radical in some way. That history...#jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @stava89 I wanted to celebrate and skewer this notion of protest. And show how it changes--dissipates-over the generations. #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @nycbook That's hard.Is activism Jewish?Of course not.Were Jews activists? Absolutely. But they certainly aren't all liberals! #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @jeffisraely Irving Howe said when Jews moved to the suburbs Jewish lit was done.I don't think that's true I wanted to look @that. #jbcbooks: 

stava89 : Since we're on the topic of "J" Why do you think organized religion doesnt work for the family? #JBCBooks: 

stava89 : so much that they have to turn to outside sources?#JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @nycbook back to activism-I have had a lot of people tell me, why do Jews always get seen as liberals? This isn't our only history.#jbcbooks: 

JewishBook : Which character's cause did you feel most connected with? Was there anyone that stood out to you? #JBCBooks: 

erikadreifus : @stava89 Do you think they've really given it (organized religion) a chance? #JBCBooks: 

Feldheim : @JewishLibraries Very true when dealing w/ so many dif factions of ppl. Best u can do is try to please the majority of ur audience #jbcbooks: 

stava89 : @erikadreifus good point..not a really, substantive away..only on superficial level..and how much can one #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @stava89 but religion is there, at the root. To either embrace or deny in some way. But that it is a CHOICE is the crux for them #jbcbooks: 

JewishLibraries : @Feldheim absolutely, and get to know them & their needs #jbcbooks: 

stava89 : @erikadreifus really get out of anything if they are only brushing the surface and don't take the time to explore...learn..etc... #JBCBooks: 

erikadreifus : @JewishBook At the end, I was very sad for poor Sigmund! (Which character's cause did you feel most connected with?) #JBCBooks: 

stava89 : @erikadreifus Also, they are almost closed to it before they even #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishBook I related to Benji, the son in college, because I remember that time so well. That BELIEF. But not his cause! #JBCBooks: 

jeffisraely : RT @jenwgilmore #jbcbooks ive told my friends something red is like a the ice storm, but with jews and politics. the cover foto is perfect!:

jenwgilmore : @JewishBook as for whose cause, I understood the parents, who had tried in the 60's but who settled later in life.#jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @jeffisraely thank you! It is a little like the Ice Storm! BUt with more politics and less wife swapping. #jbcbooks:

JewishLibraries : @jenwgilmore that's a great elevator pitch#jbcbooks: 

stava89 : @jenwgilmore good point. thanks. #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @stava89 These people are haunted and inspired by the past. That means their religious past, too. #JBCbooks:

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus @stava89 Did you think they were closed to "organized" Judaism? That's interesting. #JBCBooks: 

stava89 : @jenwgilmore Ha. I was about to say that they really are haunted by all of it.. past, religious, parents... #JBCBooks: 

maryleenextbook : #JBCbooks -- is disinterested being closed?: 

stava89 : @jenwgilmore I mean religion.. #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @Feldheim I think we think as Jews beliefs are the same. But backgrounds and politics and upbringings are so wildly different. #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @stava89 The grandfather in LA returns to his Jewish roots. But we don't know what motivates him. Mortality?#jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @maryleenextbook I don't think so. They are caught up in the time. They are lost in some way, these characters. Not closed though. #jbcbooks: 

erikadreifus : @jenwgilmore Didn't say that. 4 Goldsteins don't seem interested in trying it (Sharon does reject a friend's rec to go to syn.) #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @stava89 I understood you meant religion!#JBCBooks: 

stava89 : Ah yes, true...I guess I keep picturing dennis and sharon and their relationship to judaism and synagogue life #JBCBooks:

erikadreifus : @jenwgilmore Sharon's father, otoh, seems to have returned to it. #JBCBooks:

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus I was sad for Sigmund too. #jbcbooks: 

nycbook : food seems to play a big role for each of the family members, but individually, not unifying. how did that play in for you?#jbcbooks:

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus @stava89 I think Dennis and Sharon will eventually return to their Jewish roots. It's a repeated cycle!#JBCBooks: 

stava89 : @jenwgilmore :) #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @nycbook Food is huge in the book. It's about family, identity, love, and it's about the manipulation of global politics. #jbcbooks:

jeffisraely : RT @jenwgilmore: like the Ice Storm! #jbcbooks but no wife swapping...YES but vivid LSD and hotel cocktail scenes..but NOT autobiographical!: 

jenwgilmore : @nycbook my father was a food economist! That played a lot into my interest and the embargo against the Soviet Union. #jbcbooks: 

erikadreifus : @nycbook And the caterer's daughter is anorexic & bulimic. #JBCbooks: jenwgilmore : @jeffisraely No, the LSD and Ritz hotel scenes are not autobiographical! #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus Yes, and the mother misses those signs. Everyone is trying to control their life through food.#JBCBooks: 

Feldheim : @jenwgilmore I think core beliefs may be the same (Torah, Mitzvos, etc) but day2day practice of these ideas can be drastically dif #jbcbooks: 

stava89 : @nycbook @erikadreifus and the protest at Brandeis over pork #JBCBooks: 

erikadreifus : @jenwgilmore The mother is more upset that there's party food missing than that her daughter has just binged & purged! #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @Feldheim absolutely, and without those core beliefs, it becomes something quite different. #jbcbooks: 

nycbook : @stava89 and food choices #jbcbooks: 

stava89 : @jenwgilmore Food accounts for many defining moments for the characters...draws them together..pushes them apart, etc.#JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @stava89 @nycbook @erikadreifus That pork protest really happened! But I wanted to give a little levity to protest, too. #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus No, I think the mother is very upset about the daughter. BUt she doesn't have the words yet.#jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @nycbook @stava89 So much-for all of us-happens at the dinner table. This family, even more so. Food is pivotal to many decisions. #jbcbooks: 

JewishBook : @jenwgilmore Agreed, Sharon wants to say something, vanessa wants her to say something, but the communication simply isnt there. #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @nycbook @stava89 I am so interested-esp now w issues of sustainability-the way food plays out in families. as you note...#jbcbooks: 

erikadreifus : @jenwgilmore I can see that. She clearly knows something is wrong (& knows it earlier). And...#JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishBook Their relationship was hard for me. It was painful to write about two damaged women missing each other completely. #jbcbooks:

erikadreifus : @JenWGilmore ...I seem to remember real public focus on these disorders in the 80s. #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus I don;t think it was called bulimia in '79. People def had disorders but it wasn't discussed, or named really.#jbcbooks: 

JewishBook : Our time is up. BUT Please feel free to stay and continue the conversation! Jen, thanks for joining us, this was so much fun! #JBCBooks: 

nycbook : it also brings up what a mother's responsibility is...also with tatti...what does it mean to be a mother #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishBook But there is love there. Between everyone in the family, as self-obsessed as each is. #jbcbooks: 

erikadreifus : Thank you, @JewishBook & @JenWGilmore! Nice to "see" fellow book clubbers again, too! #JBCBooks:

jenwgilmore : @nycbook Yes, that weighed on me. Her mothering.#jbcbooks: JewishLibraries : thanks for a great tweetchat! #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishBook Thank you so much! It was great to meet you all, if briefly. I'll stay a few more mins, should anyone want me! #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @JewishLibraries Thank you for joining. Much appreciated... #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @erikadreifus Thanks for the insight. And for reading! #JBCBooks: 

erikadreifus : Right @jenwgilmore (I don*t think it was called bulimia in '79. People def had disorders but it wasn't discussed, or named....) #jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : @stava89 Thanks very much for joining the discussion! #jbcbooks: jenwgilmore : @nycbook Thanks for joining in today! #jbcbooks: 

nycbook : right, and tatiana, who was a good mother figure in her son's eyes, ended up stealing from him @jenwgilmore #jbcbooks: 

erikadreifus : I love these #JBCBooks chats! I can bring lunch, tweet from my desk, and get right back to work! Thanks again, @JewishBook!: 

JewishBook : You can get Something Red at and follow @jenwgilmore and read more at #JBCBooks: 

jenwgilmore : @nycbook yes, but don't say any more!!! Her mothering skills-and cooking skills-do get called in to question.#jbcbooks: 

jenwgilmore : Thanks again, all, for the lively discussion. Feel free to DM me if you have any more questions, etc! #JBCBooks