What is it about certain books that brings up back, again and again? Why re-read at all, considering there are so many great books waiting on our TBR lists?
This week we break down our favorite re-reads.
Aileen dusts off her old copy of Are You There God It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume, and talks about how being raised Jewish in an overwhelmingly Gentile area made her identify with Margaret, who was struggling with her own religious identity while going through the puberty gambit.
Lauren shares A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This re-read is all about the characters for her and the unique way they interact. Wanting those characters she loves to succeed always brings her back for more.
Alisa comes prepared with her stack of Twilight novels by Stephanie Meyer. She had a rotten year when the first book in the saga came out, and re-reading any of those novels allows her the rare opportunity to escape.
And Josie lets her Freak Flag fly with A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, which never fails to make her laugh.
This episode had some minor problems, just FYI. Alisa came down with a cold but was such a trooper and still showed up to record. Lauren was exhausted from driving her daughters to a Harry Styles concert the night before and couldn’t think straight. And Aileen had some last minute technical difficulties with her equipment but we went ahead and recorded anyway.
All in all the episode turned out great and we hope you agree!
Aileen, Alisa, Lauren and Josie
BELOW IS A TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE. PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT IT’S BEEN TRANSLATED BY AN AI PROGRAM, SO UNFORTUNATELY WE CAN’T VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY.
Josie: [00:00:00] She’s pulling them out, here they come.
Aileen: Oh my God. They’re so
Josie: my God. Really.
Aileen: so big.
That’s what she said. I’m going to stop doing that now. Sorry.
Hello and welcome to fiction between friends, a podcast, dedicated to books and book lovers like us. I’m Josephine, Angelini
Lauren: I’m Lauren Sanchez.
Alisa: I’m Alyssa Hillfinger,
Aileen: and I’m Aileen Calderon,
Josie: we’re four childhood friends from the suburbs of Massachusetts.
Lauren: Who’ve always loved to read almost as much as we love to talk to each other.
Alisa: We started this podcast as a way to celebrate how a really good book can come into your life and change it.
Aileen: So if you’re looking for fun and engaging conversations about books, stick around.
Josie: This is fiction between friends. And we’re glad you’ve joined us.
Welcome back. This is episode three, season one. I’m Josefine Angelini, and joining me are my dear friends, Aileen Calderon
Josie: Alissa Hillfinger
and Lauren Sanchez. Before we talk about books, how is everyone doing?
Alisa: Not bad.
Josie: [00:01:00] Alyssa? You have a cold don’t you?
Alisa: do. There’s a wicked cold going around and I was lucky enough to get it,
Lauren: I’d be so surprised if one of us doesn’t have COVID after this weekend at Mohegan sun in Connecticut.
Aileen: I think it’s funny. You’ve turned into the party animal. out of the four of us.
Alisa: I know
Lauren: Like calm down, calm down.
Josie: Librarian slash party animal.
Aileen: don’t know. You were, you were at the Harry styles concert on a Saturday
Lauren: okay. I didn’t go to the concert though. The girls went, I, I was one of the parents waiting. Like there was a line I should have taken a
Alisa: Lauren, where were you waiting?
Lauren: Well, I waited in a bar for a
Alisa: party. Mom.
Lauren: Okay. But I brought a book to read,
Aileen: Nerdy party, mom.
Alisa: I know. Aileen What about you?
Aileen: Um, so I actually had a, um, a randomly fun Sunday evening. I feel like I’ve, um, I get that point where I’m like stuck on the hamster wheel of motherhood. That’s what I’ve decided is, you know what it is like you have a baby and suddenly you’re on this like little person’s schedule and you [00:02:00] have to like feed them and keep them alive. And like, that just continues. I think you guys have sort of gotten past that, but I’m four and a half year old. So it’s still like every day, like wake up, keep him alive again with school, he comes home and keep them alive. Like, you know, every day is just kind of like more of the same. The weekends are the only time you really do anything different. And I dunno, I feel like Sunday nights end up being such a routine usually. So it’s so nice when you just do something unexpected and you get a chance to be spontaneous. I feel like when do you ever get to be spontaneous with a parent? Really?
Josie: I don’t do it.
Alisa: And Sundays are always, so I find them like, if they were a color, they would be like a gray. I mean, they’re just hard.
Josie: The long dark tea time of the soul.
Alisa: Yeah, exactly.
Lauren: now I’m getting jealous. Cause alien has a white claw. Alyssa’s drinking red wine and I’m drinking tea.
Josie: I’m drinking tea too.
Alisa: my camomile ginger tea in my hot chocolate
Lauren: So, what was that other glass that I saw to chase your wine?[00:03:00]
Alisa: I will admit to nothing.
Lauren: Oh, that’s funny. I had ice cream today and I have this rule that I won’t do alcohol and high calorie in one day. Like I have to do one or the other, so I had my ice cream
Alisa: Adulting is so hard.
Aileen: I definitely, um, got into the hall that Halloween candy right before this, I’m not gonna lie.
Alisa: See, I’ve learned to buy the Halloween candy. I don’t like to eat.
Lauren: Yeah, it’s smart. But that means the kids don’t really like it either.
Alisa: no, it’s well, it’s interesting because I very much am a chocolate person and, and David isn’t, he prefers like sour, candies and chewy candies. And so we can come to an agreement.
Lauren: you were telling us today, you can buy skim milk at the store. Because you’re like a chocolate hot chocolate addict. So I’m not surprised that you like to eat chocolate. It just sounds like
Alisa: That’s true. And I am a chocolate snob too. I will admit, which makes it easier to say no to. You know, chocolate that I, I’m not going to [00:04:00] just mindlessly eat chocolate because it has to be good or it’s not worth my time.
Lauren: I kind of feel that way too.
Josie: No, I’ll eat bad chocolate, but I’m angry about it. They’re eating it. And I’m like, sucks. This is terrible.
Alisa: Josie, what, what about you?
Josie: Um, the, like I do, honestly, all I do are play dates and errands and right. Like, that’s it, like, I, I got a few hours in of writing yesterday morning and this morning, and then it was just me hanging out with another mom while our kids just ran around us. Like, seriously, anyway So. Ayleen what book did you pick this week?
Aileen: I picked, are you there? God, it’s me Margaret by Judy bloom, one of my
Aileen: favorites. Well the thing about this book, I just happened to read it over and over again when I was. And it’s funny because growing up, I would always do that. I would have a favorite book and I would read it 2, 3, 4, 5 times. I never, as an adult [00:05:00] reread and the thing, and I was thinking about that. Oh Yeah, I don’t at all. I would never consider, even if I love a book, once I read it, it’s dead to me. I read it. I’m done. I move past. I’m not going to go back. I don’t know why. Cause growing up, I would like love these books. They were so comforting and I read them again and again, and I, Yeah. you guys, we read books
Lauren: Sometimes, I mean, I might have like one or two that I, uh, we’ll go back to, but
Josie: Uh, a lot of times I’ll reread books. Whoa. I really like how he or she usually she let’s face it. I read more women. Although today I did pick a man. I did pick a male author this time, which was hard,
Aileen: That’s what she said. Sorry.
Josie: um, I’m trying to figure out how they incorporated a storyline in or character in, or, and I’ll read, I’ll upset if I think a series is really good. I’ll obsessively read it. Like I’ll reread it over and over and over again until I think I get it like, yeah. So I do it all
Lauren: Yeah. Sometimes. I mean, I I’ll like I’ll read a book really fast and [00:06:00] then by the time I get to the end, I’m like, I don’t remember, like, I just read that so fast and now I have to go back and like absorb it.
Josie: You got to stop smoking pot.
Aileen: So are you there? God, it’s me, Margaret. I read over and over again as a kid. Um, it’s about Margaret Simon. She moves from New York city to the suburbs of New Jersey with her parents. So I can very much relate as an adult. And it’s all about just being she’s in sixth grade. It’s all about being an 11 year old girl. All the crap you have to deal with. it’s been on a lot of banned books lists because they talk about menstruation. Um, which is crazy to me that that would put a book on a banned books list. Obviously that I imagine it was years ago. I can’t much, I hope that would never happen now, but you know they all want to get their periods. They all want to get boobs. They all have crushes on boys. There’s that awkwardness of like trying to fit in. And I realized when I was thinking about it, now, if the book is called, are you there? God, it’s me Margaret, but it’s not a religious book. [00:07:00] Um, but within the book, she constantly like at the end of every chapter, she’s like, are you there? God, it’s me Margaret. And she talks to God about whatever she’s trying to figure out. And God is almost like a stand in for just, she needs some kind of figure in her life who can understand the things that she can’t understand. Um, and one of the other things that she’s grappling with is her religion because her father is Jewish. Her mother is Christian. And so she’s trying to figure out what religion she is because her parents told her we’re not going to give your religion. That’s up for you to decide when you’re older. And it was interesting. Cause I was thinking about it because growing up, like my mom is Jewish, my dad isn’t, but I was raised Jewish and growing up in our small town, I actually always, really felt kind of like an outcast because I was Jewish. Not like an outcast. Yes. and I don’t, I don’t think it was something I ever really talked about, but there weren’t that many Jewish kids. It was like
Josie: Nope. Matt Mitchell and Sarah
Josie: Michelle? Yes. Yeah.
Aileen: Like I think [00:08:00] I,
Lauren: loved the fact that you were Jewish because your mom made the best matzah ball soup. And sometimes it would end up in my locker
Josie: You had a, you had a Dreidel making party
Alisa: I know.
Alisa: Do you remember when Marla came in and, and we played the dreidel games and oh Yeah.
Josie: and I loved your dog Shalom.
Aileen: oh yeah. Yeah, Um, Yeah. we had a Hanukkah party every year, but I was always so
Aileen: everybody celebrating Christmas because everybody had a Christmas tree and like, there was just such a, like a tradition or involved with it and Hanukkah, I guess. I mean, you get presents for eight things. I’m not going to lie. It doesn’t stop, but for Christmas. Yeah. It just, I think, cause you always want the things that you don’t have. So for me, you know, not being Jewish meant Christmas and all those presents on Christmas morning and like Santa. So I just kind of felt like everybody else was doing this thing that I didn’t get to do. So it was always like a little self conscious about that. And it was funny once I left Ashlyn and they went to like New York city, I was like, [00:09:00] oh, everyone’s Jewish. You know, there wasn’t there wasn’t like a weird thing anymore. But growing up it always just kind of felt like this weird thing. So with this book, I was like, oh Margaret, I kind of get you. Yeah. Like you can’t figure out what you are, your dad’s love thing. Your mom’s another thing. You’re not sure where you fit in. Um, and I was just thinking about. 11, what a tough I mean,
Aileen: puberty just sucks. I mean, body is just like morphing and changing things are getting lumpy and hairy. The hormones are getting crazy. There’s just no rhyme or reason to anything that’s happening to you. But everybody, all the adults expect you to like behave and they’re like to these schedules and do things the way you’re supposed to. But like everything inside you and even outside you is just like going nuts. And you’re trying to figure out the world and just reading this book, it kind of brought me back to that period and how hard it is and this, I mean, I love beauty bloom. She just, her voice is just so honest and true and her characters are great [00:10:00] and authentic and it’s just, it’s, it’s just such, it’s even now it’s still such a great book, but
Lauren: relate to her books, I think.
Aileen: do you think they still relate now because That was something else I was thinking about. It felt very timeless. I mean, I have to say the cover of the book bums me out. I showed you guys a picture. It’s a picture of.
Lauren: was a weird addition.
Aileen: message, message between Margaret and God. Devoid of any kind of humanity at all.
Alisa: I understand it. So I don’t, I mean, I don’t want to come off as being totally negative here because I think that’s something that the kids would totally relate to. And I mean, how many of us shop for books based on the covers? And I think kids today would look at that and relate to it and love it. And I think that’s the part I hate. I hate that kids are going to be drawn to the screen.
Aileen: Well, yeah, because I think that’s what I think that’s what it is because the previous additions pretty much, I looked them up pretty much. All of them had a picture of a girl on the front. And then this, the fact that this are like, Nope, we’re going to take all people off. And it’s just going to be a text message. very appropriate for the time that we’re [00:11:00] living in. And that’s really depressing because
Aileen: the way the world. Um, I found out it’s also being turned into a movie, which I’m yes. I’m so curious. I don’t know when it’s going to come out. I think they just shot it or they’re shooting it now. Um, but I
Josie: I wonder if they’re going to age or if they’re going to age Margaret up,
Lauren: I don’t know. I feel kind of weird about that. Um, I don’t know. I feel like the book. Yeah. Well, these days it’s not that young, unfortunately.
Josie: when a woman, uh, a lot of girls really do start puberty around 11, but then, you know, 11 year old girls are still pretty young. Like you look at them and you’re like, you’re still you know?
Josie: So it’s weird. Like it’s just this really awkward time there. They really are still kids in so many ways, but yet they’re really starting to become women, but it’s so hard for anyone to accept. I think.
Aileen: I know I was thinking about this thinking about this book. And I was thinking for me, there are just like such timeless themes in it. not fitting [00:12:00] in that your friends have kind of feeling like you’re always kind of doing things wrong and like feeling your parents are unhappy with you. Like you’re trying to please everyone things that I assume that teens stay with things it’s still relate to, but actually Lauren and Alyssa, I’m curious, like, do you. think I’d actually would love for your kids to read this book and see if they just roll their eyes at like your old lady book or if they would
Aileen: it and like relate to.
Lauren: Yeah. I don’t think either of my girls read though, which is funny. Cause I, I love that book, but I don’t often recommend it anymore. There’s other more contemporary books that kind of, I wouldn’t say I would not recommend it. It’s just on the top of my list for when I do a book talk, you know?
Alisa: I know. I think what gets hard, what gets difficult is there are all these good books, but the list keeps getting added to.
Lauren: Oh, there’s so many
Alisa: get to a point where it’s like, you know, over-saturation of these great books and there’s only a finite number of minutes.
Lauren: I think with the, with, are you there? God, it’s me, Margaret. there are not [00:13:00] a lot of contemporary books that talk about periods that I know of. I mean, I could be wrong, but, and I, I, you know, it was surprising and it is surprising that that book. Did that and when it came out and I think that the fact that it’s still, so it still resonates with you and other people it’s because you could totally relate to that.And I feel like sometimes the fiction that for kids that age,
Lauren: fantastical now very popular genre. Um, and the realistic fiction I TA I don’t, seen a book, anything like that book come across my desk at work at the library.
Aileen: That’s so interesting.
Lauren: think of anything right now. Maybe Josie can, can think of, something.
Josie: can’t think of
Lauren: Yeah. I mean, the fact that, um, Margaret gets filled up by a boy, like, to me, that was like, don’t you guys remember that?
Lauren: Yeah, that was a big part for me. I was like, whoa, that’s like big.
Lauren: let a boy touch her [00:14:00] boobs. Like I remember feeling really a little awkward about that.
Aileen: You know, I I wonder if it’s because like this book kind of gave kids a lot, probably gave a lot of kids, new information, kids don’t need books to tell them that these days, you know, you can just go online and learn pretty much anything you want. Like maybe books are more a source of entertainment and education at that age.
Josie: Here’s the thing. Yeah, you can, but to relate personally, to a character going through exactly what you’re physically going through in your body is different from looking it up and getting the facts. Do you know what I mean? To actually be like, somebody understands me is just a completely different perspective, but it gives you a different perspective on yourself because if you have sympathy for that girl or if you’re reading it and you’re like, not only do I get you, I think you deserve comfort or love or You can have empathy for yourself and a lot of, yeah, it’s not just information really.
Lauren: I think there was like a little bit of a. It’s taboo [00:15:00] feeling, reading it. You were like, I’m reading this book about a girl who gets her period. And for me, that was kind of like, it was kind of like a big secret, you know, I’m reading that book and I would reread that part over and over again, because it was such a mystery to me,
Alisa: Do you remember being talked to about your pier? I have no recollection except for
Lauren: class from, at me.
Alisa: that the sixth grade. And they still do that except now I think it’s fifth
Lauren: It’s fifth grade now.
Alisa: girls and boys are separated and it’s all binary. So God forbid you don’t identify boy or girl
Lauren: needs to change
Alisa: well that, and why can’t boys learn about girls getting their periods?
Lauren: absolutely. 100%
Josie: And this is the start getting pregnant. You know what I mean? Why can’t boys start learning about sex ed when the girls need to, when they start getting their periods
Lauren: I mean, I think they might cover it like briefly, but it’s not
Lauren: in depth by any means.[00:16:00]
Josie: and it’s more like, don’t put your Dick in it. That’s what they’re told. That’s
Alisa: do you remember the sex ed class we had? Was it eighth grade? Because eighth grade was up at our high school. I can picture the classroom and I can picture, oh, I won’t say the kid’s name, but there were questions about the efficacy of saran wrap as a birth control method. But these are the conversations that need to happen.
Josie: Yeah. Somebody needs to ask that question.
Alisa: Right? The answer is no, by the way, it’s not, not a good choice just to be clear.
Aileen: this because
Alisa: Because I’m a science teacher.
Aileen: oh yeah, that, okay.
Lauren: it’s obvious.
Aileen: takes the thought out of it, but even that’s such an interesting point about boys not learning about periods, like it being like a girl thing. I was thinking about this with I’m an asshole the week before my period. Like I just,
Josie: [00:17:00] Hmm.
Aileen: worse as I’ve gotten older.
Alisa: Yeah, that’s
Aileen: around PMs. I don’t even want it own it to my own husband. Uh, because it’s it, you feel it’s become such a joke. People just make fun of women being on the rag and women hand messing and being bitches. And like, everybody just laughs at it, but it’s legit. Like your hormones are doing things and your body, like isn’t really your own sometimes. And suddenly you’re like, oh, my God, I’m getting so angry about stupid things. Why am I doing this then? Yeah. And then you’d be like, oh wait, I’m getting my period. And then I still feel like, oh, this is so dumb, but it’s actually like a legitimate medical thing that is happening to us, but it’s just becomes such a joke and no one really like takes it seriously. You know, you don’t want to actually tell people.
Josie: Okay, Lauren. So what book did you want to talk about tonight?
Lauren: All right. I wanted to talk about a book called a tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which is a book that I re-read like three or four times, but it’s been a long [00:18:00] time since I’ve read it. And I listened to it this week and it was, I listened to the recording by Kate Burton. It was really good. And what I liked about it, is that she would do the Brooklyn accent when the kids were talking or the adults were talking, which was fabulous. Uh, I never, when I read it, I never put an accent in there, like, so that was really good. I enjoyed listening to it rather than reading it. I just love that book. I
Alisa: what’s it about?
Lauren: It’s about a girl named Francy Nolan. Her parents are, uh, were very young when they married and had her in the air at first-generation immigrants. I mean like their parents immigrated to the United States, in the 19 hundreds. So, uh, I will say that the book takes place between 1,919 12 something I’m probably wrong, but they’re improv, nourished people living in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn. And there’s a lot of symbolism, you know, you have the name of the book is a tree grows in Brooklyn and it’s basically this tree called the [00:19:00] tree of heaven, which I don’t know what kind of tree that is, but it, you know, it it’s prolific and it, and it’s kinda growing everywhere and growing and cracks in the street. And so it symbolizes. You know, this, survival. Uh, and, um, uh, Francy Nolan. So she’s this girl who is born into this difficult situation. Her dad’s he drinks her mom is struggling to keep the family together. And, um, she’s a smart girl. She wants to write, she wants to continue in school, but there are all these things out there against her. And, um, it follows her from when she’s just, you know, like a little kid all the way up until when she, You know, leaves home and our teens are starts to work in our teams. And, I just, why do I read this book all the time? I don’t know. I love the description in the book. it’s such like a little movie in your head. You just, you can see the children collecting junk and you can see them turning it in for their penny and going to the candy shop or Francy and Neely. Her brother are sent to [00:20:00] the butcher to get it, but there’s two different butchers, you know, and, and you go to one and you have to, you have to like trick them into giving you the right meat and not getting like the crappy meat. And then they go to the other and, you know, and you have to ask for a certain thing and it, it’s just so told so well, and so funny at times, and it’s so sad at other times, it really, your emotions are really. it’s up and down and it plays with you, you know, your mind, you just want this kid to succeed in life. and then it’s historical as well. It’s actually autobiographical. based on the author’s life, but it’s fictionalized. Definitely. Has have any of you read it?
Alisa: No, I hadn’t even heard of it.
Lauren: you should read it. It’s very good.
Lauren: Have you read it?
Josie: I, you know, I read it so long ago. It was it’s one of those books that I skimmed while I was in college. believe somebody was doing a play on it. And that’s why I ended up reading the book like that. I had to see part of the player. I had to review a scene in it, or somebody was putting it together. And so I [00:21:00] skimmed the book really quickly and I wish I’d had more time with it. That’s why I was so excited when you were bringing this because I was like, dang, that’s some good writing, I have to go back and start it
Lauren: Yeah. yeah. it became a best seller and it was made into a movie. It was on Broadway.
Josie: Yeah. It was on Broadway for a long time. And it’s just one of those like family stories too, the. idea of family and identity within a family. And that’s always something that’s deeply interested me because I have such a big family. And you know, when you’re one of the Angelina’s and you never get called by your own FirstNet likes I was Margaret Chrissy, Jerry. Like I would literally, my mom would call me Jerry, like my brother Gera and then Josephine. And finally she’d figure out who I was. I have to like the six strikes.
Lauren: We shouldn’t call you the dog’s name. That happened to
Josie: No, no, I got the dog. Well, we didn’t have dogs. I got the cats names all the time and like, I would get my niece’s names. Like I was like, my you’ve skipped a generation, like go through your own dang kids first.
Lauren: I think Josie too, like your dad was, he was an immigrant. Was he not like he[00:22:00]
Josie: Well, he was born here, but, um,
Lauren: still his first-generation.
Josie: And barely born in this country.
Lauren: What about your mom?
Josie: My mom’s mother came up through Ellis island from Ireland. She was from county Tipperary in Ireland and both of my dad’s. Parents, my Nanette and my nano were immigrants and my non, non never learned English. She never spoke any English. And my dad’s first language was Italian. yeah, so it’s definitely that New York immigrant story and funny when I moved to New York to go to college, um, all of my aunts and uncles, and everybody was like, you’re living on Mott street mob between house and in Bleecker, I live and I was at, I was at 3 0 8. I was at three 16. It was crazy. It was like, because I lived in little Italy, which was really close to NYU’s campus. And it was like, all of my aunts were like, when I came through Ellis island, that’s where I live. And it was just this,
Josie: felt very neighborhood-y and, and New York used to have that. It used to have that aspect. And I remember the Williamsburg aspect of, you know, that being [00:23:00] that insular community.
Aileen: Well, Williamsburg has changed so much.
Josie: Yeah. It has well, so it’s little, literally it doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s no Lita now.
Lauren: love how, you know, the Irish immigrants, like they, they’re kind of, they all kind of live in one neighborhood and then the Germans and then the Jewish people live in another And I love the interaction There’s a scene where I don’t know how politically correct. This would be viewed now but, she loved to go get a big pickle
Aileen: That’s what
Lauren: She had to do that. she’s like, she would eat a lot of like mushed bread, you know, they would eat like secondhand bread basically. And she would lose, like, she just couldn’t eat it all the time and she’d get like a nickel or something and go by herself. We’ll pick on her interaction with the, the Jewish pickle cellar. It’s priceless. It’s like, you can just see it like a real in your head, you know? And she’s just like, I want the one from the bottom of the jar and this guy’s like, you know, all annoyed with this little kid, you know? I don’t know. I love that book.
Aileen: by the way, Lauren, you said tree of [00:24:00] heaven. And I was like, that sounds so familiar. It’s actually an invasive species and they’re trying to
Lauren: Yeah. It is.
Aileen: in New Jersey because they’re spotted lamp lantern flies everywhere, which are
Josie: So the tree that grows in Brooklyn is actually destroying the wildlife in Brooklyn.
Aileen: actually like a re has negative connotations here. Now it’s a
Lauren: definitely not a native tray, right?
Aileen: Which was prob, which is actually probably intentional, know, even the, even the tree was a transplant
Lauren: good point. Yes.
Alisa: You’re so smart.
Aileen: Okay. I’m done now by.
Josie: But do you know why you keep rereading it? Like, what is it that keeps bringing you back to this book?
Lauren: I think I just, I get a feeling while I read it that I just care so much about the characters and I love how Francy is a reader herself. I just love how she’s a reader and she’s a survivalist, it’s just a progression from hardship to success.
Josie: That’s cool. So Alyssa, you’re up girl. what’d you bring
Alisa: Okay, well, first [00:25:00] the year is 2005. I have a toddler I had just bought a house. was a year and a half into my first real teaching job that was going to be career oriented. And every day was a battle. It just, the first several years of teaching, you’re figuring it out. It’s hard. And I don’t even know how I found this book. But it was the historian. No, that is not the book I’m about to talk about for the whole segment, but this is the prelude. So the historian 2005 Elizabeth , I’m not sure if that’s how you pronounce her name. It was her debut novel and it was a combination of history and folklore of lad, the Impaler. And I really like historical fiction as a genre. And I don’t like horror and I don’t like being scared, but I really liked the story of, um, Dracula and vampires. I don’t, I have no idea what it [00:26:00] is about that, but I find it interesting. I also find it terrifying. So. I’m adulting and I have this book and I’m reading it. And I distinctly remember sitting in my in-laws house in the couch while I’m pretty sure my toddler was not napping, but should have been napping. And I’m reading the book and I’m, I’m like terrified. It’s so well-written, but it’s dark and it’s intense. And I was using, I bought it at a big retailer bookstore and I was using the receipt as a bookmark. And I was like, I, I can’t even have this book in my house. I need to return it. It’s too scary. It’s too much. It’s too intense. So I returned it. So cut to that summer. And my sister-in-law who I get so many great book recommendations from. She’s like, oh, Alyssa, you should try this book. Twilight. It’s a new book from Stephanie Meyer. It’s fluffy and it’s fan Pires and it’s great. And it’s romance. And, and I was like, [00:27:00] yeah. Okay. I’ll try that. So Twilight, new moon, eclipse and breaking down all came out 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008. Um, and, and then there were some follow-up books, one in 2015, which was life and death, which was a retelling of the story from gender switch perspective.
Josie: Edward’s perspective, right?
Alisa: Um, no life and death is from Edith it’s, Edith and Bo instead of Edward and Bella and
Alisa: is the vampire in bow is the human. so she rewrote Twilight from a, uh, gender reversal perspective. Um, changed the story a little bit then in 2020, which I questioned that date, but sun came out, which was Edward’s perspective
Josie: Oh, okay.
Alisa: So I chose this series for the non theme of books. We go back to again and again,
Josie: Yeah, that’s not our theme.[00:28:00]
Lauren: we are seamless.
Josie: doing themes anymore, but in case if we were talking about books that we went back to again and again,
Alisa: Right. This, would be one of them for me. part of it is because like that there are multiple books in the series, so I can choose an entry point in into the story and, you know, kind of catch it from there. I really like stories where you can access it from different points of view. And so to have midnight sun, which is Edward’s perspective from the original story, which was Bella’s perspective, I like that juxtaposition, you know, to see how the details are different and how, when I read Twilight originally, you know, you play any character you play in your mind. Okay. You, you get the narrative the way it’s being told to you, and you have to make assumptions about what the other characters are thinking. And I like how this gives you an opportunity to [00:29:00] see if you’re on track. I also really liked the, which book was it? Oh, breaking Dawn. she broke it down into three books within the book. And the first book was from Bella’s point of view. The second book was Jacob, and then the third book was back to Bella. So the switching of perspectives again, I really liked. and then, so, so to go back to the historian, The historian is, was too much. It was too intense. And S and, and I don’t like anything too too graphic. And these books are, they’re not overly violent. I mean, they’re not violent. They’re not scary. They’re like gratuitous sexual interactions. it’s, it’s at my level. I, I just, I don’t like being scared. I don’t like horror. I don’t like violence. and yes, I was 30 ish, 32 ish, maybe. the first time I’ve read it, but, but again, going back to like that adulting stuff here, I was having to keep [00:30:00] track of all this stupid adult, you know, heavy, and I can escape back into, know, this freedom and, you know, Josie, you had said, Last time when we were talking that one of the reasons you like why a is, because the emotions are all heightened and, and that’s the thing like as a teenager, you only have to worry about, hopefully you only have to worry about, you know, your friendships and your relationships and, you know, academically, maybe if, if you’re a student, like where you fit in school, or if you’re a young adult, you know, starting a job, but you don’t, you don’t, have to burden yourself with all the adulting stuff. And that as an adult is, I can remember back to being in high school. And I can remember back to Friday night football games under the lights and like being so excited because you know, who are we going to see there? And then you know, someone sees me, you know, in the stands and my heart gets all a flutter. It’s like [00:31:00] the biggest thing ever. And that’s what these books allow you to do. Go back and tap into that. know, innocence and opportunity and you know, just, it frees you from having to be an adult,
Lauren: you can be with a vampire boy.
Alisa: right. Who’s who’s
Lauren: Who’s sparkles in the sun.
Alisa: I need the sparkles. I so need the sparkles. I can’t do scary.
Josie: I devoured Twilight. Like when I didn’t read it, I got, I got on the bus late, but I remember for some reason I was reading it on my roof. I lived in this apartment building in, uh, in Hollywood, like right outside of Hollywood. I would read it on my roof at night. It was bright enough where I was at. I didn’t have to bring any lights up and I was just like, oh, dang. And I’d be like on the roof one time, I was like, I got to climb all the way down. The friggin fire escape. Drive my butt to the bookstore go up. This was like, I didn’t have a Kindle. I was like, I gotta get the next book. And I just remember being on the roof and I was like, okay. And I like climbed down the fire [00:32:00] escape and like got in my car, drove to the bookstore, bought the next book. I couldn’t like not do it.
Lauren: had to know what happened next.
Josie: to know I went from one book to the next I devoured that whole
Lauren: Yeah, I did too.
Alisa: Well, and, and so it must have been, oh, son was born in 2006, so it might’ve been 2007 during the summer when I’m not teaching, but I still had the kids, you know, going to daycare, I don’t know, one day a week to hold their spot, whatever. I distinctly remember sending both kids to daycare, driving home, laying on the couch all day, just reading. I just wanted to read to find out what happened
Josie: It’s like binge reading. I love that feeling.
Alisa: I loved it. And I remember, I mean, I didn’t even get up for lunch and, and stops me from eating food is very important to me. I even gave up lunch for this. it just, it, [00:33:00] it grosses you and it, I just, as a new mom and, and I realized after my son, I, I definitely had depression
Alisa: such a funk, and I felt so stressed and inadequate and unhappy. And I, I didn’t know. I didn’t, I mean, I didn’t realize it until after the fact. Um, but these books were such a way to escape and,
Alisa: and just find some excitement and some freedom.
Josie: And to feel all the feels in like a very safe way. It’s like your, uh, the, the, another thing that I love about WIA writing for this particular, know, there’s like a very, the book I’m going to talk about is really heady. It’s like very intellectual and it’s funny, and Bubba,
Josie: books like this, like the Twilight series and, um, Cassandra Clare series is another one that just, you get into them. And it just, it’s all emotion. You [00:34:00] can feel all the feels like you can go through every emotion that you could possibly have in your life by the time that you’re ended up at the end of the book. And then you can put the book down and it’s like, I don’t know, that’s not my problem. And our lives. We don’t get to put the book down. Like we have to keep writing it every single day. But with this, it’s like this wonderful place that we can feel absolutely everything that we
Josie: and get it out. And I think people tend to look down on books like this and look down on series
Alisa: Uh, but yeah.
Josie: seriously tell me a more constructive place for people to find connection and experience their emotions and then safely put them down and walk away from them. I can’t think of any other place that you can do that. You know what I mean? I mean maybe if you turn your music up real loud and dance around, you can get it all out too. this is like the reading equivalent of that. And I think there’s so much value in that and I don’t know why people knock it. it’s so [00:35:00] emotional and you get so enthralled
Aileen: I feel like there’s there’s so many books like that, that just don’t get taken seriously. Like they’re not real literature, but they have like millions of passionate fans. Probably. I’m going to guess probably because it’s women mainly who liked these books, like. Chic Lit thing. Oh my God. Like I just realized recently the genre that I like is called women’s fiction. It probably used to be called Chic Lit And that was offensive to now it’s women’s fiction. so I was like, cool. What’s men’s fiction. And I Googled it. Not really a thing, like Hemingway comes up or like a book that has man in the title, but like women actually have their own genre of
Josie: cause, we’ve been ghettoized. It’s like women have been told that, you know, that our literature and what we like to read has less value than, you know, literature has been branded. And I just, I haven’t, I don’t, I don’t know anybody that can give me a valuable explanation for why that is apart from the fact that women are often considered less [00:36:00] than, you know,
Aileen: it’s so infuriating because there’s so many Great. female. They’re Great. writers. They’re. Storytellers, they have tons of fans and for some reason they just don’t get taken seriously. And they’ve, they’re pushed aside to this own category.
Lauren: I have, really read a book in a long time because I’m working on my masters. And so I, I listened to books. Um, whenever I can and I love Robin Cars, books, They’re romance, they’re there’s sex in them, but it’s not, but, and, and I’m almost embarrassed to tell people because I don’t want them to judge me. You know, I studied American literature. I like to think that I can, you know, read literature and talk about it, but it’s such an escapist thing for me to listen to Robin car’s books and just get involved with the characters. And I think that’s why I listen to like Twilight at that time, it just was removing yourself from your situation and thinking about other people
Josie: Just as somebody who writes, why can I, I just [00:37:00] really wish I could explain how much care and how do you know frigging hard. It is to write a book that captures people’s attention like that. Do you know how frigging hard it is to write a book that you can’t put down? This is not an easy thing. Y’all it takes craft. It takes work. It takes time. It takes rewrites. It takes just as much thought and planning as it does to write like the next big literature, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah thing that somebody is going to read once it’s forced themselves to finish, because let’s face it. There’s going to be a really big, boring section in the middle. And they’re going to be like, no, but this is good writing. So I’m going to finish reading it. Dang it.
Aileen: know. I’ve always wondered this. What makes something literature? Like there’s like fiction nonfiction, and then there’s literature. Literature is like the serious books. They’re usually, I feel like kind of boring and long.
Josie: Yeah. In the middle, right in act two. It’s boring.
Alisa: Anything can be literature.
Aileen: I think this is a
Alisa: it is because, so you also, what’s coming to mind for me by comparison. Uh, it’s a [00:38:00] movie comparison, but I don’t think. men in particular. Well, so I I’m speaking from a very narrow database, right. It’s my husband, his brothers, his cousins, but there’s a whole subset of movies that would not be considered, um, literature if it were a book. Right. So I’m, I’m thinking of, um, the Chris Farley type movies, entertaining.
Alisa: They, have
Alisa: they are escapism nobody’s embarrassed to say they love those movies you know, but so I think then, you know, the equivalent in books we see. I don’t even want to call them fluffy there. It’s not because that’s disparaging. It’s it’s relatable. It might so maybe light, right? W maybe we’ll call it light because it it’s not, oh, I don’t even know how to describe it. I would need more time to think about this, but, but I think you’re right. You
Josie: There’s no definition. I’ve really tried. Alyssa. I’ve really tried. Like I’ve sat down [00:39:00] and I’ve pulled apart books and I’ve been like, why is this book called pulp? Like, why is this. But, and why is this book winning the fantasy award of the year? You know, like what’s seriously, like sometimes you can see quality of writing, but.
Aileen: I think you have to look at
Aileen: critics are. I think you, have to look at who the juries are for all of the awards. I think there are probably a lot of, I think there’s actually starting to change that. Like I remember Jennifer Wiener liner. I don’t know if you guys have ever read her. For books And I get, it would be called women’s fiction or chiclet or whatever she wrote. wrote a letter to the New York times. I liked at the end or something at one point, I think talking about like how all her books were being reviewed by men. I don’t remember exactly what it was. I have to look it up, but brought up some really good points about just how the gender issues and inequality with like books written by women versus books or And I think maybe women tend to gravitate towards that are different than the ones that men gravitate towards like Alyssa, the that you were just referring to [00:40:00] remember romcoms, those kind of went away for awhile. I mean, women were the ones who love. I love a good rom com. Oh my God. I just want to sit on my couch and
Aileen: just like watch a good cheesy never
Josie: And again,
Aileen: but so many people
Josie: do you know how hard it is? do you know how hard it is to write a really good romcom that makes people cry over and over again? It’s frigging hard. Like my husband’s a screenwriter and I’ve read a lot of screenplays and you know, a good romcom on the page. Like you can read it and be like, that’s good writing. Like it works like when Harry met
Josie: jumps off the page. It’s so good as a screenplay. Um, love actually
Josie: so good. Even just written. It’s so good. don’t care if these are wrong comps. I know who does it. Oh God. I curl up with some pop car and it’s time for love. Actually. I love that movie.
Alisa: have a thing for Colin Firth. So.
Josie: Who does it. Everybody does everybody from our generation, how to call in [00:41:00] first phase for all that’s in the vault, but it’s, and they’re really hard to do. They’re really hard to write, and it’s really hard to find something that lasts years and years later, you know, and for some reason, those are the movies that get, and people are like, oh, it’s like a chick movie, but they’re so well done. They’re good movies. anyway, so I am the only one. Yes, we should talk about me and my bucket. So I’m the only, this is the first male writer that I’ve introduced and I picked Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy. Um, and this, because keeping with our theme, non theme books, that I’ve re-read a million times is definitely Hitchhiker’s guide. Like I’ve not done the whole series. Well, the first two are my favorite, um, Hitchhiker’s guide and then restaurant at the end of the universe. life, the universe and everything is really good too, but it starts to get a little too, like out there for me, but those, the first two books are like definitely my favorite in the series.[00:42:00] The reason why this is such an odd pick for me. And I know everybody’s like Josie, you love Yia. You did pride and prejudice. What are you doing with Douglas Adams? But. For me, I grew up, my dad was a huge Peter Sellers fan and we watched like those, uh, the pink Panther series, like over and over and over again, I’ve seen all of those movies. My family can like quote them to each other from across the house. And Peter seriously, Peter Sellers was part of this BBC radio show called the goon show. And we used to have goon show, a couple of records of theirs. This is back when they used to like make records of radio shows and my family would listen to them and we have a couple of them all memorized. Like we know all the lines from them and Hitchhiker’s guide was actually a radio show first before it was a book. It was one of those BBC quirky British humor that somehow was given to me by my Italian dad. Like, it just doesn’t make any sense. I’ve always [00:43:00] loved science fiction and fantasy. And Hitchhiker’s guide was where I learned to love, like the combination of science fiction and comedy or fantasy and comedy. And there aren’t that many writers who do it. Like there’s Terry Pratchett. He’s also British. Well, he was he’s passed. He has the whole Discworld series. That’s a fantasy comedy series. And Douglas Adams has a scifi comedy series. And I don’t know what it is about the writing that just cracks me up. Like every time I read it, it’s just so it’s almost, it’s like borderline nihilistic. It’s it’s all about the end of the world. Like the earth blows up
Lauren: I can’t say that word very well. It’s like your
Josie: irreverent. It’s a reverent humor. It calls into question, everything calls into question like religion and sexuality. And by the way, men and women are together. And the nature of reality, it’s just so weird. It’s one of those books that like, I it’s [00:44:00] me when I first read it. And I was like, I’m a Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy fan. I realized I was deeply weird and right. And I realized that that was mine. Like, you know, we all try to fit in. I read this book the first time, probably freshmen or sophomore in high school. And I was like, I’m like a very strange person. Only strange people love these books that I love them. I kind of claimed it. And that was, I just got comfortable with it. I still hid my fantasy because nobody else in our high school was reading. Like, I mean, there are very few people who are reading, like Dragonriders of Pern, which was a series that I grew up reading that I was reading. Marian Zimmer Bradley’s miss of Avalon was like a book from, I know that book changed me. I read that freshman year and it it
Josie: my life. It changed the way that I thought about myself as a woman.
Lauren: book that I reread sometimes.
Josie: I’ve re-read it a million times too, but Hitchhiker’s guide. It’s like I pick it up and I [00:45:00] can’t stop. Like I just fall into the humor. I fall into the cadence and it’s kind of a book about nothing. And it’s also a book about the end of the world. It’s like the earth blows up and then they go on this ridiculous quest in a stolen spaceship that. It moves through the universe on improbability. So how improbable is it that this spaceship is just going to appear next to the planet that we want? And it has a computer that calculates the exact probability of how improbable it would be for this spaceship to go from point a to point B. And that’s how they travel. And they go through all of the improbability until then. So there’s like sperm whales that are falling through this and a bowl of petunias that sentient and like, understands that it’s like, what am I? Oh, I’m dying. Oh, that’s great. That’s my life. And like, that’s a part of the book. Whenever I go back to it. Not only am I reminded that writing and reading can be fun and it doesn’t have to be serious all the time. So many people, when, when Hitchhiker’s guide came out, it was an immediate bestseller, immediate number one bestseller. And [00:46:00] it stayed there because it was so weird and like allowing yourself the freedom to take that kind of a risk and admit that you’re a deeply strange person, even on the page. It just, it makes me feel freer. It makes me feel like I can do what I need to do with my work. Like I can take big risks and I can write different kinds of stories. So,
Aileen: I remember
Aileen: it not as a kid, not too long. And it was so deeply strange. And you just had to kind of,
Aileen: except this world that the author was creating, do you think, I mean, do you think the author, is that weird or do you think he just has this like marvelous imagination and was able to kind of, cause it’s also this a very specific style of writing, so. Did he just kind of was it intentional that he created and wrote like This Or do you think it was just him coming out in the pages?
Josie: This is, I think it’s a combination like, okay. So he also, he went to Cambridge at this at the same time. And right after the group, Monte [00:47:00] Python, they all went to Cambridge together. Monty Python was doing these like a decade ahead, maybe 15 years ahead of him. But there was this comedy club that was formed at Cambridge that I believe Douglas Adams went through and he wrote with them. He also wrote on doctor who like the,
Josie: it was a, I think it was a radio show before it was a TV
Josie: writing for the TV show. so he comes from sort of almost this farm of outside the box comedy thinkers, like, and another Monty Python and the holy grail is my my opinion that, and princess bride are like the two funniest movies ever made
Josie: Princess bride. is, and that’s that same kind of humor. It’s like that
Lauren: so Josie, I have a question. So I think, um, that we had that book growing up. I never did read it, but my, my brothers, I don’t know if all of them, but my dad read it. And then we watched the show. I watched the show and it kind of blurs in my memory with the Muppet show. So I kind of feel like.
Josie: told it
Lauren: of feel like they had checkers guide to the [00:48:00] galaxy. I feel like it’s kind of like the Muppets it’s like that kind of weird of like interaction between characters and yeah. Blends in my
Josie: So it was written episodically in the book. Like when you look at it as a book, kind of does it, it doesn’t really have that much of a structure. And that’s because he had this radio show and I think it was like episode 1, 2, 3, but not five and six and then seven and eight were the book and five and six for a restaurant at the end of the universe, which is the second book. So it’s like, he, it was sort of pieced together from an episodic thing and structures for episodic half-hour shows are completely different for how you, how you structure a book. So the, like, when you look at it as a book, I guess you could say, technically it doesn’t really work because it doesn’t have the right structure, but it does because it’s just a bunch of crap that happens to these guys. One of them is a human. Another one is F on Beeblebrox and he’s the president of the universe and he’s got three arms. And then there’s like a depressed Android who comes in and is like, oh, is [00:49:00] moaning about the life. He doesn’t have like Heron, Android. It’s just nuts. It’s absolutely nuts. But it comes from a very specific vein of comedy that was cultivated by this group of people at the BBC and at Cambridge. completely, it’s influenced this whole way of telling funny stories. It’s, it’s just so odd. And it’s so odd that I got on that train because like, to be this girl from Massachusetts who is into this British humor is just
Aileen: But also what a great, title. it’s I mean, you see, I’m sure you see that in the shelves. If you’ve never heard of it before it grabs you. and you’re like, I need to at least see what this is. All.
Josie: and Twilight is another book with tight. The title just is like that. It’s a revelation Twilight. It’s just a, and it’s a vampire love story. Of course it is. It’s like perfect title. Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy perfect title. Cause you know, a bunch of bologna is coming your way. [00:50:00]
Aileen: Josie? Do you come up with the titles for your books or do you get help from your editors? How does that work?
Josie: I always have a working title and then I’ll work. I’ll finesse it a little bit more. And I’ve had my titles changed before by my publishers. And I’ve had, know, are whole like, well, you can’t call it that meetings. And you’re like, why can’t I call it that? Because somebody thinks it sounds like homework. Why do you think it sounds like, you know, one, you asked one person and she said, that sounded like homework to you. And so now you don’t want to call it that when it has act anyway, but they will like, that’s one of the things that publishers really dig in about is that, you know, even if you have problems with their suggestions for the bill, they’ll like try to work with you. But,
Lauren: They have the ultimate say, right?
Josie: Yeah. They kind of do. They CA they can say, no, we just don’t like this title. You have to change it. And I’ve had that happen to me twice on stuff, and I’ve really regretted it. I regretted it in one case. In the other case, I don’t care. I don’t care.
Aileen: Cause it’s such a subjective thing.
Josie: Like so much of [00:51:00] that stuff is just, who’s standing around. When do we like that title? Oh, no, I don’t know. It sounds like homework to me. All of a sudden you can’t use the title that, you know, works for the story.
Aileen: that’s got to be infuriating.
Josie: It is. That’s really infuriating. It is, but you know, whatever. And then there are certain titles they just hit, like, I remember at the time everyone was like, what? You got to come up with? Like that one word title. It was all about the Twilight won, you know, just one word. It can only be one word. And you’re like, well, I don’t want a one word title. And then it turned into something else. It’s gotta be like bone and ashes or it’s gotta be blood and smoke
Lauren: like when I was,
Josie: word title.
Lauren: yeah. Or when, when he looked at me or I can’t think
Josie: Oh, yeah. Oh, what’d she found in the woods. It’s got to be a question like, everybody’s like, oh, it’s gotta be a question. Or it’s got to start with a who, what, when, where, yeah, there are, there are, trends in there and people like to springboard off of that. So it’s like, you can’t do one word [00:52:00] titles anymore. Probably because every single word has been made into a title.
Aileen: Basically whatever selling best is what everybody tries to copy.
Josie: Yeah. Because a lot of people will buy the wrong book on accident. And then all of a sudden you’re trending, but yeah, so that’s, that’s where I, that’s where I put my weird is in Douglas, Adam, and Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy.
Lauren: I like it.
Alisa: I do too. think that’s why we, like books is because there’s a, a book for every facet of your personality that needs an outlet.
Josie: And a lot of people won’t read outside of that. There’ll be like, this is what I like, and this is what I read. And it’s like, you don’t know, you know, like try a different one every now and again. So final thoughts wrapping up final thoughts on our books, going back and talking about books that we’ve re-read over and over again. Ayleen what are your final thoughts on, there? God, it’s me. Margaret.
Aileen: I still love this book. I just feel like the character is so relatable. so funny to read [00:53:00] about preteen girls, freaking out about getting boobs and periods and liking boys, you know, but there is such a universal thing, right? I dunno. I think every, every young girl can kind of relate to it and it’s just written with such honesty and mean, I’ve, I think I’ve read every single book Judy bloom has written. If not, I will make sure that I have, um, yeah, I just, I still, still love this book.
Josie: Uh, Lauren, what are your final thoughts on a tree grows in Brooklyn.
Lauren: I don’t know. I love that book. I don’t know why I always go back to it. I feel like I should have some like, phenomenal reason, like this life-changing thing, but I just like the character, isn’t it, it goes with that the way I am about most books, I really get with the characters and, um, and their lives and their personalities and I care about them. So I think that’s probably why I go back to it.
Alisa: My final thoughts on Twilight. It’s good escapism. It, it’s just, you know, six different books. So you [00:54:00] can jump in wherever you want and it’s great escapism and just fun.
Josie: It is fun. And my final thoughts on the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy are. I don’t know why I love this quirky British humor. It might be from my dad. It might be from Peter Sellers. It, it might be from watching Monty Python and the holy grail. It might be from seeing princess bride and loving that. But really, um, I love Hitchhiker’s guide and I, every time I read it, I laugh and that’s reason enough for me to read it again. Okay. Well, I guess that’s it for this episode of fiction between friends, that was awesome. You guys, thank you so much. Yay.
Aileen: we reading next week?
Josie: don’t know. Don’t tell our producer,
Lauren: Should we stop recording?
Aileen: No, let’s let it keep rolling.
Alisa: I know. What should we admit to.
Josie: You’ve been listening to fiction between friends to find the show notes for this [00:55:00] episode, or to subscribe and get new episodes delivered automatically. Visit fiction between friends.com. Also, if you happen to have a moment and you’ve liked what you’ve heard, please help support our podcast by leaving a review on apple podcasts. We would be immensely grateful. Thank you for listening.