Update from Book World

My novel came out a little more than a year ago, and it’s still having adventures. Here are a few of them.

Authors’ Roundtable at Temple Sinai

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Every year, the Women of Reform Judaism of Temple Sinai in Washington, DC hold an authors’ roundtable, which brings together some 200 book lovers for a panel discussion and then an opportunity to talk with individual authors over lunch. This year I was lucky enough to be part of the event, which included:

The discussion was expertly moderated by Lissa Muscatine, co-owner of DC’s preeminent independent bookstore, Politics and Prose. Muscatine had a long career as a journalist, and was a speechwriter and top advisor to Hillary Clinton from her years as First Lady through the 2008 election through her time as Secretary of State. Those of us on the book panel felt we could have had an entire discussion solely about Muscatine’s experiences.

There’s nothing better than talking about books and writing with people who love both. If you’re in the DC area, I suggest you check out next year’s roundtable at Temple Sinai. I’ll be there – in the audience.

Book groups!

Books that Bind book group

Books that Bind book group

I’ve been having a wonderful time meeting with book groups as they discuss Her Own Vietnam. It’s fascinating to hear readers’ responses, perspectives and insights about the novel.

Being with these book groups has reinforced something I’ve always known but can still find difficult to grasp: your novel is not a finished product. It is simply the raw material that each reader will use to create her own experience. And her experience can be something you intended, or something you never imagined, or even something you wish you’d thought of. In that way, each reader turns your book into her own.

Letters from readers

Photo: Zach Pierce mu-43dotcom

Photo: Zach Pierce mu-43dotcom

Every now and then a reader will take the time to send me a personal note about their experience with Her Own Vietnam. This one is from a man who was in one of the book groups I visited. He is a West Point graduate who served in Vietnam. Everyone else in his class also deployed to Vietnam, many of them for multiple tours. Not all of them came home.

Here is his letter.

“I wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading your book and even more enjoyed the opportunity to meet you in person and be a part of the [book group] discussion. I have read the book twice and have very much appreciated it as a thoughtful and compelling description of a piece of the world that my wife and I and others affected in one way or another by the war in Vietnam experienced in the late 60s and early 70s. Those experiences were very different depending on the specific time and role, but they left a mark on those who passed through them. We were young then but grew up quickly.

“I was never in an evac hospital and my friends who were have only fragmentary recollections of their time there, but those women and men who lived that experience for a year surely had experiences that haunted them ever after that. It’s a story that has not gotten much public discussion and your book captured well what they must have felt and experienced.

“So thanks very much. There is always some strain in revisiting those times but they are always there and I find that in one way or another I revisit them several times a week – not now as traumatic memories but as experiences that color the way I look at the world.”

Haunting Legacy

Deborah Kalb is an accomplished journalist and the co-author of the influential nonfiction book Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama. Her co-author was none other than her father, Bernard Kalb, who covered the Vietnam War.

So I was thrilled when Deborah interviewed me for her book blog.

She reached out to me because I’m participating in the annual Temple Sinai Authors’ Roundtable on February 27th, along with three wonderful writers:

  • Michelle Brafman, Washing the Dead
  • Maureen Corrigan, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why it Endures
  • Sarah Wildman, Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

The panel discussion will be moderated by Lissa Muscatine, co-owner of DC’s venerable independent bookstore Politics and Prose.

So yes, it’s going to be book-lovers’ heaven here in Washington, DC next Saturday. If you’re in the area, please come join us.

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