Caroline Leavitt’s new novel, Pictures of You, explores the aftermath of a terrible accident in which a woman named April is killed. As her young son Sam and husband Charlie try to pick up the pieces of their lives, the photographer, Isabelle, who was accidentally responsible for April’s death is drawn to them. And as Isabelle and Sam get to know each other, he turns to photography as a way to process his grief.

We asked Leavitt what her favorite photograph is, and to tell us a little bit about it. Below is the story she shared with us – and what a story. Thanks, Caroline!


For most of my life, my mother told me there were no photographs of her as a child. One of eight kids, born to Russian immigrant parents, she never would say anything about her childhood except that it had been ordinary. But ten years ago, when her sister died, this incredible photograph was discovered in a basement. Taken by a studio photographer, it shows my mother’s whole family, and right there, in the right hand corner, with dirty knee socks falling down, in a rumpled dress, a tentative expression on her face, is my mother at eleven.

I love this photo, and not just because it’s so fabulously old-fashioned, with the bobbed haircuts and the knickers on my uncle. I love it because of that haunting young girl, unhappily pushed off outside the boundaries of family, almost like an afterthought. When my mother saw the photo, it unlocked something in her, and all that night, she told my sister and me stories about her past. How unloved she always felt. How unwanted. How she hated that hand-me-down velvet dress. But then she talked about how she had gone on to get married and have a career, how she had had my sister and me  shockingly late, which was unthinkable for women back then. That photograph makes me see my mother differently. It makes me want to hug that young girl and tell her everything’s going to work out, and it makes me love and admire my mother for whom she is today. It’s a piece of her past, but to me, it shines in her present. – Caroline Leavitt

The WORD on: Google E-books

December 19, 2010

All the staff are taking turns buying and reading a Google e-book, so that we know the ins and outs and can help customers with any questions! First up is owner Christine Onorati:

My first eBook purchase was Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky. I found the process of purchasing the e-book from our site very easy and intuitive. I had to link my Google eBooks account to my WORD account the first time and it was a simple process. I read the book mostly on my husband’s iPad, and I’m really enjoying that experience because the pages are pretty much the same size as the physical book pages. I also have read it on my laptop through the Google Reader, as well as on my iPod Touch. The iPad is still my favorite method. I would definitely purchase another eBook when I’m finished with this one.

The (Almost) Weekly WORD

December 6, 2010

The holiday season must be here — otherwise, we are listening to Run-D.M.C.’s Christmas in Hollis for no good reason. (Other than the hell of it.)

Last night’s event with Skippy Dies author Paul Murray was, in a word, epic. Murray is impressively entertaining and well-spoken, and kept the crowd nodding and laughing throughout his reading and interview with Ed Champion. We’ve got a limited number of signed copies of both editions, so get ’em while the getting’s good.

And then, of course, there’s this coming weekend’s Annual Holiday Open House to look forward to. The list of participating authors just keeps on growing, and we’re planning some fun goodies and surprises, so definitely stop by sometime Saturday and/or Sunday between noon and 4 p.m. (If you’re on the Facebook, you can RSVP!)

Let’s see, let’s see — oh, right, the gift guide! Let us make your shopping easier: just buy these books. And! We are now the exclusive source for signed and personalized books from local romance author and WORD favorite Sarah MacLean. You just try getting Stephanie and Jenn to shut up about her, go ahead. We dare ya.

As always, feel free to stop in and let us know your own gifty favorites, be it here in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook, or (GASP) in person. Happy holidays!

The (Semi) Weekly WORD

November 27, 2010

The holiday season has arrived! The gift guide will be appearing in your inbox this coming week — if you’re not already signed up, now’s a great time (we only send one email a month, pinky swear). And while our December events schedule is nowhere near as full as Novembers, it is equally awesome:

Sunday, December 5, at 7 p.m.: Paul Murray, Booker Prize-longlisted author of Skippy Dies, will make a very rare New York appearance at WORD in conversation with Edward Champion, host of the quirky radio program, The Bat Segundo Show. Expect the unexpected; Ed avoids routine questions wherever possible, so it should be an unforgettable interview. Murray will read and sign afterwards. Skippy Dies is one of Stephanie’s favorite books of the year (which is not something you should take lightly, because she is picky as all get-out), and Murray is from Ireland, so to say that we’re excited about this is a gross understatement.

Then, on Saturday and Sunday, December 11 and 12, from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., we’re having our second annual Holiday Open House. What is this, you ask? Nothing less than some of our favorite authors coming to the store! They’ll be on hand recommending books, gift-wrapping, signing, and generally taking part in the holiday fun. We’ve got some plans in the works (more details soon!) but suffice it to say: a good time will be had by all.

The WORD on: Tree of Codes

November 18, 2010

Jonathan Safran Foer‘s latest, Tree of Codes, immediately set off some heated discussions here at WORD and, we’re sure, at bookstores across the country. Here’s a round-up of our staff’s thoughts!

Jenn (events manager): At first glance, a customer and I agreed: it’s an amazingly cool concept, but we can’t imagine actually trying to READ it. Since then, however, several very smart people have talked me into the belief that if I gave it the time, it would probably be worth it.

Stephanie (manager): Is reading something from beginning to end really the only purpose of a book? And if it is now, should it always be? I would be sad if our industry only ever focused on either content or on what readers are asking for and never did anything else. That would get very, very boring.

Christine (owner): It’s so interesting to see where print is taking risks in the ominous ‘books are dying’ climate. I love that JSF takes those risks, it’s why I’m a huge fan of his to begin with. So I am very excited about it.

Dustin (bookseller): It’s an astounding sculptural argument for the joys of dead-tree tech, and JSF chose a truly interesting foundational text for it. But the real beauty of the book, to my mind, is that because its pages are literally transparent it makes more obvious the terrible dialectic between depth and opacity in any book.

What’s your take?

WORD is pleased to welcome Jo Karaplis, author of Fractured: Happily Never After?. In her book, she ponders the questions: What would happen if Snow White were around today? Would Cinderella still need a fairy godmother? Would the Little Mermaid show up on YouTube? She agreed to answer a burning question of ours…

Leave a comment with your own thoughts for a chance to win a signed copy! Contest runs Monday, November 30, til 7 p.m.

WORD: Which fairytale characters would fare best in today’s world?

JO KARAPLIS: If the heroines from popular fairytales were suddenly dumped into today’s world, I think they’d have a pretty tough time. Cinderella would be called a gold-digger, and the prince would probably make her sign a pre-nup. (The odds that she’d end up with a prince in the first place are pretty slim, of course.) Beauty would be pressing assault charges against the Beast (and she’d probably be suing her father, too, for selling her!). And poor Sleeping Beauty: left in a coma, she’d probably end up in a nursing home somewhere. Snow White would be busy cleaning up after a house full of messy fraternity brothers, waiting for her prince to come yet dating jerks in the meantime.

However, I have a lot of faith in Rapunzel. She was locked up by a bitter old woman, but she managed to plan and execute a successful escape. In today’s world, she’d probably have been kidnapped as a child and kept in captivity for years, only to finally escape and then write a bestselling memoir about her experiences. After all that time spent growing out her hair, I’d also love to see what she’d end up doing with it: hack it all off into a funky bob? Keep it long and wear a different elaborate style every day? After the success of her memoir, I bet she’d go to university and become a criminal justice lawyer or a political activist or something. Or maybe she’d study fashion and become a designer. One thing’s for sure: she wouldn’t let her past hardships define her, and she’d achieve whatever goals she set for herself. She’d be a fun woman to hang out with: the kind that always has a good book to recommend, and will kick you in the butt if you need a little motivation. If she wrote a blog, it would be outspoken and hilarious.

Jo is on a blog tour! You can catch her at the following locations:

Nov. 15:
Steph Su Reads

Nov. 16:
Word of Mouse Book Reviews
Bella’s Bookshelves

Nov. 17
The Reading Girl
Between the Pages

Nov. 18
Page Turners
Tahleen’s Mixed-Up Files

Nov. 19
YA Addict
YA Book Shelf

The Weekly WORD

November 14, 2010

Highlights from the past week:

  • The fabulous ladies of Passion (Rachel Kramer Bussel, Monica Day, Emerald, and George Storey) along with historical romance author Sarah MacLean, kept the crowd laughing (and rapt) during their reading this past Thursday. I also had the best cupcake of my life, in celebration of Rachel’s birthday, thanks to the Kumquat Cupcakery.
  • Local illustrator Lucy Ruth Cummins and author Shrill Travesty (The Taking Tree) proved to both be entertaining and talented. Mr. Travesty regaled us with some (unrepeatable) stories from the underbelly of the children’s book industry (NO SERIOUSLY), and Lucy did a speed drawing from crowd suggestions that is now proudly hanging on the wall of our basement.
  • Last night, Greenpoint rooftop farmer Annie Novak interviewed author Katherine Leiner (Growing Roots) on the new faces of food activism. It was a great discussion about where our food comes from, who grows it, what we should be thinking about when we buy it, what we can do to keep our food supply sustainable and healthy, and so on. We highly recommend stopping by Eagle Street Rooftop Farm to get great food (and/or get your hands dirty); if you see Annie, tell her we say hi!

We’ve got more event awesome coming up; check out our event calendar for the full details. See you there!

You like books, right?

November 7, 2010

In a few weeks we’ll be sending out our annual gift guide to try to make your holiday season a little easier (and a little more literate). And while we certainly have a (very, very, very, very) long list of ideas for this holiday season, we’d love to include some customer recommendations.

What books do you love to give? What books have you gotten and regifted? Have an idea that you think everyone should know about?  Email Stephanie (stephanie at wordbrooklyn dot com) with the books that you can’t wait to give this year, and let us know. You might make it into this year’s guide!

Events, Like Woah.

October 31, 2010

What do you call a month in which 18 special events happen? How about when 13 of them happen in a row? Here at WORD, we call it: November. We’ve got an events line-up that is PACKED with awesome. Full details are, as always, up on the WORD Events Calendar, but here’s the scoop:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. & Saturday, Nov. 6, 12 noon: WORD Book Group meets to discuss In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.
  • Thursday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.: Be the first to see Janice Shapiro and hear her read from Bummer at our pre-release party!
  • Friday, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.: Vol. 1 presents “Civic Pride,” a new Reading Series. This first installment features Chicago-born authors Adam Levin (The Instructions), Jami Attenberg (The Melting Season), Molly Tolsky, and free beer. (Yes, really!)
  • Saturday, Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m.: L’Aura Hladik presents Ghosthunting NYC and hosts a Haunted Open-Mic! Halloween candy guaranteed, costumes encouraged.
  • Sunday, Nov. 7, 11:30 a.m.: Illustrator Stephen Savage presents an interactive storytime for The Fathers Are Coming Home.
  • Thursday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.: Rachel Kramer Bussel is joined by several fellow authors, including Sarah Maclean (Ten Ways To Be Adored When Landing a Lord), to celebrate Passion: Erotic Romance for Women. Also: there will be cupcakes!
  • Friday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.: Shrill Travesty and Lucy Ruth Cummins dish on the sleazy world of children’s books, in honor of The Taking Tree.
  • Saturday, Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m.: Rooftop Farms’ Annie Novak interviews author Katherine Leiner on Growing Roots and the new generation of food activists.
  • Sunday, Nov. 14, 4 p.m.: Restaurateurs/chefs/authors Haley and Lauren Fox present a special Tea Time for Alice’s Tea Cup. (Plus, whimsical apron contest!) Tickets required, see our site for more details.
  • Monday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m.: The Greenpoint Writers Group presents LOCAL ORGANIC, a reading for their new unpublished works.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m.: WORD hosts the new Candlestick Reading Series; at this first event, Justin Taylor (Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever) leads a discussion on Richard Price’s Lush Life. 10% off the book for attendees at WORD!
  • Wednesday, Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m.: Contributors to Bound to Last speak on the book as object, their favorite books, and the future of reading.
  • Thursday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.: The Association for the Betterment of Sex presents the one and only intimacy resource you’ll ever need, Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk.
  • Friday, Nov. 19. 6 p.m.: The Greenpoint Reformed Church discusses Hipster Christianity in its very first Book Group meeting.
  • Saturday, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m.: Author and blogger Amy McCoy dishes on Poor Girl Gourmet and eating well on a budget. We’ll also be raising funds for the Greenpoint Food Pantry!
  • Sunday, Nov. 21, 6:30 p.m.: The Wold Newton Series presents its next Extravaganza, featuring  Catherynne Valente (and many others).
  • Monday, Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.: Ethan Gilsdorf (Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks) and Tony Pacitti (My Best Friend is a Wookiee) geek out in Of Wizards and Wookiees: A Panel Discussion on Gaming and Fandom. Doritos and Mountain Dew will be on hand.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 23, 7:30 p.m.: Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark introduce you to your next 500 favorite books in Read This Next.

Whew! See you there (or there, or there, or there…).

Every now and then a completely unexpected book grabs (and holds) your attention. Kim Dana Kupperman’s I Just Lately Started Buying Wings is that book. A collection of essays that, together, make up something akin to a memoir, Kupperman hits notes that are almost obligatory in the genre: crazy mother, a difficult childhood, travels far and near, torrid affairs, strange jobs. But in her hands and through her eyes, these oft-told stories become fresh and gripping. We’re thrilled to be able to introduce you to her in the below interview — and thanks, Kim!

 

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