This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.
Today we're launching You Are Not What We Expected, by Sidura Ludwig, which Jami Attenburg calls, “A gorgeous, highly visceral, deeply felt collection of linked stories about how families work—and don’t work—together. The Levine family is unforgettable.”
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
When Uncle Isaac comes back to Thornhill to help is sister care for her two grandchildren, he finds himself embroiled in more neighbourhood drama than he expected in this collection of linked short stories set in a suburban Toronto Jewish community.
Describe your ideal reader:
Someone who loves the book Olive Kitteridge, spying on their neighbours and characters who won’t back down.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with?
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
I spent a year sending out stories with the goal of getting as many rejections as possible. After 120 submissions to literary journals, contests, etc., I had nine publications, over 80 rejections and a whole bunch of no replies. But I learned that rejection is just part of the conversation, and that being a working writer means keeping myself in the publishing conversation.
Your first book, Holding My Breath, takes place in the Winnipeg Jewish community. This book is set in the Jewish community of Thornhill, ON. What is it about community settings that attracts your curiosity?
When I was writing my first book, it was very much a process of trying to understand myself and where I came from. I wrote it while living overseas and I found the physical distance gave me the emotional distance to explore my family’s history, albeit in fiction. This book is set right where I’m living now. I thought I would find it hard to write about the community I currently call home because of the lack of distance. But it wasn’t. I just kept wanting to dig deeper into these characters and understand their love/hate relationship with the neighbourhood. I heard someone once describe the Jewish community as an orchestra—all these different instruments each with its own role. I think my curiosity comes from looking at the diversity that exists within the community and wanting to explore stories through that lens.
An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.
No matter how many times I came to my husband, Jason, and said, “Maybe I should be doing something else with my life,” he always said, “Go back and write your book.” Thank you, Jason, for always seeing my bigger picture.
What are you reading right now or next?
Right now, I’m in the middle of an MFA in writing for children and young adults through the Vermont College of Fine Arts. And this semester I’m doing the picture book intensive, which means I’m surrounded by piles of picture books! My current favourite is Violet Shrink, by Christine Baldacchino. I also loved Small In The City, by Sydney Smith. Finally, I just finished the middle grade novel Papergirl, by Melinda McCracken. It’s a fantastic historical fiction story that takes place in Winnipeg during the 1919 general strike.
This stunningly intimate collection of stories is an exquisite portrait of a Jewish community—the secular and religious families who inhabit it and the tensions that exist there—that illuminates the unexpected ways we remain connected during times of change.
When Uncle Isaac moves back from L.A. to help his sister, Elaine Levine, care for her suddenly motherless grandchildren, he finds himself embroiled in even more drama than he would like in their suburban neighbourhood. Meanwhile, a nanny miles from her own family in the Philippines, cares for a young boy who doesn’t fit in at school. A woman in mid-life contends with the task of cleaning out the house in which she grew up, while her teenage son struggles with why his dad moved out. And down the street, a mother and her two daughters prepare for a wedding and transitions they didn’t see coming.
Spanning fifteen years in the lives of a multi-generational family and their neighbours, this remarkable collection is an intimate portrait of a suburban Jewish community by a writer with a keen eye for detail, a gentle sense of humour, and an immense literary talent.
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