On June 4th, I appeared at the Jewish Book Council annual conference, to speak about my novel Jo Joe to an audience of book club leaders from around the country. (I’ll be uploading a video soon). It was an exciting opportunity, one that I prepared for over several months, writing and rewriting my short speech. Joyce Lit of the Jewish Book Council, who mentored me through the process, was a big help. But I balked when she suggested that I end my talk with “I’ve discovered over the years, that I write with a photographer’s eye and photograph narratively, seeking the details of a moment, the visual impact of a gesture, the humanity that captures our hearts and confounds our minds.”
“Isn’t that a turn-off?” I asked. “Ending my talk with an ‘I’ sentence?” Then, before she could answer, I added, “Is that a very ‘woman’ type question to ask?” She immediately understood the implied question: “Would a man hesitate to conclude a speech in which he is asking an audience to read his book with a direct statement that takes claim of his accomplishments?”
The statement remained part of the talk, though it wasn’t the very end of what I had to say, because the last thought I wanted to leave them with was that I want them to read Jo Joe. Still, I couldn’t come right out and ask them to make that investment in me, in my book. Instead, I concluded with “I hope you enjoy the pictures – and the people – I’ve created in Jo Joe.”
I’ve spent the last five years of my life with Judith, Joe, Gramma, AH, all the characters of Jo Joe. I’ve poured my heart and soul into the book. Readers have told me that what I’ve written is meaningful, heartwarming, compelling. “I couldn’t put it down” is a common response. And yet, I find it difficult to say to those of my friends and acquaintances who haven’t read the novel, “Please give a significant part of your coming days to reading Jo Joe,” even though I honestly believe it will be time well spent.
Of course, I want folks to not just buy Jo Joe, but to read it, to fully experience it. But a part of me hopes they’ll do it without my prodding. Not because they want to support me, as someone they like or respect (though that would be nice), but because they are curious, or they trust that my book will be good, or they are simply looking for a good book to read.
“You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” I’m not sure who first told me that. I want to attribute it to my grandmother or my mother. But I think they also hesitated to use “I” statements, to ask directly for what they want. It’s a long tradition, that I’m trying hard to break.
So, this is me asking. Please buy Jo Joe. Please read Jo Joe. When you’re finished, please talk to me. Let me know what you think of Jo Joe. And if you like Jo Joe, please review it on your favorite book websites, and tell your friends and acquaintances about it.
To be even more direct, here are some links for buying Jo Joe in hardback, paperback or eBook:
- Barnes & Noble
- Or you can buy Jo Joe at just about any brick-and-mortar or online bookstore. If your local bookstore doesn’t have it in stock, please ask them to order it for you.