Born out of the decades-long friendship between a Black woman and Jewish woman, The Thread Collectors (Graydon House, August 30, 2022) is a complex historical novel set during the Civil War and partly inspired by the two authors' family histories.
Shaunna J. Edwards is a former corporate lawyer who now works in diversity, equity and inclusion. She is a native Louisianian, raised in New Orleans, and lives in Harlem with her husband. The Thread Collectors is her debut book.
Alyson Richman is the author of several historical novels, including The Velvet Hours, The Garden of Letters and The Lost Wife, which is in development for a motion picture. She is an accomplished painter, and her novels combine her deep love of art, historical research and travel. She lives on Long Island in New York with her husband and two children.
Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:
The Thread Collectors: Two women--one Black, another Jewish--whose resourceful sewing during the Civil War leads to dangerous journeys as they fight to bring their beloveds home.
|Shaunna J. Edwards
On your nightstand now:
Shaunna J. Edwards: Right now, I'm reading Thieves' Dozen, a collection of short stories by Donald E. Westlake. These are comedic capers, filled with colorful characters, sharp dialogue and best-laid plans gone awry. Given all of the darkness in the world right now, I'm determined to spend the summer laughing.
Alyson Richman: Still Life by Sarah Winman. The writing is beautiful and the characters get underneath your skin in the best possible way. I can't wait to read more from Winman. Every sentence is like a brushstroke in a painting!
Favorite book when you were a child:
AR: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I have a strong memory of sitting at my desk as my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Goldberg, read the poem "Sick" aloud to the class. My mom bought me a copy a few days later and I think I tried to memorize half the poems on my own. I always credit this book with being the one that inspired my early love of reading.
SJE: The Shoes Series by Mary Noel Streatfeild (known as Noel Streatfeild), including Ballet Shoes and Circus Shoes. I was captivated by these tales of intrepid children finding their talents and overcoming the challenges of war, poverty and everyday adolescence.
Your top five authors:
SJE: Jane Austen, for making the drama of drawing rooms epic for me as a young reader.
Alex Haley, for displaying the dignity and indomitability of Black people under the most tragic of circumstances.
Raymond Chandler, for making me fall in thrall with imperfect heroes.
Isabel Wilkerson, for illuminating the dark corners of American history in a page-turning fashion.
Alyson Richman, for opening up this new world as a writer for me!
AR: This is such a hard question, but I admire these five authors not just because they're beautiful writers, but also because they're always pushing themselves to do something new: Alice Hoffman, Michael Ondaatje, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ian McEwan, Geraldine Brooks.
Book you've faked reading:
SJE: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. As an English major it was presumed (and perhaps even assigned) reading. I tried--truly--but between the rampant use of Russian diminutive names and it being too heavy for reading on commutes, I simply never made it through.
AR: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I started it just before my son was born. But once he arrived, I just didn't have the time or the concentration needed to finish it.
Book you're an evangelist for:
SJE: The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Even more profound than the movie (which is one of my favorites), the novel brings a deeper dimensionality to the women characters, showing them simultaneously as protagonists and victims in this epic.
AR: The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris. This novel has everything that I love in a good book: gorgeous prose, complex characters and a rich historical setting. I couldn't believe it was Harris's debut and I'm so excited for his next book.
Book you've bought for the cover:
SJE: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. With its largely black-and-white cover, it upended my expectations of a circus, telegraphing that it would be an unexpected ride.
AR: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. To this day, I think this is the most beautiful cover I've ever seen.
Book you hid from your parents:
SJE: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. Even now, I can't believe this was in my middle school library.
AR: Little Birds by Anaïs Nin.
Book that changed your life:
SJE: W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage. I read it in college and remember late night, self-conscious discussions of what it meant to balance reason and emotion. It was perhaps the first book to make me feel the weight of consequences and choice as a young adult.
AR: Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. This book had such a deep impact on me and, in some ways, even made me re-evaluate my own life. It reaffirms that not only is love possible in the darkest times, but also that having a sense of purpose in life can save you.
Favorite line from a book:
SJE: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." --Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
AR: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." --Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Five books you'll never part with:
SJE: Pride and Prejudice, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, The Jungle, Roots, Invisible Man.
AR: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Shadow of the Wind, The English Patient, The Marriage of Opposites, Beloved.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
SJE: Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. I bought it after briefly skimming the back: a World War II novel, set in beautiful Mediterranean climes with the promise of a love story--sign me up! I received far more than I bargained for--a lyrical novel juxtaposing the brutality of war and totalitarianism against the pitfalls and pinnacles of many forms of love. I never watched the film because I don't want to disturb the scenery that played in my mind.
AR: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. A bookseller at the now-defunct Penn Books recommended it to me and I remember starting it on a train back to Long Island and finishing the last page past midnight. There are certain novels where you can feel the soul of the author written into the novel and this is one of those books.