We got through the horrors. Here come the holidays (and the bad families).
We're taking a breather to talk about the horrors, the holidays, and bad families of Jane Austen - here they come
Hello dear friends,
We’ve made it through the horrors of October and Halloween, and we have officially kicked off November, so the holiday season is on the doorstep.
Today, we’re taking a breather to catch up with the whirlwind of conversations, posts, and podcasts just released - and to preview some of what’s coming. Here we go!
Vanessa Riley and 'Island Queen’ in the Monitor - and a Podcast to Come!
One highlight of October that you may not have seen yet was our conversation with author Vanessa Riley, a best-selling author of romance and historical fiction, that was featured in a recent issue of The Christian Science Monitor.
Dr. Riley’s latest book, Island Queen, is based on the true story of a real-life Regency-era West Indian entrepreneur, Dorothy Kirwan Thomas. Thomas’s story is fascinating. When she died at least in her 80s she was one of the wealthiest women of the West Indian colonies, and she left a legacy of educated children and grandchildren, having built a life of entrepreneurism and adventure after being born into slavery in 1763.
“Dorothy was very human,” Dr. Riley told me for the piece. “She felt a lot of pain. She went through a lot of suffering, but she had a will to survive that I haven’t read about for a long, long time.”
Enjoy the story, and watch for a podcast episode dropping in the coming weeks, featuring our conversation with Dr. Riley - about Regency facts and fictions, reading Jane Austen, and about finding and writing joy in Black romance.
Our conversations of October sparked more comments and dialogue than any so far in the short history of the Austen Connection. It turns out, some of us really do have strong feelings about Fanny Price and Mansfield Park!
Here are the highlights - and it’s not too late to check out these controversies about Fanny and weigh in - you can comment below.
Mansfield Park, Horror Show and Mousy, Monstrous Fanny Price - Do you secretly love or relate to Fanny Price? Or do you find it difficult to relate to her and make sense of Mansfield Park? In these two posts, we unpacked the theory that the estate of Mansfield Park and Sir Thomas comprise a benevolent dictatorship that deserves what it gets; and that Fanny Price ascends from timid child to conquering heroine, in this complicated story. Join the conversation!
Death by Drawing Room - Austen novels are full of everyday treachery, and nowhere is the danger more apparent than in Sense and Sensibility, where the likes of Lucy Steele, John and Fanny Dashwood, and Mrs. Ferrars will leave you for dead. But as always, Austen is always about giving us the armor to survive.
Finding your path through story, romance, magic, and Jane Austen - A second season of the podcast is here! And in this Halloween episode, Professor and bruja Maria DeBlassie talked with us about the “ordinary gothic” found in Jane Austen, and about the life wisdom and magic found in gothic novels like Northanger Abbey.
Taking Persuasion to the Stage, and to the Podcast!
So we got to do a very cool thing in October, which was to see Bedlam’s production of playwright and Janeite Sarah Rose Kearns’ play “Persuasion,” based on the novel by Jane Austen. And, our conversation with Sarah Rose Kearns launched a whole new season of the Austen Connection podcast - check it out.
After the play, it was a huge honor to join actor and Janeite Nandita Shenoy on stage for an intimate conversation/Talkback about Austen and the themes of Persuasion. Huge thanks to my friend and colleague Debra and my daughter Miriam for joining and supporting the Austen Connection on this East Village excursion. It was a blast.
What we’re excited about over here
And now my friends, if you are like me those conversations about the holidays have already started. Perhaps you’re filled with excitement about the hot cocoa, the fireplace, the lineup of Hallmark romances. Or perhaps you’re dreading the pressure, the get-togethers, the who-brings-what and the roast potatoes (or will it be “excellent boiled potatoes”?) Wherever you’re coming from, and likely it’s both directions at once, we’ll be here, hosting conversations, posts, and podcasts to get you - and us - through.
Here’s what we have to look forward to:
Following up from our conversations with playwright Sarah Rose Kearns and Professor Maria DeBlassie, the second season of the Austen Connection podcast continues, with educator and writer Damianne Scott, dropping next week. Scott is a literature professor and the creator of the Facebook page Black Girl Loves Jane, who was a key source for us for this Christian Science Monitor piece about Persuasion that published in September. We talked about writing, reading and retelling the classics, and how Jane Austen is for everyone.
Two very exciting podcast interviews we have on the horizon are with the novelist Uzma Jalaluddin about her novel Ayesha at Last, which retells the story of Pride and Prejudice with a large Muslim family in a Toronto neighborhood. We can’t wait!
And we’re also talking with New Yorker writer and influential Harvard literature professor Louis Menand, about “How to Misread Jane Austen.” Here’s your homework: Read that article by Menand, see what you think, and send us your comments and questions - we’ll incorporate them into the conversation.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, we’ll share a post about the Bad Families of Jane Austen - why is there so much terrible parenting, treacherous siblings, and domineering aunts in Jane Austen? Many of you have thoughts on this - please let us know your questions and comments about Austen’s Bad Families, what do they say about her times that are still relevant today, and what is she showing us with these characters and situations? And we’ll include them in the upcoming post! Leave us a comment, or reply to this email, at email@example.com. Thank you!
All of these conversations will land right smack-dab in your inbox, if you are signed up for the Austen Connection - go ahead and sign up, it only takes about three seconds, and it’s free!
So there you have it, friends. The ghosts of the past, present and future. We’re so looking forward to the holidays with you, and the conversations and community that happens here at the Austen Connection through the holidays and beyond.
Please do stay in touch with us - you can find us on Twitter at @AustenConnect, on Insta and Facebook at @austenconnection, and by commenting below. We look forward to hearing from you, and to more conversations with you!
Yours very truly,
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*This post has been updated with a couple of corrections: We changed the birthplace of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas from Demerara to Montserrat. And after a podcast conversation with author Uzma Jalaluddin, she told us that the Toronto neighborhood where both of her novels are set is not a Toronto Muslim neighborhood as we initially described it, it is a diverse Toronto neighborhood with many religions and ethnic groups represented, so we’ve adjusted that.