Married to Bhutan: A Love Story Like No Other

September 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm , by

MarriedToBhutanEver fantasize about moving around the world to start a new life? Writer Linda Leaming did just that—and fell madly in love, with both the quaint and tradition-laden South Asian country of Bhutan and with her husband, Namgay, a Bhutanese artist. Leaming’s memoir Married to Bhutan (Hay House), has just hit bookstores, but LHJ told her story first! We published the mind-blowing tale of how Linda and Namgay met in our January 2005 issue (read it here). I caught up with Linda, who’s spending a few months in her hometown of Nashville, and chatted about her unusual, bicontinental lifestyle.

Let’s start at the beginning—even before you met Namgay, you moved half-way around the world to live in Bhutan full time!

It’s true—I married the country before I married Namgay. After my first trip to Bhutan, I became obsessed with going back. Immediately after getting out of the plane, you see this amazing blue sky, and these beautiful mountains, and then you smell it. The air is so clean. From my first visit, I felt a kind of calm and peace of mind there.

What else made you want to want to live there? You ended up staying 14 years.

The people. The first time I was in Bhutan, I’d just come from India and felt sick (probably a case of “Delhi belly”). As I was resting in my hotel room, I heard a knock at the door and a man I’d never seen before was there. He said, “I am very worried about you!” and brought me a bowl of soup. All of the Bhutanese are like that—very caring. Plus, they like to have fun.

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September Book Club Wrap-Up: Bitter in the Mouth

September 12, 2011 at 3:10 pm , by

l_BitterIntheMouthDid you read our September LHJ Book Club pick, Bitter in the Mouth? We haven’t stopped talking about the metaphors, secret-keeping characters, and major, jaw-dropping plot twists for weeks! It’s definitely a thinker (perfect to nosh on over some wine and cheese with friends). If you’re still looking to get started, check out all of the extra goodies we posted this month—an in-depth Q&A with author Monique Truong (I was desperate to get her to reveal her secrets to crafting this rich story), a list of discussion questions, and an excerpt to introduce you to the book.

The bookish bloggers over at Girls in the Stacks read Bitter and ran with it (go girls!), writing a review, answering the discussion questions, and hosting their own virtual book club chat via a terrific podcast. I loved hearing how the book challenged them—they had so much to say about the themes and characters, and I wanted to dive right into their discussion!

IThinkILoveYouWe hope you’ll read October’s pick, Allison Pearson’s I Think I Love You along with us . It’s an exquisite, endearing novel about teenage love, friendship, growing up—and David Cassidy (was he your favorite, too?). Check out a sneak peek on the book club page, and join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and right here on our blog as we talk about it for the next month.

But first, tell us what you thought of Bitter in the Mouth! Comment here or tweet us at @LHJMagazine with the hastag #lhjbookclub.

Book News: 9/11 Tenth Anniversary

September 9, 2011 at 9:52 am , by

It feels impossible that ten years have passed since 9/11. It was a day of great sorrow, but it also spurred countless stories begging to be told, and within several anniversary books that are fresh on shelves this month, many will be. These books are breathtaking retellings of that fateful day, stories of survival and resilience, and memorials to loved ones (and the world as we knew it) lost. They’re sure to give you chills, but are powerful, can’t-put-down reads.
911TheWorldSpeaks 9/11: The World Speaks, by Tribute WTC Visitor Center
People from over 120 countries have left comment cards at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center with notes, poems and sketches expressing their grief, sympathy and hope not only for the US, but for peace everywhere.
Unmeasured Strength[1] Unmeasured Strength, by Lauren Manning (also available in audio, read by the author)
Lauren Manning was on her way up to work in Tower One when a fireball exploded from an elevator bank, badly burning more than 80% of her body. Her memoir recounts Manning’s amazing, determined recovery and how she transformed her life in the wake of tragedy.
legacyletters The Legacy Letters, collected by Tuesday’s Children and edited by Brian Curtis
Tuesday’s Children is a non-profit organization that supports children and families who lost loved ones on 9/11 with youth mentoring programs and other services. Their anthology of letters—by children, spouses, and other family members to their lost loved ones—is heart-breakingly poignant.

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How To Be a Savvy Auntie This Spring

April 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm , by

We all remember what it was like as a kid to have a “cool aunt.” She’d take us to movies and treat us to popcorn, bring a new book to read when she visited or create arts and crafts with us – even if they were a bit messy. Melanie Notkin, founder of and author of Savvy Auntie, just out from William Morrow, loves being that cool aunt (or “PANK” as she dubs herself and her peers—Professional Aunt, No Kids), and wants every woman with a niece, nephew, godchild or other special kid in their lives to be one too.

“What’s so terrific about the aunt is that she’s a grown-up in the child’s life who is all about magical experiences,” says Notkin. “PANKs have discretionary income and time to spend with kids and can take them on day trips, go to sporting events or see plays at times when maybe their parents can’t—‘qualAuntie’ time, as I like to call it.”

Notktin started Savvy Auntie in 2008 after her nephew was born, and she couldn’t find any resources on how to be a modern aunt (she now has six nieces and nephews, and many more of her friends’ children are also happy to call her “auntie”). Everything she read was too “auntique”  (auntie lingo has become her thing, too).  Plus, she wanted to be thrilled about her new important title, and not dejected that it wasn’t her own newborn she was cooing over.

“I’ve learned that when I focus on all that I am, including a very loving aunt, it enables me to rewrite happiness for myself,” she says. “When my nieces and nephews ask me how I started my own company or how I wrote a book, it feels extraordinary to be able to share my experience with them, and I realize the value I can add to their lives.”

We asked her to spill her top five kid-friendly auntie activities for spring (or should we say “auntivities,” Melanie?)

Plant a Flower Garden
“This is great for kids of all ages. When they see the seeds that they planted themselves bloom, they really feel like they’ve created something special.”

Blow Bubbles
“It sounds pretty basic, but it’s easy, inexpensive and a lot of fun. Little kids love chasing the bubbles, while older ones like to see how big they can make their bubbles.”

Color with Sidewalk Chalk
“Another easy and cheap idea that’s all about art and creation – even when the older kids like to take the hose and wash the art away!”

Read a Book
“I always bring a new book when I visit. We’ll talk about the illustrations and learn new words. One of my new favorites is 13 Words by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Maira Kalman.”

Play Sports
“Whether we’re playing hockey in the driveway or riding scooters and bikes, it keeps them moving, which is great.”

Pick up the new Savvy Auntie book through Wednesday, April 27th and do good with Melanie. She’ll donate $1 to the non-profit Epic Change, which uses social media to help worthy causes raise funds, for each copy sold. She likes to think of it as being a—wait for it—“benevolAunt.”

Photo of Melanie Notkin by Anna Schechter

Friendship Bread: Q&A with Author Darien Gee

April 5, 2011 at 12:56 pm , by

Things are restless in the tiny town of Avalon. A mother grieves a devastating loss as her marriage hangs on by a string. A concert cellist adjusts to her new life away from the big city—and away from her husband. Families deal with money problems, pregnancies and careers, and yet no one’s really talking. That is until Amish friendship bread appears at main character Julia Evarts’s door, sending the townspeople on the emotional ride they’d long been avoiding in Darien Gee’s charming new novel, Friendship Bread, which releases today.

As Darien writes, Amish friendship bread has a reputation for showing up unexpectedly in your life, and is even a bit polarizing. You begin with your own bag of starter, tend to it for ten days and then end up with three more to pass along to friends. Much like a chain letter (but with no ill will intended), the starter grows and grows until it expands your circle of friends—or has them running away when they see you coming with another bag! In Friendship Bread, the loaf is the thread that links the characters’ lives, and Darien has found that this is true in real life as well, having created a large online community of followers and recipe-swappers on Facebook and her website, Friendship Bread Kitchen.

I had the chance to chat with her about all of this last week.

So, tell me how Amish friendship bread found you and inspired your novel.

I’d never heard of Amish friendship bread until about two years ago when my daughter came home with some slices on a plate and a bag of starter. I could just feel it – this was going to be a project! I figured we wouldn’t do it, but then I tried the loaf and was instantly hooked.

By my second or third piece, I saw Julia Evarts in my mind, holding up the bag of starter with a look of reluctance and grief on her face. I started writing the novel that night.

And what about the rest of the characters? There are quite a few of them. And their stories overlap and intertwine throughout the novel.

I write like I’m watching a movie – I don’t really plan my novels out beforehand, so everything came together really organically. When I started the second chapter, Julia’s sister Livvy just came to me like, “Oh! Julia’s got a sister! And oh! They’re not talking anymore!” All of the other characters showed up in the same way, and it was almost like the town of Avalon was actually there and I just got to write about it.

Click “Read More” for more from Darien and the friendship bread recipe!

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Mad Men? Mad Women! Looking Back at The Feminine Mystique

February 25, 2011 at 11:36 am , by

I got together with my friend Stephanie Coontz the other day to talk about her new book, A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s (Basic Books), which has drawn rave reviews from The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and a host of other publications. Stephanie is the country’s foremost expert on marriage—she wrote the 2005 bestseller Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage—as well as a frequent advisor to Ladies’ Home Journal.

The new book has an unusual premise: It’s a biography not of Betty Friedan, but of Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, the blockbuster work that forever changed the lives of American women—and men. (Fun fact: LHJ carried an excerpt from The Feminine Mystique in its January 1963 issue, a month before the book’s publication. Surprising? Not really. After all, LHJ has been charting the passions and pastimes of American women for 128 years now. As Stephanie put it, “The story of LHJ is the story of American women.”)

A fascinating examination of Friedan’s much-misunderstood classic, A Strange Stirring should be required reading for any young woman today who believes that she’s “not a feminist.” Not only does Stephanie movingly recount how revelatory The Feminine Mystique was to the millions of discontented housewives who read it, but she also details—with examples that had me shaking my head in stupefaction—the unbridled sexism that characterized life circa 1963. Over coffee, Stephanie recapped a few of the more egregious customs from those “bad old days”:

—Only eight states gave a wife any legal claim to her husband’s earnings or property. In the other 42, a wife’s only right was to be “properly supported.” One Kansas woman married to a successful farmer thought that “proper support” should include running water in her kitchen, since all the farm’s work spaces had it. She sued her husband (not for divorce, but for running water) and he fought her all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court, which agreed with him that “proper support” did not cover this amenity.

—Most states had “head and master” laws that gave husbands the right to make all final household decisions.

—The law did not recognize that a woman could be raped by her husband (South Dakota was the first state to make spousal rape a crime, in 1975) and domestic violence laws, where they existed, were seldom enforced. Read more

What We’re Reading, PLUS Win a Trip to Paris!

February 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm , by

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for historical fiction. I tore through Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series like it was a bunch of comic books, I was right there next to Mamah loving Frank, and a joke from Memoirs of a Geisha still comes up in regular conversation with my sister. I’m embarrassed that my tastes aren’t more academic—I’ve got a history degree and a hefty thesis about feminism during the French Revolution sitting on my shelf—but when it comes to a good love story set in a time I don’t know much about, I just can’t help myself.

Right now I’m reading The Paris Wife, Paula McLain’s new novel about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. After a whirlwind courtship, the pair set sail for Paris and fall in with the likes of Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a wonderful look into the world of Paris in the 20′s, and the fast-living, ardent and driven Lost Generation.

Reading the book makes you want to be in France. That’s why we’re excited to be giving you a chance to win a round trip vacation to Paris! The grand prize is a week long trip for two to Paris including airfare, hotel and transportation to and from the airport, and a copy of the book The Paris Wife. Ten runners-up will win a copy of book.

Enter Today!