The Perch Blog Penguin Random House

In the ongoing spirit of us giving back to our communities, Penguin Random House has been a longtime supporter of Shakespeare in the Park, one of the cornerstones of the Public Theater’s mission to bring performing arts to the people of New York City. Since 1962, over five million people have experienced more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals. As New Yorkers waited in line this summer for tickets to watch free performances of Twelfth Night at the Delacorte Theatre in NYC’s Central Park, our Penguin Random House employee volunteers cheerfully distributed free books on three different August afternoons. Penguin Random House gift bags and Hogarth Shakespeare totes were filled with such titles as Judy Blundell’s THE HIGH SEASON , Christina Dalcher’s VOX (distributed in advance of the book’s 8/21 pub date), Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT, Margaret Atwood’s HAG-SEED, Edward St.


Aubyn’s DUNBAR and Jo Nesbø’s MACBETH.

Volunteers had the opportunity to talk with Shakespeare fans from all walks of life, including an educator from New Jersey who shared that she would assign an acting session from VOX for her class. A librarian from Yonkers also shared her excitement about receiving a second copy of VOX (she had already pre- ordered one). Another group of women announced that they would start a book club with all the books they received.

Volunteer Matt, Academic and Library Marketing Assistant, Penguin Young Readers, said, “While the perks of a morning in the park and two free tickets to see Shakespeare can’t be understated, what really made this a pleasure was seeing the enthusiastic responses to the books we handed out, as well as the love and recognition of Penguin Random House as an institution.”

Penguin Random House imprints continue to publish the full range of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as books inspired by of The Bard’s works, such as SHAKESPEARE BASICS FOR GROWN-UPS by B. Caotes and E. Foley, and THE GAP OF TIME by Jeanette Winterson, a re-telling of Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale and part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, an international Penguin Random House publishing initiative.

I like clothes. I like fashion; particularly men’s fashion. Both my father and my grandmother on my mother’s side were tailors, so I think it’s in my blood. In terms of fiction writing, clothing serves as an efficient and fun method of characterization. You can not know a single thing about someone—a stranger who steps into a restaurant, let’s say—but their clothing tells you so much about them before they even open up their mouths to speak. Clothing reveals what a character is trying to project, as well as what they’re giving away about themselves without even realizing it: their socioeconomic class; their confidence level; their vulnerabilities.

For Cassidy, the clothing she chooses to wear is of utmost importance because it functions as a reflection of her gender identity. Everything she puts on has been curated. Her clothes are her armor. Katie, on the other hand, is always deliberating about what to wear. Depending on where she’s going and which version of herself she wants to accentuate, her clothing varies greatly. I think of Katie’s many costume changes as a reflection of the way she’s still trying on different versions of herself in this novel. She’s still searching for what feels right, which version of herself is the most authentic.

My favorite lesbian romance of all time is the 1999 movie But I’m a Cheerleader, starring Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall. RuPaul is also in it, so is the brilliant Melanie Lynskey. It’s a satirical comedy about a cheerleader who is sent to conversion therapy camp to cure her lesbianism. It’s one of the smartest, funniest movies I’ve ever seen. The magic of this film is that it’s so much fun to watch as it tackles the complexity of hetero-normativity and the social construction of gender.

What I love about all of Ephron’s romantic comedies though is the way they’re more than just love stories. They also function as reflections of something specific going on in American culture at the time they were made. YGM, for example, is more than a simple feel-good story about two people in an online romance who are unaware that they’re business rivals. It’s also about how romance was changing with advances in technology, and how chains of mega bookstores were putting beloved independent shops out of business at alarming rates. I guess I like a little bit of social commentary with my romantic comedies. And nobody did that better than Nora Ephron.

I liked the idea of someone who has never before been romantically attracted to a woman, and who’s never considered herself anything but straight and “normal,” to suddenly have to rethink her assumptions. Most of us who identify as LGBTQ at one time thought of ourselves as straight, too. That process of opening oneself up to a different path is very interesting to me and ripe for good storytelling.

Part of the issue for Katie, too, goes beyond her surprise at her attraction to Cassidy; it’s also that Katie is someone who very much needs to be liked. She yearns to be approved of. It’s difficult for her to risk upsetting her parents, or to accept that if she’s out with Cassidy, some people will look at her differently, in a way that may not be as approving as she’s accustomed to. That’s what I wanted to write about because part of coming to terms with being read as gay is adjusting to the fact that there will be some people out there who aren’t going to like you, no matter how hard you try, solely because of this one aspect of your personhood.

I think the average reader would be surprised by how many Readers with a capital “R” and book lovers work at those magazines. The people behind even the glossiest of magazines are, for the most part, smart and socially aware and many of them are doing their best to provide a service—a social good—even as they’re under a tremendous amount of pressure to put out a product that remains popular and profitable.

I’m big on coffee shops. Fortunately I live in Brooklyn where there are many to choose from. When I lived in Williamsburg, I basically lived in a coffee/pie shop called The Blue Stove. That’s were I wrote most of my first novel, The Assistants. I’ve since moved to the Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn area and have set up shop at a wonderful café called Swallow in Cobble Hill. It only took a few months for most of the staff to know me by name. I leave them no choice!

Volunteers from across Penguin Random House participated in the Bronx Book Fair on May 5 th. It was a jam-packed day of events at the Bronx Library Center, with speakers such as Noëlle Santos from The Lit. Bar, as well as coaching sessions with local writers and book sales from community bookstore Word Up. This was the first year Penguin Random House participated in the Bronx Book Fair, and we had a tremendous response to the call for volunteers! We were so impressed by the enthusiasm and support of our employee volunteers.

“Everywhere I turned at the Bronx Book Fair, there was passion–passion in the speakers, whose wealth of knowledge included everything from copyright law to fostering women’s leadership; passion in the authors, booksellers, and publishers reading from their work and selling books at their booths; and passion in the event staff, whose beaming faces were #BronxProud. It was such an honor to see the rich literary culture of the Bronx in action beyond the classroom where I used to teach ELA in the Bronx, and I especially loved the slam poetry and spoken word presentation by Project X–it’s heartwarming to see the youth shine a light on their fellow artists in their community!”

“The Bronx Book Fair was wonderful–the event organizers were lovely, and the day’s events and panels were organized with great care. I welcomed the opportunity to get to know colleagues across other departments who I normally wouldn’t connect with in my day-to-day. A personal highlight was the chance to chat with young readers/writers who came to check out the book fair–their enthusiasm was infectious!”

The Bronx Book Fair is dedicated to engaging and growing the community of poets and writers in the Bronx , and to connecting to readers and book lovers of all ages. Launched in 2013, The Bronx Book Fair, along with Bronx Book Festival and The Lit. Bar bookstore, are contributing to revitalizing book culture in the Bronx, needed especially after the 2016 closure of the Baychester Barnes & Noble.