Politics aside, we can all agree that the pandemic blows. Among the biggest casualties of our pandemic-mandated coronavirus caves: the loss of time with friends and family who fill our days with comfort and laughter.
So it felt like one big virtual hug as 165 guests joined together last night, if only by Zoom, for the latest installment in The Citizen’s virtual book club, a discussion between Jennifer Weiner, The New York Times-bestselling author of 17 books, including her latest instant hit, Big Summer, and Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of nine books, including Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win, and the podcaster behind Committed on iHeartRadio.
Over the course of an hour, the two writers, both of whom began their careers as newspaper journalists, shared a heartfelt and often hilarious conversation about friendship, womanhood, writing and the power of fiction to help us connect more deeply with the experiences of others.
“Fiction does something different—you enjoy it in a different way,” said Piazza. “You can feel a character’s emotions in a different way and take something else away from it.”
As a novelist, you can also take a powerful stand on issues, as Weiner, whose op-eds appear regularly in The Times, does in Big Summer when she poignantly throws a spotlight on the way the multi-billion-dollar weight loss industry continues to exploit women worldwide.
“It’s one thing to write an op-ed and be like, This is garbage and will do bad things to girls. But putting it in a novel and having a character live it can maybe influence people in a different way. And that’s what I hope it did,” she said.
Weiner’s novel is in large part an exploration of, and commentary on, the very-2020 world of social media influencers, and it calls on all of us to question the pictures we see online. “Every image we see on the internet is a result of someone’s choice,” she said. There are layers of decisions and filters and crops and edits to everything.
As the conversation segued into a Q&A with the audience, one popcorn-eating guest asked whether and to what extent the authors continue to think about the characters they create.
“These people become so real to you,” Weiner said. “Every time there are Instagram shenanigans, I think of [Big Summer character] Daphne.”
Of her protagonist, Charlotte Walsh, Piazza said: “Sometimes I think of her like a friend. I wonder what she’s doing, I want to text her.”
And at a time when we all miss our friends, when we wonder what they’re doing and when we’ll finally be reunited, everyone in attendance was given a reprieve from Pandemic Isolation World.
More than that, we were given an opportunity to carry out a phrase Weiner accidentally—jokingly—coined at the start of the event, which Piazza humorously wove throughout the conversation: Fill your love bucket.
Find out what that actually means and watch the entire event below.
And be sure to join us at our upcoming Citizen events in September—including a conversation between Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and his former rival turned best-bro Jeff Bartos.
Want more? We’ve hosted several virtual events throughout the pandemic, including a chat with Philly author Kiley Reid, whose latest book, Such a Fun Age, is on the long list for the 2020 Booker Prize.