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Beyond The Bio: Susan Kaplan Carlton

We’ve spent this entire weekend hiding books around The LA Times Festival Of Books as part of our #BookScavengerHunt, but we’re not done yet. We’ve got another giveaway planned for today, and it’s just for you!

As part of today’s #BeyondTheBio, we’ll be mailing out a copy of the Susan Kaplan Carlton’s moving new book In The Neighborhood Of True--out this Tuesday. Keep reading to learn more about the book, the author, and the way you can win! But, first, let’s introduce our teen interviewer.

Her name’s Yesenia, and you may remember her from her previous interview with Joseph Moldover. Yesenia’s been the same height and shoe size since she was ten. She’s obsessed with skincare and has trouble making decisions (but not coming up with great interview questions. Obvi.)

Check out Yesenia’s interview with Susan below, and be sure to stick around to the end for a chance to win a copy of Susan’s new book In The Neighborhood Of True.


Yesenia: Hey, Susan! Your book In the Neighborhood of True is definitely one of my new favorite reads. Could you explain to future readers what your incredible story is about?

Susan: Thanks, Yesenia! I’d say that In the Neighborhood of True is a story of fitting in and speaking out—and the tension that lives between the two. It’s about Ruth Robb, who moves in the sticky summer of 1958 from New York to Atlanta, the land of sweet tea, debutante dances, and the Ku Klux Klan. To fit in with the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to keep the fact that she’s Jewish to herself—and soon she’s knocking back Coca-Colas with dreamy Davis Jefferson at the country club. But then a heartbreaking night brings Ruth’s two worlds into conflict, and she has choose between standing up for what she believes and losing everything she’s come to love about her new life.

Yesenia: Claudia immediately gave off bad vibes and was just so rude towards Ruth. Why was she initially so adamant about having Davis for herself?

Susan: Well said—Claudia is a walking bad vibe. I think she wants Davis for herself because she’s accustomed to getting everything she wants, whether it’s cute one-dimpled Davis or a gold ballgown she shoplifts from a department store. Claudia has privilege to spare, a sense of entitlement, and all of Atlanta at her feet. Or so it seems, anyway.

Yesenia: Ruth's father seemed like a great man who was a few decades ahead of his time. If he was there to guide Ruth through her situation, what would have played out differently?

Susan: If Ruth’s father were around, I think he would help her hold on to herself. All those Saturday mornings she and her dad spent together walking to their temple in New York forged a real connection between them. Ruth believes her father really gets her—and she misses him so much. If Ruth were able to blink him back into existence, I think a lot of things would be different—he would definitely influence where Ruth and her sister go to school and how Ruth embraces her religion. Ruth gets to the right-for-her place on her own, but it’s a long, angsty, painful journey.

Yesenia: In the book, Ruth's poodle Frooshka, ran away from her resulting in Ruth having to chase after her dog and jump over a fence, leaving her temporarily exposed. Have you ever had a pet run away?

Susan: I love Frooshka so much. We had a giant black poodle, my inspiration for Frooshka (write what you know!), who was a wanderer. Once my niece, who lived around the corner and across a busy street, called to say our poodle was sitting on her porch. I hadn’t even noticed she was missing. Oops!

Yesenia: Throughout the entirety of the book Ruth struggles with choosing between her two worlds. What advice would you give to teens who are in a similar situation and feel as if they’re trapped between two different worlds?

Susan: This is such an important question. And, really, it’s the reason I wrote the book. There are so many times I think we deny, even briefly, a piece of ourselves. As I was writing, I remembered how my college boyfriend asked me to not tell his grandfather that I was Jewish…he just wanted the man to like me, he said. And I said—sure, I’ll keep it to myself, no big deal. But it was a big deal, so why did I pretend otherwise? That’s the question that stayed with me years later—why was I so quick to hide who I was for this boy? So, I guess my advice to teens is to listen to your heart. Not the part of your heart that is in love with a boy, but the part of your heart that stirs awake when you feel yourself drift off course and reminds you who you are.

Yesenia: I hear you're into some vintage things. I personally love women's fashion in the 50's. Where did your love of dot-filled clothing sprout from?

Susan: I’ve loved polka dots for a million years. For a long time, I wrote for teen and women’s magazines (great style from all eras!), and I’ve haunted many a vintage store in search of the perfect sheath. That’s one of my favorite parts of Ruth, actually. She’s shallow and she knows it (obsessed with fashion and frippery and the magazine Mademoiselle), but she’s also discovering that she runs deep.

Yesenia: This book hit all of the points needed for readers to immediately be captured into the story, and I'm sure many are like me and want to read more of your work. So do you have any exciting projects in the future?

Susan: I’m noodling around with a new YA book set in Silicon Valley amid the chaos of the Bush/Gore election in 2000. My narrator is super political and obsessed with the vote recount. So far the story involves mushrooms, a genius sperm donor, and a road trip down the California coast in search of a mysterious father.


That wraps up today’s interview with Yesenia and Susan, but don’t leave yet. We’re teaming up with our friends at Alconquin books to give away a copy of her new book In The Neighborhood Of True, and you can enter to win it by clicking the picture below.

And if you’re a teen who’d like to interview an author for a future #BeyondTheBio, we’d love to make that happen. Just click here to learn how.


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