River Forest Reads
River Forest Reads is a shared reading experience for members of the community to read and discuss the same book. This summer, we will be reading When Franny Stands Up by Eden Robins, a novel set in post-World War II Chicago about a woman from Oak Park who becomes a stand-up comedian. Copies of the book will be available at the Library starting June 12.
On July 29 at 2 PM, Dr. Anette Bochenek will help put the book in context with a presentation on the history of women in comedy. Then, on August 5 at 2 PM, author Eden Robins will join us live and in person for a special event that will include a reading, a Q&A, and a book signing. Finally, on August 17 at 7 PM, we will have a community book discussion where you can voice your thoughts on the novel and hear what your neighbors have to say.
Brian Wolowitz, our Adult Services Librarian, had the opportunity to interview the author Eden Robins. Here is what she shared.
About the Author
Eden Robins loves novels best, but they take forever so she also writes short stories and self-absorbed essays at places like Catapult, USA Today, LA Review of Books, Apex magazine, Shimmer, and others. Her debut novel When Franny Stands Up was named a best book of 2022 by the Chicago Reader, a best queer book of 2022 by Autostraddle, and Best Book of the Month by Bustle and Buzzfeed. She co-hosts a science podcast called No Such Thing As Boring with an actual scientist and produces a monthly live lit show in Chicago called Tuesday Funk. Find out more scintillating tidbits at monkeythumbs.com and on Twitter and Instagram @edenrobins.
Interview with Eden
Why did you decide to make Oak Park the hometown of your main character? Do you have any connection to the OPRF area?
My dad grew up in Oak Park in the ’40s and ’50s! I wanted to incorporate a lot of family lore into this book and situate it in a place and time that felt real and full of vivid detail. Oak Park has such a rich and interesting history – for my family but also for the whole Chicago area, so it just made sense to set the book there. As research, my dad drove me around Oak Park while I took video and hounded him with questions about his misbegotten youth. I got to see the houses he grew up in and explore all his old haunts, some of which are still there! I even got kicked out of the Oak Park Country Club for poking my head around without asking permission.
The book is about a woman who gets into stand-up comedy in post-WWII Chicago, but it also has elements of magic or fantasy. What do you see as the connection between comedy and magic?
There is something mysterious and magical about making someone laugh – both for the joker and jokee. It’s a real moment of human connection that is spontaneous and honest. George Carlin talked about how when someone laughs, for that moment, they are completely themselves. That it facilitated a magical moment of openness and awareness. He said “That’s when new ideas can be implanted. If a new idea slips in at that moment, it has a chance to grow.” I think about that a lot – this openness and curiosity and change that comedy allows. To me, that’s magic.
You’re active on the Chicago literary scene. What makes Chicago a good city for writers?
Chicago has no ego! We are mistrustful of self-aggrandizement and opportunistic schmoozing, and we’re not caught up in our own mythology. The upshot of that is that anyone can be a part of the literary scene here. You don’t have to be famous or prove yourself or have connections. You just have to show up and be interested and kind. We also have approximately a million literary events happening on any given day of the week, or at least, we did before 2020 descended on us. Chicago is also, frankly, cheaper than most big cities, which makes it easier for writers and artists to actually have a decent standard of living.
Can you share a favorite library memory with us?
One of my great pleasures in life has always been coming out of a library with a towering stack of books. And when I was little, I was the kid who used to win the summer public library reading contests. You know the ones, where you read, like, 50 books over the summer and your prize is another book? That was me.