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A Balm for Both Readers and Booksellers

Cindy Burnett
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Alone Together

Edited and curated by Jennifer Haupt, Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19 is a compilation of poems, interviews, and essays that focus on the coronavirus and the myriad of ways that it is impacting our lives.

The Covid-19 pandemic has upended almost every aspect of our lives, and there is still no end in sight. The uncertainty is unnerving to most of us, and everyone is experiencing loss, some much greater than others, but universal loss, nonetheless. Finding ways to process this loss and the accompanying grief during these unprecedented times is beneficial and hearing other people’s stories is one comforting and helpful way to do so.

A book I recently devoured provides a glimpse into the many ways people process these traumatic times. Edited and curated by Jennifer Haupt, Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19 is a compilation of poems, interviews, and essays that focus on the virus and the myriad of ways that it is impacting our lives. During the early days of her state’s stay-at-home order, Haupt recognized that as Covid-19 wreaked havoc on our country, both people and businesses alike would be changed in ways no one could predict.

Frustrated and unmoored by the unknown and by the altering social landscape and isolation, Haupt was motivated to do something positive. As a lover of independent bookstores, she decided to focus her energy on helping them since the nationwide stay-at-home orders would be detrimental to small businesses. Reaching out to a wide variety of authors she knew, she began soliciting essays, poems, and interviews about their personal experiences during the pandemic to compile into an anthology.

Almost immediately, Haupt received responses from the writers she contacted, and feeling encouraged by that response, she began contacting authors that she did not know but admired. By the deadline for the print anthology, 69 authors were on board, and in time for the ebook and audiobook deadline, another 22 writers contributed. She designated the Book Industry Charitable Foundation as the recipient of the proceeds from the book and found a publisher. The book published on Sept. 1, 2020 and has already entered its second printing.

This anthology resonated with me because during the months that we have been living with this pandemic I have realized how differently my friends and family are experiencing the effects of the virus; the responses are so individualized. The days that I am feeling good are often the days that someone else really needs a shoulder to cry on, and the days when I am struggling, a friend is having a better day and can cheer me up. While one aspect of the stay-at-home orders bothers me on a given day, something completely different is troubling to someone else. But throughout this new reality, most everyone finds connection reassuring.

The beauty of the essays, poems, and interviews included in Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19 is that the wide variety and subject matter will provide each reader the opportunity to find a topic that personally resonates with them. A few of my favorites are the interview with Kwame Alexander where he discusses the power of stories and how much quality time he has had with his daughter while staying at home more, Celebrating in the Present Tense about learning to appreciate the new way we are learning to celebrate accomplishments, and Sit the Hell Down about retiring right before the pandemic and trying to reframe expectations about retirement.

Most importantly, Alone Together reassures us that we are not alone and there is incredible power in stories.

Here are several fun events related to the publication of Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19:

  • Sept. 3, 2020, 12 p.m. CST (Facebook Live), Bloom Book Club: Stop by Bloom on Facebook as Ann Garvin dishes with Jennifer Haupt, Meg Waite Clayton, Sally Koslow, and Jean Kwok. Enter to win a copy of Alone Together
  • Sept. 3, 2020, 6-7 p.m. CST (Facebook Live), Cuyahoga Library Launch Party: Branch Manager Ron Block hosts Alone Together editor/curator Jennifer Haupt and contributing authors Susan Henderson, Pam Houston, Caroline Leavitt, Ruben Quesadas, Anna Quinn, and Kristen Millares Young. (Register here.)
  • Sept. 7, 2020, 1 p.m. CST (LIVE), Hasty Book List: Jennifer Haupt will be a guest on Instagram Live with @ashleyhasty

Conversations from a Page is hosting an As the Page Turns book discussion over Zoom for The Last Flight by Julie Clark on Sept. 24 at 11 a.m. and for Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel on Nov. 17 at 11 a.m. CST. (Cost: $5 or $30 for an annual pass). https://www.cfapage.net 

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s Thoughts from a Page Podcast https://www.thoughtsfromapage.com or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Thanks! 

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