I’m so excited to have Jenny D. Williams on the Debutante Ball today! I first met Jenny in one of the many Binders sub-groups for novelists. She’s always funny, always kind, always helpful to other writers. And she’s incredibly talented. Jenny’s debut, THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES (St. Martin’s Press) is an amazing piece of work. Her prose is gorgeous, and this is a book that will resonate with you, long after you’ve finished it.
Set against the backdrop of civil war and ivory smuggling in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Atlas of Forgotten Places is the story of two women from different world who become bound in a quest to save their loved ones.
After a long career as an aid worker, Sabine Hardt has retreated to her native Germany for a quieter life. But when her American niece Lily disappears while volunteering in Uganda—possibly investigating the illegal ivory trade—Sabine must return to places and memories she once thought buried in order to find her. Meanwhile, in Uganda, Rose Akulu—haunted by a troubled past with the Lord’s Resistance Army and a family torn apart by war—is distressed when her lover Ocen vanishes without a trace.
Side by side, Sabine and Rose unravel the tangled threads that tie Lily and Ocen’s lives together, ultimately discovering that the truth of their loved ones’ disappearance is inescapably entwined to the secrets the two women carry.
The Washington Independent Review of Books describes it as “a stunning combination of intrigue and despair, redemption and love,” and Ghanaian author Kwei Quartey calls it “nothing short of astonishing.” Vividly rendered by a fresh new voice in fiction, The Atlas of Forgotten Places spans geographies and generations to lay bare the stories that connect us all.
You can buy the book here, or enter our give-away to win a copy of Jenny’s book. To enter, simply retweet us or share our post from Facebook. We will select and contact the very lucky winner on September 22nd (US Only).
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) September 16, 2017
Which talent do you wish you had?
I think most talent is the result of passion and dedication, and not necessarily innate ability. We can develop our talents like we do our skills, through patience and labor and care. But there are a few things I wish were just in my DNA. Photographic memory is one. My memory tends to be impressionistic and malleable. It’s part of why I rely so heavily on research, and why I have to go back over the same research materials over and over again. I’d love to be able to look at something once and lock it away forever.
What’s your secret or not-so-secret superpower?
I make a mean guacamole. One of my friends from grad school told me that he and his husband still use my recipe five years later. They call it the Jenny Williams Memorial Guacamole, which sounds morbid, but I’ll take it.
When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
When I was very young, the only two careers I seriously considered were (1) orca trainer at SeaWorld and (2) illustrator for Disney. As I got older, I realized I was neither cruel enough for the first nor talented enough for the second. Never in my most outlandish imaginings did I picture myself with the career path I’ve actually had, which has included aid work, acting in Bollywood, speechwriting for a university provost, and writing for Google.
What’s one quirk you have that most people don’t know about?
I have a habit of leaving half-filled water glasses all over the place. They accumulate at my desk and get distributed in strange places around the house. I never have this problem with coffee mugs or wine glasses–just water cups. It’s genuinely bizarre. A coworker once left a Post-it at my workstation that read: “Are you afraid the aliens are coming???” Maybe I am.
Share something that’s always guaranteed to make you laugh.
The BBC’s talking animals get me every time.
Jenny D. Williams is the author of The Atlas of Forgotten Places (St. Martin’s Press, 2017). She has lived and worked in the U.S., Uganda, and Germany, and is a recipient of a Teachers & Writers Collaborative Fellowship and an Elizabeth George Foundation grant. She currently lives in Seattle, where she is a UX writer for Google.