MODERN GIRLS and Family Expectations

MODERN GIRLS by Jennifer S. BrownThis week on the Debutante Ball is a big one—it’s pub week for our very own Jennifer S. Brown! Jennifer’s incredible novel MODERN GIRLS is the first of our books to be published, and we couldn’t have been luckier than to have Jennifer go through this process first. We have all been grateful recipients of Jennifer’s wisdom and experience. She constantly shares wonderful ideas, inspires us with her hard work and determination, and makes us feel like everything is possible. Jennifer is my go-to person whenever I am freaking out—she always manages to make me laugh at myself and gives the world’s best advice. I can’t imagine this year without her!

On top of being a wonderful friend, Jennifer S. Brown is kick-ass writer. MODERN GIRLS is the story a mother and daughter living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the years building up to WWII. When both women find them selves with pregnancies that they feel deeply conflicted about, they wrestle with unthinkable choices, their faith, and the lives that they want to live.

MODERN GIRLS is an engrossing novel. Once I started, I couldn’t stop reading. Jennifer has an incredible hand with details, using every one of the five senses. I feel like I know the textures and smells of the streets and cramped apartments of the Lower East Side in the 30’s, the closeness of living in small spaces with large families. I could taste the pickled tongue and smell the scent of Aqua Velva. Jennifer also has such a skillful way of weaving in historical details. I learned so much about this time in our history, both culturally and politically, and am intrigued to know more. MODERN GIRLS is told from the points of view of both Rose and her daughter Dottie. As a writer, I was so impressed with the way Jennifer effortlessly moves from one distinct voice to the other. I loved both main characters with equal measure.

Brava to Jennifer S. Brown! I can’t wait for you all to get your hands on a copy of MODERN GIRLS!

To celebrate the publication of MODERN GIRLS we are exploring one of the themes of the novel—the role of family expectations in our lives.

This is a funny topic for me, because I grew up in a family that didn’t really have any expectations. I was raised by my single father. My dad hadn’t liked school much himself, and was a tradesman, so he didn’t put any pressure on me academically—“as long as you did your best” was a common refrain. I don’t really think I understood what “doing my best” was until I sat down to write my novel, in my late 30’s. Writing THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING was the first creative project that I cared deeply about, and really devoted my whole self to. I needed it to be the best I could make it, and was willing to sacrifice the time and expenses (in the form of classes and conferences) that it took to do just that.

I do wonder from time to time what it would have been like to be raised by parents that did put pressure on me—would I have turned to writing earlier if I felt the need to make my family happy? Maybe with that pressure I never would have started writing. Who knows? In all honesty, I’m not big on wondering how things could have been—I wouldn’t be myself if anything had been any different! My only sadness is that my dad is not alive to see my first book in a bookstore. He may not have had a lot of expectations, but he had a lot of love. I wish he were here to give me a big bear hug on my own publication day. I know he would have been proud.

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Louise Miller

Louise Miller is the author of THE CITY BAKER'S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking/August 9, 2016), the story of a commitment-phobic pastry chef who discovers the meaning of belonging while competing in the cut-throat world of Vermont county fair baking contests. Find out more at

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This article has 6 Comments

  1. I’m with Abby. He would have been so very proud of you.

    What a lovely tribute to Jenny and her debut novel, MODERN GIRLS. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!!! Wednesday is the day!!!

  2. The support you Debs heap on your fellow writers is a beautiful thing. Sending virtual bear hugs to you and Jennifer!

  3. Oh Louise, I am also sure your Dad is proud of you and would give you a big hug! Loved this post and looking at the cover of Modern Girls I am remembering working in NYC in the 60’s and still wearing heels and gloves!!! Wow….how times have changed and will change again. Looking forward to reading this book!

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