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Fat Is the New 30: The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Coping with (the crappy parts of) Life Paperback – March 20, 2012
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Q&A with Jill Conner Browne, The Sweet Potato Queen
Question: The Sweet Potato Queens were born on a gleeful St. Patrick’s Day, back in 1982, when you and a few friends decided to get Queened-up for local parade in Jackson, Mississippi. Did you realize that parade would begin an international movement for women?
Jill Conner Browne: Yes, It was my Five-Year Plan. Are you kidding me? No! I had no idea I would become a cult leader! My only goal was to entertain myself—a goal that endures to this very day, I might add.
Question: Tell us a little about the annual Zippity Doo Dah Parade that happens at the end of March every year. Women come from all over the world, wear sequins, and march with bands, raise money for charity, eat and laugh. How does it all come together? (Let us live vicariously!)
JCB: We simply out-grew the other parade and started our own, which has been fantastic for the Queendom, the city of Jackson and most importantly, for Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. Queens (and Spud Studs) start arriving on Wednesday of parade week--March 21-25 for 2012--and overnight the city is overcome with sparkle. It is four days of fantastic: Arts, Eats & Beats in the Fondren Arts District, The Come On In Party, Big Hat Brunch, SPQ Big Hair Ball, Sal & Mookie's Kids' Carnival, Patty Peck Honda Car Giveaway, the beautiful "Night-Time Zippity Doo Dah Parade" immediately followed by the street dance, Pearls & PJs at the Hilton, and ending with the Bathrobe Brunch on Sunday morning. And it all raises money for sick kids—what could be better?
Question: Fat is the New 30 is your ninth book. Is there a theme that runs through all of your books, other than being stitch-in-the-gut funny?
JCB: Life is too short—and too LONG—to spend it doing ANYTHING that doesn't make your heart sing.
Question: You believe that humor is the best medicine, which is evident throughout the book since you make us laugh at even the "crappiest parts of life." How are you able to mix humor and happiness into nearly every life situation?
JCB: Oh, my Daddy taught me many useful things! One of the most important was this: There are very few situations in life that we really and truly cannot change. But when we do encounter one of those, the task at hand is to figure out how to either make fun out of it--or make fun of it. I am extraordinarily gifted in this department.
Question: Nearly all of your books, including Fat is the New 30, include some "you’ll have to roll me out of the kitchen" recipes. Do you test them all out? Which of the new recipes is your favorite?
JCB: Did I test them all? Have you SEEN me lately? If and when you do see me, you will note that I am wearing a very long jacket. Suffice it to say that if I am ever found dead in a short jacket, you will know that I was dead before the jacket went on. Yes, I tested all the recipes and they are poison! If you eat this stuff all the time, you WILL DIE--and you will die with a HUGE bee-hind--however, they are VERY good for your disposition. My fave? Why, I love them all, obviously! Can happily go from Scott-apeno Dip to Viney's Floor of the Hilton Minner Cheese to I-Can't-See-My-Feet Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding.
Question: You’re a Southern Girl but there are Queens from all over the world. Do you think we all have a little Southern in us?
JCB: My "voice" is that of a Southern woman--on account of that's what I turned out to be (luckily)--but the experiences are universal so no Southern is required. However, if you are lacking in Southern, you can certainly get you some in my books and it will make you happy!
Question: What’s next for you and the Queens?
JCB: The Sweet Potato Queens Musical! I just got the first draft from Melissa Manchester, Sharon Vaughn and Rupert Holmes! It's always been my dream--and now it is happening! Of course, that doesn't require ANY effort on my part--which is so perfect--I can be entertained while lolling. Heaven.
Hilarious . . . Poignant . . . The Sweet Potato Queens’ chronicler returns with the ninth in the series and this time takes on the more serious parts of life, such as raising children, getting older, and surviving a recession, with her trademark bawdy humor. As before, she peppers each chapter with her and others’ personal anecdotes. . . .Legions of Sweet Potato Queens, now boasting 6,200 chapters in 20-plus countries, will line up for the latest book in Browne’s popular series. —Booklist
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Every couple of paragraphs, I was thinking (indignantly, sometimes), "I say that! My friends say that! WE do that, too!" She's definitely a kindred soul of mine. Separated at birth, I say.
Mixed in the all the hysterical humor are some very good snippets of advice which don't take away from the overall enjoyment in the least. One passage struck such a strong chord with me that I immediately transcribed it in email to my sisters. Along with instructions to purchase immediately, of course.
Rarely do I literally laugh out loud (usually I mentally giggle), but I snickered and snorted my way through this one with real, true LOL glee.
SPOILER ALERT: The last chapter had me sobbing uncontrollably, though, as she described her mother's last months. I had a very similar experience with my mama, but the tears and the memories were cleansing and loving. That has to be my favorite part because she managed to capture all the aspects of becoming the parent of one's parent. My sister said the thing to me that Jill mentions one day as I shared my guilt with my lack of patience with Mama and the "situation". It IS like taking care of a child, but with a child, you know this phase will end because the child grows up. With a parent, wishing for the ending takes on a different connotation.
Recommended reading for everyone. My husband now has the book.
Jill has the ability to turn the most miserable of experiences into an opportunity to laugh at herself, or at others' foibles, while doing it with love, not meanness. Laughter through tears is a wonderful emotion which was thoroughly evoked in one of the final chapters as Jill describes her Mother's passing. How can THIS event be included in a book that includes such vivid story telling as to make you believe you've seen two miserably fitting SPQ Parade dresses? Or met a three legged dog? Or ridden the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a one-wipered tour bus?
Trust me....it works. Save this book for one of the days when laughter feels far away. Or wait until you're stuck in the middle seat on a packed flight - your snorts and giggles and outright guffaws will surely cause your window and aisle neighbors to lean away from you.
Note: Contains unladylike language so consider yourself warned. Funny!! Bawdy at times, but wonderfully funny! And touching. And inspiring. And thoughtful.