Rowbottom comes from the family that made Jell-O a household name. It was her great-great-great-uncle, Orator Woodward, who bought the formula and patent from a neighbor in LeRoy, N.Y., for $450 in 1899. However, in her new book, JELL-O Girls, Rowbottom offers a story far removed from the bright, cheery colors of the iconic American dessert. Rowbottom, who holds a doctorate in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston and is a recipient of the Marion Barthelme Prize in Creative Writing, weaves together pieces of her mother’s unfinished memoir with her own experiences while sharing with the reader a particular analysis of patriarchy and the ramifications it can have on women reared under its umbrella.
What’s on your nightstand?
I typically read more than one book at a time. Right now, I’m reading Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and Yrsa Daley-Ward’s The Terrible for the first time. I’m also re-reading Chelsea Hodson’s Tonight I’m Someone Else and Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls.
I’d recommend all these titles to readers interested in exploring issues of identity and the influence culture has on its early development. I suppose, too, because these books are written by authors who identify as women, I’d recommend these books to men, because I think now more than ever it’s important to strive to understand perspectives other than our own.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer