Reinventing Jenna Rose

THE BOOK: Reinventing Jenna Rose.

PUBLISHED IN: 2019.

THE AUTHOR: Joni Marie Iraci.

THE PUBLISHER: Fat Dog Books (traditional indie publisher — Michael Stringer)

SUMMARY: “Reinventing Jenna Rose,” propels the reader on a fast-paced journey through the life of a young girl who’s determined to realize her self-worth and overcome the trauma of a childhood where she was forced to be the “muse” for her child photographer father’s “art.” Left alone after her parent’s divorce, Jenna uncovers evidence of a grandmother living in New York City. Jenna resourcefully takes herself across the country and lands on the Upper West Side of Manhattan doorstep of her affluent maternal grandmother. A street-smart New York neighbor girl, a quirky therapist, a white German Shepherd and a story-telling grandmother, join forces to help Jenna overcome the hardships of her past and the shattering family secrets that soon come to light. This sad, funny, quirky novel, is infused with humor and literary references while relating a multi-generational family saga and legal thriller in the voice of a courageous young woman. It is filled with the sights, sounds and flavor of New York City.

THE BACK STORY: I grew up in a story-telling family. This story is based on stories I’ve heard and stories I imagined. I spent much of my childhood exploring my grandmother’s Upper West Side of Manhattan neighborhood. I spent 2 months as a juror in Federal Criminal Court where I learned first-hand the lay of the land of the court. All this came together to become the novel. Reinventing Jenna Rose was my thesis as I earned an MFA from Columbia University. It was workshopped every week for 2 years and read by the former editor of Harpers. It took 5 years to complete.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I’m a retired R.N, wife and mother of three who reinvented myself and became a writer. Jenna Rose casts aside her past and reinvents herself as she adapts to her new life and achieves success. The title seemed perfect.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Reinventing Jenna Rose is less about a victim of abuse and more about surviving and overcoming it with determination. Jenna demonstrates bravado in the face of trauma. She takes the initiative to take control of her own life. Women who have suffered abuse will relate and hopefully be inspired to step up and find their way to healing. The novel portrays the importance of female relationships, the ability of women to find strength in the face of adversity and to move forward as well the importance of a grandmotherly influence on the life of young girls.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Jenna Rose is a prisoner in her own home. Shut off from the world and abused by her parents, she sees an opportunity to escape across the country and takes it. Reinventing Jenna Rose is a story of overcoming trauma and taking control of one’s life.

“We meet Jenna, a lost seventeen-year-old, who is abandoned in her California home once again by her mother, Meghan. For fear of her father and his heinous gaze, Jenna escapes to New York City to find a grandmother she didn’t know existed. Through her grandmother, Katherine, Jenna learns of generations of female suffering. Joni Marie Iraci tackles sexual abuse and neglect in this fast-paced novel to reveal that reclaiming one’s self after tragedy and controlling one’s identity is always possible.

“Jenna learns it is not just her who has dealt with abuse, but Katherine, too. Katherine carefully explains her connection to her guardian’s brother who took advantage of her, but due to the time period she was made to believe the abuse and that the consequences of it were her fault. Iraci uses this scenario to comment on the victim blaming nature of society, in which a child was assaulted yet forced to continue to care for the man who assaulted her.

“”Through this truth-telling, the two women find common ground in trauma and are able to move forward.

“The characterization of Jenna and the way she deals with her trauma is realistic; so realistic that, at times, perhaps it is a detriment to the pacing of the novel. Moments happen rapidly, relationships are formed and then lost, years pass by within a paragraph. Even so, when dealing with a character like Jenna who wants to repress her childhood and focus on her exciting new life in New York City, it makes sense that the world we see through her eyes is rapid and disjointed. She grew up with a lack of social skills making her relationships often one-sided, but that does not discount the love found within them.

“Iraci shows us that the family we are born with can destroy us, yet it is often the family we choose that supports us. Jenna’s childhood is weighed down by her father’s disgusting mistreatment of her. He steals her innocence from her, which he argues was merely a part of his “art,” but Jenna gets her retribution in the end.

“As the story of her life continues, she takes control of her path. Her path is awkward, usually emphasized by the delivery of dialogue in which the language is overly-expository and stiff. Jenna tells a story about her childhood with dialogue that says, ‘Yeah, well, quirky was what Alan called me. He said it when he first noticed me picking the chipped paint from the wainscoting on my bedroom wall…Picking at the peeling paint made me feel like I was in control of something. A little scratch on the paint and down it would fall in pieces behind the bed and onto the pink carpet in that sickly pink room, which Alan decorated just for me’ (p. 168).

“Often characters will speak for long blocks with very little importance, and years and relationships get fogged into the background, but isn’t that so true to life? After Jenna gets justice, she focuses on herself, seemingly signifying that the little things do not matter as much.

“Even though the second half of the novel is quick paced–which makes it difficult to sink into moments of Jenna’s life–we are able to see how life after trauma can get better with passing time. We can’t help but root for Jenna and her journey, and through her bravery and thoughtful relationships, we are excited to see what every twist in her life will bring her.” — Taylor Blum.

“Jenna Rose is a profoundly sympathetic teenager, but not one likely to come to a good end. Her mother is neglectful and manipulative; her father is a drunk and a pervert. But Jenna is smart, strong, edgy, resourceful, and daring. She knows that to survive, she needs to start over. To start over requires some significant prevarication and not insignificant larceny. We fear for her as she embarks on her journey to find her grandmother, and we root for her every triumph along the way to finding herself, This emotionally charged debut novel is one to share with your mother, your daughter, your best friend, and the troubled kid who lives next door.” — Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of An Almost Perfect Moment and The Scenic Route

“In Iraci’s debut novel, a Californian teenager tries to escape her traumatic childhood by tracking down her grandmother in New York City. Jenna Rose’s mother, Meghan, leaves her 17-year-old daughter home alone while she’s away on business. This certainly isn’t an uncommon occurrence, so the teenager is unconcerned—until she learns that her estranged father, Alan, whom Meghan divorced four months earlier, will be stopping by during Meghan’s absence. Jenna doesn’t want to see him, so she concocts a plan that will allow her to avoid him: She’ll visit her maternal grandmother, Katherine O’Connor, whose existence Jenna only recently discovered; Meghan had previously told her that all of her other relatives were dead.

“Using her mom’s shiny new platinum credit card, Jenna books a flight to New York and shows up at Katherine’s door. The older woman, whom Jenna eventually dubs ‘Grand,’ willingly takes her in. The teen slowly adjusts to her new life in the city, which entails attending private school with snarky classmates, including the rather contemptible Nicole Elliott.

“However, Jenna also makes her first real friend: Gabrielle Yvonne ‘Gypsy’ Puteri, an uninhibited but good-natured professional model. Grand knows that there’s something harrowing in Jenna’s past, and it’s unquestionably related to Alan—a photographer whom cops later arrest on serious and disturbing charges. Jenna opens up to Grand and therapist Christine Gautier about her childhood trauma, and struggles with her impending testimony at a trial in open court.

“Iraci’s sharply written tale incisively tackles the subject of child abuse. Such abuse has clearly affected Jenna deeply, as she’s now prone to what appear to be severe panic attacks. The teenager aptly states in her narration that Alan “raped” her childhood and stole from her “a normal child’s life.” As might be expected, the book’s tone is often grim, as the protagonist endures not only her considerable trauma, but also a largely neglectful mother and terrible classmates. But Jenna’s allies help to alleviate the bleakness of the narrative. Grand, for example, keeps Meghan and Alan away from Jenna long before she knows the full details of her granddaughter’s secret. The teenager also receives a good deal of emotional support from Gypsy and Jenna’s loyal German shepherd, Gracie. Jenna herself offers some occasional moments of humor, as when a nurse asks her if she wants to sign an organ donor card, and she wearily responds, ‘Sure, take whatever you want.’

“An astute, respectful treatment of a serious issue, featuring a strong protagonist.” — Kirkus Reviews.

AUTHOR PROFILE: In the 1970s, Joni Iraci worked as a staff and charge R.N. in a northern New Jersey hospital, before moving to New York City where she worked as a night nurse on the breast and bone oncology unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She subsequently made a life changing career move when she accepted an offer to work as a staff nurse on the EENT (eye, ear, nose, throat) and plastic surgery unit at Lenox Hill Hospital. It was there where she met her husband, who was a surgical intern at that time. They married and relocated to Pittsburgh for one year to do a critical care fellowship. Returning to New York, Joni helped her husband with his surgical practice and raised three children. Once the nest was semi-empty, Joni returned to school to pursue her life-long dream of becoming a writer. In 2013, at the age of 60, she earned a BA in liberal studies with a concentration in writing and literature from Sarah Lawrence College; in 2017, she earned an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.

She is a fiction writer. After publishing several short stories in literary journals such as The Grief Diaries, Beneath the Rainbow and Review Americana, her debut novel, ‘Reinventing Jenna Rose,” was published in May. It has received favorable reviews on Amazon, Kirkus, Goodreads and Glassworks. She gave a talk to the Rotary Club in Rye, NY. where she discussed her journey as an adult returning to school to pursue a dream. She was invited to talk at The Strand bookstore in New York City. Along with Hollywood Historian and author, Tom Santopietro, she gave an in-conversation talk which can be found on youtube.com.

She is a retired R.N. who has also completed a novella, and her second novel, “Vatican Daughter,” which is being considered by several traditional top publishers. She is vehemently working on its sequel and tending to her rescued animals. Joni Marie Iraci welcomes emails from readers and is available for speaking engagements be it in relationship to her work or the joys and angst of returning to college in one’s older years. She is an elite member of The Author’s Guild.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: In the wake of the “Me too” movement, awareness of the abuse of women and girls has come to the forefront. “Reinventing Jenna Rose,” is a fictionalized embodiment of this movement. It serves to demonstrate in story form that abuse of any kind is not okay and hopefully will serve an abused reader to stand up and not be afraid to do so. Grandmothers and granddaughters will enjoy the heartwarming relationship between Jenna and her newly-discovered grandmother. As a native New Yorker, I was able to infuse the story with the energy and scenery only Manhattan has to offer.

SAMPLE: See the Amazon Authors page.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Contact the author for a signed, personalized copy.

PRICE: $16.95, Kindle available as well.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

FACEBOOK -JONI MARIE IRACI: AUTHOR@JoniMarieIraci.author.

JoniMarieIraci.com; jmi2118@columbia.edu; jmi10805@gmail.co

Published by

bridgetowriters

Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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