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Amazon Asks: Rebecca Dana, on Sulfates, Sudoku and Her Vespa

Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde (a January Best of the Month pick) is the funny-and-smart memoir by journalist Rebecca Dana, who came to New York from Pittsburgh (and, well, yes, via Yale) to make her name as a writer in the city fabled for writers. Here’s how she explains herself... 

•  DanaWhat's the elevator pitch for your book?

It’s a funny book about a very odd year in my life, when I was living in the middle of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, as the roommate of a bass-playing, jujitsu-practicing Russian rabbi while working as a fashion writer. "Sex and the City" meets the "Odd Couple" meets "A Stranger Among Us," I guess you would say. But all true.

•  What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?

Tenth of December, by George Saunders. Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright. And A Place of Greater Safety, by Hilary Mantel.

•  Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?

Heartburn, by Nora Ephron. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. The New Journalism, by Tom Wolfe. Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers.

•  Important book you never read?

The Old Testament. Lord did I try, but never made it all the way through.

•  DidionBook that changed your life?

The White Album, by Joan Didion. I got my first copy from a former boss, who had a tattoo of a dancing lady on his arm and who once insisted I hold his gun. (His actual firearm, I mean. Not, like, “his gun.”)

•  What's your most memorable author moment?

Recording my audiobook. It was torture. After years of working on this thing, you finally sign off on the final draft, after which you absolutely cannot make any more changes. And then they put you in a cold, dry, soundproof room and make you read the entire book out loud, alone, so you see every little detail you wish you could tweak but no longer can. I mean, it was really fun. But also, excruciating.

•  What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?

I wish I could sing.

•  What are you obsessed with now?

This is very glamorous. I had lunch last week with a friend who is completely out of her mind about environmental toxins. That is not how I am at all. The more something is packaged and preserved and loaded up with chemicals, the more I want to eat it or rub it on my face. But she was so exercised about this, she convinced me I need to replace all the cleaning and bath products in my house OR ELSE. So for the moment, I’d say, I’m obsessed with sulfates.

•  What are you stressed about now?

I am stressed about my book, a very personal and I hope funny story about a crazy time in my life, which goes out into the world this week, like a baby wandering into a forest where it may or may not be mauled by wolves. Also, I’m stressed about sulfates.

•  What are you psyched about now?

Everything is pretty great right now, honestly. I feel very lucky. I’m psyched I get to write books. I’m psyched to be living in New York. I’ve got an amazing, kind, loving family and terrific friends, and I’m psyched to have them in my life. That is a cheesy answer, but it’s the truth.

•  What's your most prized/treasured possession?

My Vespa. She’s a beaut. Green and zippy and gorgeous.

•  Author crush: who's your current author crush?

Mary Cantwell. A friend recently introduced me to her, and now I’m obsessed. She was a great writer and editor in the second half of the 20th century, for the Times, Vogue, Mademoiselle, and others, and she wrote these beautiful memoirs about being a girl in New York.

•  What's your favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?

Sudoku. Sad but true. It’s a full-blown addiction.

•  What do you collect?

Nothing. Bank statements? That’s about the only thing I save. I also have a lot of shoes and a lot of books, but the way I acquire them hardly counts as collecting.


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I love the title and the inspiration! Speaking as a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, I have to read this book!

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