A memoir that braids the evolution of one of America's most iconic branding campaigns with the stirring tales of the women who lived behind its façade - told by the inheritor of their stories.
In 1899, Allie Rowbottom's great-great-great-uncle bought the patent to Jell-O from its inventor for $450. The sale would turn out to be one of the most profitable business deals in American history, and the generations that followed enjoyed immense privilege - but they were also haunted by suicides, cancer, alcoholism, and mysterious ailments.
More than 100 years after that deal was struck, Allie's mother Mary was diagnosed with cancer, the same disease that had claimed her own mother's life. Determined to combat what she had come to consider the "Jell-O curse" and her looming mortality, Mary began obsessively researching her family's past, determined to understand the origins of her illness and the impact on her life of Jell-O and the traditional American values the company championed. Before she died in 2015, Mary began to send Allie boxes of her research and notes, in the hope that her daughter might write what she could not. JELL-O GIRLS is the liberation of that story.
An examination of the dark side of an iconic American product and a portrait of the women who lived in the shadow of its fractured fortune, JELL-O GIRLS is a family history, a feminist history, and a story of motherhood, love and loss. Throughout, Rowbottom considers the roots of trauma not only in her own family, but in the American psyche as well, ultimately weaving a story that is deeply personal, as well as deeply connected to the collective female experience.
Selected by the American Booksellers Association as an Indies Introduce Debut Pick, and an Indie Next Pick; listed as one of 2018's best summer books by People Magazine, Real Simple, GOOP, Oprah, Glitter Guide, Brit & Co, Alma and POPSUGAR; Listed as a best book of July and August 2018 by Amazon.com and an Editor's Choice by The New York Times.
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"A book that alternately surprises and mesmerizes. Despite its title, this isn’t a bland tale that goes down easy; “Jell-O Girls” is dark and astringent, a cutting rebuke to its delicate, candy-colored namesake." -The New York Times
"[A] devestating memoir...the mother daughter portrait that emerges here melts the heart." -Oprah Magazine
"Intimate and intriguing.... A fascinating feminist history of both a company and a family."―Publishers Weekly
"Rowbottom delivers a moving memoir of a daughter seeking to understand her mother, family, and the place of women in American society, and the narrative also serves as a thoughtful, up-close-and-personal feminist critique of a cultural icon. A book brimming with intelligence and compassion."
"Rowbottom paints a fascinating portrait of the family behind one of America's most famous desserts. This account illuminates both the rise of an American product and dynasty. The renown of Jell-O will attract a variety of readers to this memoir, and the storytelling will keep them turning pages to the very end."―Library Journal, starred review
"Allie Rowbotton is a talent not to be overlooked! I love this book with all my heart. I couldn't put down this strangely sparkling cultural and family history"
―Porochista Khakpour, author of Sick
"We all come from somewhere, yet I never imagined that someone could come from Jell-O. From these beginnings, Allie Rowbottom has molded this generous book of intuition, connection, and grace. This is a work of wild insights and deep music."
―Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
"Allie Rowbottom's memoir is an unflinching exploration of the inheritance and curse behind an American icon. Graceful and genuine, Jell-O Girls is what happens when a damn good story meets an even better writer."―Mat Johnson, author of Pym and Loving Day
"Jell-O Girls is an artfully crafted feminist excavation of an American legacy and its dark underbelly by a tender and perceptive memoirist, a keen cultural critic, and a deserving chronicler of her mother's legacy. Jewel-toned as its subject, Rowbottom's prose brings into crystal focus the lacerating toll of patriarchy in our media, our homes, and our own bodies. She is a talent to be heralded."―Sarah Gerard, author of Sunshine State and Binary Star
"Brilliantly written and beautiful, Jell-O Girls is both a feminist document and an act of love. In compiling a history of the spell the Jell-O brand cast on the American housewife-by working its way into every dietary fad from "domestic science" to Weight Watchers-Allie Rowbottom also manages to chart the mystery of female pain. Along the way, Rowbottom reclaims her own family history, writing a tribute to her mother that is both gutting and gorgeous."―Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls
"This is more than a book: it’s a phenomenon. It kept me up nights with its urgency and insistence, following Rowbottom, in her masterfully clear-eyed grief, on the hunt for understanding and explanation. JELL-O GIRLS is a heart-wrenching confession, an exacting cultural history and an important and honest feminist story for right now.”—Aja Gabel, author of The Ensemble
With masterful storytelling, Rowbottom weaves together her story and her mother’s, both coming of age as ambitious women in the shadow of an American icon. JELL-O GIRLS is a feminist revelation and a captivating investigation of the true history behind a family and the collective consciousness of a nation. — Julia Fierro, The Gypsy Moth Summer
"To most Americans, Jell-O is a diner staple; the savior of the sickroom; the sweet "glue" for the fruit mold grandma serves at Thanksgiving. But Jell-O was a darker thing for Allie Rowbottom's family. Although her great-great-great uncle's purchase of the Jell-O patent secured the family fortune, it also molded its female members in ways that insidiously defined and confined. In this first-ever insider account Rowbottom mixes up equal parts history, sociology, feminist tract and personal mother-daughter story to create a literary treatise as clear and bright as Jell-O itself."―Carolyn Wyman, author of Jell-O: A Biography
Publicity Contact: Katharine Myers: Katharine.Myers@hbgusa.com