The WestportREADS program is dedicated to strengthening the community through the shared experience of a book or an author.
Bettyville by George Hodgman
The Westport Library’s WestportREADS selection for 2017 is Bettyville by George Hodgman, a humorous and insightful memoir about an accomplished gay man who leaves New York City to care for his aging and ailing mother in Paris, Missouri. The Library encourages members of the community to read the book and attend programs related to the book throughout the month of January. Companion books for younger readers are I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (high school), Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (middle school), George by Alex Gino (upper elementary) and Red, a picture book for the youngest readers by Michael Hall. WestportREADS is an annual program dedicated to strengthening the community through the shared experience of a book. Reserve a copy of Bettyville.
This year, a committee of Library staff and community residents decided on the theme of identity as the means of selecting the book. All of the books explore the nature of identity along with other topics. Bettyville conjures questions about the author’s identity as a gay man, as a writer, as a son and whether he is a New Yorker or Midwesterner. I’ll Give You the Sun is an award-winning book about first love, family, loss and betrayal that invites contemplation about the identity of artists. The middle school book, Lily and Dunkin, and George, for pre-teens, focus on how and why children label themselves. The picture book Red: A Crayon's Story is a light-hearted story about a crayon with an identity crisis.
The adult book, Bettyville, is the story of how George Hodgman leaves Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri, and finds himself an unlikely caregiver for his aging mother, Betty, a woman of wit and will who is in her nineties and showing signs of dementia. George struggles over whether to try and lure her into assisted living, away from the home they both treasure. Betty, who speaks her mind but keeps her emotions private, has never accepted the fact that her son is gay.
George Hodgman is a veteran magazine and book editor who has worked at Simon & Schuster, Vanity Fair and Talk magazine. His writing has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Interview, W, and Harper’s Bazaar, among other publications. He lives in New York City and Paris, Missouri.
“The idea of a cultured gay man leaving New York City to care for his aging mother in Paris, Missouri, is already funny, and George Hodgman reaps that humor with great charm . . . As George and his mother come to terms with one another at the end of her days, the book begins to shimmer with something much more rare than love: a boundless, transcendent, and simple kindness. Bettyville is a beautiful book about the strange plenitude that comes from finally letting go of everything,” said Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home.
Click here for a printable reader’s guide from the publisher of Bettyville.
Click here for an NPR Fresh Air interview with George Hodgman,
Information about the TV project based on Bettyville, article linked here.
WestportREADS is funded by the estate of Jerry A. Tishman.
Previous WestportREADS books include:
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Snow in August by Pete Hamill
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Soloist by Mark Salzman
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My Life in France by Julia Child
Dubliners by James Joyce
Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride