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March 7, 2018 @ 5:30 pm
- March 7, 2018
- 5:30 pm
- Books & Books at Bal Harbour Shops
- 9700 Collins Ave
Bal Harbour, FL 33154 United States
Glamour, Privilege, Depression, and Joy
It’s my Party by Jeannette Watson
An evening with the granddaughter of IBM’s Founder
A conversation with Alexander Sanger and Joan Name
Introduction by Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson Jr.
From 1978 through 1997, the celebrated independent bookstore Books & Co. was a cultural jewel on the Upper East Side of New York City, located next to the Whitney Museum of American Art. On any given day, one could find celebrities and literati alike frequenting Books & Co., and the shop’s welcoming owner, Jeannette Watson, added a vast knowledge about literature to its charm. Jeannette’s story didn’t begin with her bookstore; rather, Books & Co. was a culmination of a lifetime love for books that began during early childhood. In her enlightening memoir, IT’S MY PARTY: A Memoir (Turtle Point Press; on sale October 10, 2017; Trade Paperback Original; $17.50), Jeannette Watson—the favored granddaughter of IBM’s Thomas J. Watson—reveals a life of glamour, depressive battles, hard-won joy, and eventually, peace and contentment.
Jeannette Watson was born into a twentieth-century celebrity family, and was no stranger to the public eye. Her father was Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Thomas J. Watson’s charismatic son who turned IBM into the powerhouse it is today; her mother, Olive, was a former model and aspiring actress who dated John F. Kennedy. The second of six children and oldest daughter of Thomas and Olive, Jeannette lived a seemingly idyllic life among multiple homes and unlimited privilege. Behind a façade of order and glamour, however, Tom Watson kept a strict home and often experienced dark moods. Jeannette also felt she could never measure up to her mother, a legendary beauty who kept the importance of attractiveness top of mind.
Always certain she wasn’t pretty enough, Jeannette shied away from the limelight as much as possible. From an early age, Jeannette kept her nose buried in books, using literature as an escape from her depression and anxiety. “. . . my happiest hours were spent reading,” Jeannette explains, “When I wasn’t immersed in a book, I often felt sad, lonely and inadequate . . . Books transported me to sunnier places and became an addiction as powerful as alcohol or drugs.” In fact, Jeannette was dubbed “Madame Nose in Book” by her father because she preferred to spend her time reading rather than socializing.
Tom Watson’s depressive nature was something he unknowingly passed on to his daughter. Jeannette experienced symptoms of depression, such as exhaustion and sadness, as early as ten years old, which continued as she grew up. Jeannette writes, “In those days, depression wasn’t a major concern the way it is now, and many parents and educators scarcely recognized it as a real illness, especially in young girls. But I didn’t need a psychological diagnosis to know that I was sad all the time . . .” Always searching for herself, Jeannette successfully hid her depression through her years as a debutante, young wife and mother.
Married at 21, Jeannette and her first husband quickly had a newborn son. Living away from family and the life she was accustomed to, Jeannette again found herself struggling to find her footing. While Jeannette desperately wanted to be a devoted mother, she fought symptoms of post-partum depression. Not long after giving birth, the dam broke and Jeannette had a mental breakdown. Twice, she experienced the trauma of hospitalization and faced the stigma of mental illness.
As part of her fight to heal, Jeannette left her husband and moved to New York City with her son. Acclimating to life in the city was a welcome change, as Jeannette experienced New York’s heady 1970s culture and freedom. Jeannette considered her dream to open a bookstore during a yearlong recovery from hip surgery. Her father lent her half the start-up money – $150,000 – and she began looking for a partner to go into business with. Jeannette opened the now-legendary Upper East Side independent bookstore Books & Co. in 1978, and made her long-held vision of living among books a reality.
For nearly 20 years, Books & Co. represented a significant sample of this country’s literary, social and cultural life. Over time, Books & Co. hosted a wide variety of writers and artists, and the shop was often filled with enthusiastic readers looking for personal recommendations. Celebrities who frequented Books & Co. included Jackie Onassis, Kurt Vonnegut, Neil Simon, Robin Williams, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Edward Albee, Candice Bergen and many more. Books & Co. held a history rich of books as well as the lives of writers and readers.
In addition to opening Books & Co. in 1978, Jeannette met and married her second husband, Alex Sanger, grandson of Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger. Jeannette and Alex had crossed paths several times, but it wasn’t until years later that the spark of their relationship was ignited. Over time, Jeannette’s life changed: after a long and fulfilling run, Books & Co. closed its doors in 1997. Never one to sit still, Jeannette soon found her way down a new path to become a spiritual healer. Jeannette is a level 4 practitioner of Healing Touch and a graduate of Healing the Light Body Program of the Four Winds School, where she learned ancient healing techniques. More recently, she studied yogic laughter with Vishwa Prakesh and is now a Certified Laughter Leader.
IT’S MY PARTY is a richly detailed portrait of a bygone era, and a close-up look into the world of one of America’s first modern innovators. It’s also a frank and unapologetic look at a young woman dealing with depression, and her deep, persistent effort to understand herself. Rich in compassion and detail of a woman living a truly extraordinary life, IT’S MY PARTY is a book that will stay with readers for a long time.
About the Author:
Jeannette Watson is a practitioner of Healing Touch as well as a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader. She is a graduate of the Four Winds Society’s Healing the Light Body School. The founder and owner of the renowned New York City bookshop Books & Co., she presently serves on the board of The Open Center and the New York Society Library, and lives in New York City.
Jeannette has a very special story that will touch us in many dimensions.
Click blow to get an introduction to Jeannette’s story.