Sunday, December 17, 2017

Q&A with Jeannie Brand

Jeannie Brand is the author of the new memoir The Folksinger's Daughter, which focuses on her life with her father, folksinger and composer Oscar Brand. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir about you and your family?

A: I have always loved to write and growing up with a father who was famous always gave me the opportunity to have great stories to share. Of course, the Village of the ‘50s and ‘60s was full of children of artists and celebrities. This book was just my story and only from my perspective. It’s not a biography of my father, although it follows the timeline of his long life.

Q: Did you remember most of the events you write about, or did you need to do additional research?

A: Funny story about how this book came about. It was a memory exercise. Although I wrote for a now defunct literary quarterly, and enjoyed a few assignments in my 60+ years, I had an accident that severely hindered my memories of my early years.

I joined a Facebook group of people who grew up in Greenwich Village. Someone commented on a post I wrote and I responded, ”Do I know you?” Turns out we were very close friends and I attended his wedding. I had absolutely no memory of this.

So…this very gracious gentleman surprised me with a laptop and a note to write my story! I began to write and the memories came flooding back. It was perfect timing for me to reconnect with old friends, because by then my father’s health was declining.

Q: What do your family members think of the book?

A: My family was very supportive of the writing of this book, although at the time, I’m not sure they ever thought I would actually publish. 

All my brothers supported me, and my stepmother was only concerned that I not write a biography about my father because she would like to do that someday. As you read in the book, there is not much of an age difference, and I respected her wishes.

I had great advice from my father’s manager, Doug Yeager, who said that my father was a public figure and anyone can write about him. So that gave me permission of sorts to tell my story.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from your life story?

A: My life was not the fairytale fun ride I believe everyone thinks. The book is not a Daddy Dearest, and I understand that all families have problems, but it is possible that my experiences were unique to the entertainment world. 

Readers see that I have a good sense of humor and handle some very perilous circumstances with lessons from my father that we can all use.

But the book is more relevant now than ever, because there were some #metoo moments that no one ever knew about and all the things Dad and his compatriots fought so hard for seem to be unraveling.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Now I am going to teach a class on growing up in the ‘60s during the sweeping changes in our country and tell a few juicy stories of the early days of television and celebrities. With great thanks to Youtube, I have a lot of visual aids.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I would like the readers of this book to know that I adored my father; he was my hero. I have heard great feedback from children, now grown, who experienced many of the same challenges I did, but who also wouldn’t trade them for the unique perspective of being, and I quote, “a backstage baby.”

The book has a lot of names and stories of celebrities, mostly told with great affection and humor. It’s available on Amazon, and those that took the time to review it gave it five stars!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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