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June 19, 2015

Book Notes - Jillian Lauren "Everything You Ever Wanted"

Everything You Ever Wanted

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Jillian Lauren's memoir Everything You Ever Wanted is bravely told and moving, an unforgettable book about adoption and personal growth.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"This is a heartfelt story of a very real mom whose own baggage and fears did not hinder her from becoming a caring, suitable parent to a child with special needs."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Jillian Lauren's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir Everything You Ever Wanted:

At the beginning of Everything You Ever Wanted, I marry the bass player from Weezer. Music runs all throughout the book in a very literal way. There are whole chapters depicting touring with the band. But music also infuses the spirit of the story, underscoring our struggles to create a family, our travels to Ethiopia to adopt our son, and those challenging early years of parenting. Through it all, music unified us, soothed us, transported us from the maddening minutiae of our lives. The musical journey of Everything You Ever Wanted is a story of survival, hope and ultimately healing. Since I was a little girl, music and words have both been powerful conduits for connection with the world around me. Joining the two for this playlist makes perfect sense.

"Somewhere that's Green" from the musical Little Shop of Horrors, by Menken/Ashman
This is the source of Everything's epigraph. I saw Ellen Greene play Audrey in New York when I was a kid, and it was the kind of performance that burns itself into your brain for a lifetime. She was breathtaking. This song captures the feeling of enduring hope and innocence in the face of really shitty odds. It'll break your heart in two. In the first chapter of the book, I actually compare myself to Audrey, saying, "I'm like the endearingly trashy character Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors: working in a flower shop, teetering around on too-high heels and dreaming of that tract house of her very own (before she gets noshed on by a carnivorous houseplant as comeuppance for such hubris)."

Sketches of Spain, by Miles Davis
For me, this will always be the album of falling in love with my husband.

"Semena-Worck" by Gigi
Gigi is probably the most prominent Ethiopian singer in the world. Ethiopian music is rich, stirring, and diverse. Gigi builds on that tradition, combining traditional and contemporary sounds to create something completely unique and addictive. When we were waiting for Tariku, Gigi was my favorite listening. I actually packed our suitcases for Ethiopia listening to her album Gold and Wax. Now I cook to it all the time.

"Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens
This song was playing in my headphones as Scott and I rode a bus to southern Ethiopia, with the eight other families in our adoption travel group, in order to participate in our Entrustment Ceremony. An Entrustment Ceremony is an opportunity for the adoptive families to meet living relatives of their children, or in some cases the people who had found the babies abandoned. We left before dawn, and as we rode, the sun rose over the savannah, spilling liquid gold over the plains and acacia trees. It was a rarified moment; every leaf looked holy. This song embodied what I was feeling. It's actually a Christian hymn written by Eleanor Farjeon in 1931:

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

"Imagine" by John Lennon
I listened to this as the plane rose off the tarmac in Addis Ababa. I held my new baby in my arms and watched Ethiopia recede below us. Finally, we were headed home to our new life together. A moment- and a song- of radical possibility. I wound up quoting it later on Tariku's adoption announcement:

Imagine all the people sharing all the world.

"Bole 2 Harlem" by Bole 2 Harlem
This is a fusion of traditional Ethiopian music and hip hop. It was a staple of our "Baby Dance Party" playlist. You will love this. Trust.

"Good Morning Starshine" from the musical Hair, by MacDermot/Pierson
As a new mom, I wrestled with some pretty gruesome recurring thoughts. I would replay over and over in my mind ghastly film loops of every possible horrible thing that could befall my child. I was beginning to doubt my own sanity. When I asked my mother if she'd ever experienced such a thing, she assured me that it was normal. She told me that singing had sometimes helped her to clear her head. She had always loved the musical Hair, but told me she'd had to switch it up once we could understand the lyrics! I tried her suggestion and it helped. Initially, this was the only Hair song I could. Tariku loved it so much we started singing it to him every morning when he woke up. We'd change the lyrics a little and insert his name:

Good morning, Starshine, you lead us along…
Tariku and me as we sing
Our early morning singing song.

"Good Life" by Weezer
It's nearly impossible to pick just one Weezer song, because my son has always listened to his dad's band's entire catalog nonstop, but this one was definitely an early favorite. I write about when he was eighteen months old and we took him on tour with the band. It was an adventure-filled few months, with Tariku getting into more trouble than the actual rock stars. He managed to get us thrown out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for playing John Lennon's piano. They marched up out, escorted by about 20 security guards, right under the huge lit-up Weezer "W" that hangs over their gift shop.

"Who's my Pretty Baby?" by Elizabeth Mitchell (
It's the great fortune of many parents that angel-voiced singer-songwriter Elizabeth Mitchell fell into children's music by accident. Tariku called her, simply, "Mitchell," and demanded her on every car ride. I'd have gouged my eyes out on the 405 freeway numerous times if not for her beautiful songs.

"Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga
When we started out our parenting journey, I said things like, "He won't be allowed any screen time until he's eight or nine." Bwaha! Excuse me, I just cracked myself up so hard I choked on my quad latte. That went out the window pretty fast. When T was a toddler and things were extremely challenging for us, his great passion was Lady Gaga. Gaga was one of his first words. And this child would not sleep. After a few sporadic hours a night, he'd be wide-awake at 5am. I took to bundling him off to the living room, where I'd sleep on the couch while he sat transfixed in front of Gaga video after Gaga video. I mean, what harm can it do to a toddler really to watch a half-naked woman crawling around wearing a chandelier on her head? It can't possibly be worse than those demented Teletubbies. It didn't seem to do any lasting damage. Although his first grade girlfriend is a rather theatrical little blonde who excels at karaoke.

"All My Friends are Insects" by Weezer, from Yo Gabba Gabba
Yo Gabba Gabba is what happens when the cool, slacker skater guys from your high school grow up, then take lots of acid and invent a TV show. It's soooo good. Even if you don't have kids, if you happen to be stuck at home one day with a broken leg and tons of Oxycontin, this is your show! And how many kids get to say that their dad did a guest appearance on the show wearing a giant plushy beetle suit? Don't tell us we never gave you anything, kid.

"Just Dance" by Lady Gaga
There just aren't enough kid-friendly videos like this, featuring heroin addicted lesbian models in eighties bodysuits, and pop stars humping orca balloons in kiddie pools. Tariku used to watch it and gleefully exclaim, "WHAYBOON!" (trans: whale balloon)
Seriously- if I ever have the honor of meeting Lady Gaga, I will fall to my knees and kiss her feet for having been the babysitter who saved my life.

Theme song from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Jon Brion
I listened to a ton of Jon Brion as I wrote the book. Everything he makes is just stunning. A gorgeous outro for our list.

Jillian Lauren and Everything You Ever Wanted links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

Boston Globe review
Kirkus review
Los Angeles Times review
Publishers Weekly review interview with the author
Hollywood Housewife interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Pretty
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Some Girls
The Muse interview with the author
The Nervous Breakdown interview with the author
Rage Against the Minivan interview with the author
The Rumpus interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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