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November 15, 2018

Jenn Stroud Rossmann's Playlist for Her Novel "The Place You're Supposed to Laugh"

The Place You're Supposed to Laugh

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Jenn Stroud Rossmann's novel The Place You're Supposed to Laugh is an impressive and insightful literary debut.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A thoughtful, caring examination of race, class, and wealth in America."


In her own words, here is Jenn Stroud Rossmann's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Place You're Supposed to Laugh:



The Place You're Supposed to Laugh is set in Silicon Valley, in 2002-2003. The novel is focused on the Loudermilk family, who live in a Palo Alto that’s been unsettled by the dot-com bubble burst. These songs are, mostly, from that time period or the histories of the novel’s characters. Chad Loudermilk, 14, is the heart of the book; his interactions with his parents, friends & neighbors, and extended family are a complex web that is either ensnaring or supporting him, sometimes both at once. The playlist, like Chad, matures and integrates those influences as it progresses.

Let Me Blow Ya Mind – Eve featuring Gwen Stefani

This song is a musical time machine, zapping you back to summertime in the early aughts.

Izzo (H.O.V.A.) / Can’t Knock the Hustle – Jay-Z

The frontispiece of my book is a Jay-Z lyric. His is one of the voices in my hero Chad’s head. Chad’s 14 and trying to figure out who he is, and he lives in a place – Silicon Valley just after the first dotcom implosion – where pretty much everyone is trying to do the same. So there’s an appeal in the way “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Hustle” are self-introductions, self-proclamations. Here’s what I’ve been through, and here’s why I’m awesome at my thing. They’re the kind of personal theme song Chad is trying to compose for himself.

The swaggering Izzo tells Jay-Z’s own story about coming up from Brooklyn to become the “eighth wonder of the world,” offering up “the flow of the century.” The lyrical self-love in Hustle is playful: Jay-Z boasts he can “serve like Sampras,” “stack rocks like Colorado.” And that hook from Mary J. Blige, who do you think you are? Someday you’ll be a star is sublime. Then again when isn’t she?

The Way You Move – OutKast

Yeah, see, it’s 2002 right now, just like that.

“California” – Joni Mitchell

Another thing about Chad is that he’s the black adopted son of what his friend Marcus calls “well-meaning but nevertheless white” parents. His parents both grew up on the east coast, and moved across the country to settle in Palo Alto. “Will you take me as I am?” During the dot-com gold rush and collapse, they’ve struggled, but they still believe in the shimmering promise of palm trees and highly rated schools. The mixture of idealism & melancholy in Mitchell’s classic song seem just right, a wistful, weary: Oh California I'm coming home.

I Find It Hard to Say (Rebel) – Lauryn Hill

Chad and his friends have deep respect for Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album: her ragged voice and pleading lyrics are a refusal to remain the “crossover queen with an armful of Grammys,” an insistence on being true to herself even or especially when it makes her mainstream pop fans uncomfortable.

Mathematics - Mos Def

Mos Def’s virtuostic flow is not about bombast or braggadocio. It’s smooth, thought-provoking and poignant. This is one song on whose virtues Chad and his aunt, a Stanford physicist, can agree.

Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

When the book ends, it’s 2003. The Valley is changing (again), and Chad’s burning mix CDs of the new music he wants his friends to like as much as he does.

Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing – Stevie Wonder

Like most of Stevie Wonder’s music, this is timeless sonic perfection; all my available evidence suggests it will have you dancing in (and sometimes around) your writing chair. The Place You're Supposed to Laugh is a comic novel, though its characters ache and mourn and wound each other. But just don't you feel too bad, When you get fooled by smiling faces. I defy you not to sing along.


Jenn Stroud Rossmann and The Place You're Supposed to Laugh links:

the author's website

Kirkus review

Bloom essay buy the author
Monkeybicycle essay by the author
The Quivering Pen essay by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
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


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