Jenna Bush Hager has announced Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn, as the August pick for her Today show book club, Read With Jenna. The critically acclaimed novel, which published in early June, tells the story of a Jamaican woman who decides to leave her young daughter behind for America, where she can reunite with her (female) first love and start a new life. Patsy intimately explores queer identity and the relationship between mother and child. To that latter point, Hager said on Today, “Maybe it’s telling, right now, because I’m about to give birth.”
EW can’t help but agree that it’s a good choice. In our review, critic Leah Greenblatt writes, “Dennis-Benn writes about the immigrant experience with abiding, bone-deep empathy.” Hager said Thursday she truly “loves” the book. “Patsy is a book that will open a lot of minds,” she added. “I think particularly now it’s critical that we open our minds to the way others live.”
And it certainly will open minds, as it isn’t often that a queer Jamaican literary novel gets chosen for something as far-reaching as a mainstream celebrity book club. As EW has reported, being picked for Hager’s book club is a big deal right now. June’s pick, Jean Kwok’s Searching for Sylvie Lee, was named that month’s selection on the novel’s release day, propelling it New York Times best-selling status. The next month, Linda Holmes’ Evvie Drake Starts Over jumped from No. 15 on the NYT list to No. 3 after Hager endorsed it.
Such a significant platform has the possibility to launch Patsy to similar popular success. At the time of this writing, it’s the No. 12 book on Amazon; it was previously not in the top 100.
Readers can follow along with the book club and stay up to date on the monthly picks by following @readwithjenna on Instagram.