Jasmine Guillory on the books that changed her life, from Judy Blume to Beverly Jenkins
In just a few short years, Jasmine Guillory has become one of the buzziest romance novelists around.
Her work regularly lands on best-seller lists, and she's earned a coveted spot in the Hello Sunshine book club. (The media company has also optioned her work.) Her latest book, While We Were Dating, hits shelves July 13.
Of course, before Guillory was a feted author, she was a reader. Here are the books that changed her life.
My favorite book as a child
This is an impossible question. Because I had many childhood favorites, which I still own right now. Picture books like The Little Engine That Could, which I love and give to many, many babies. As I got older, there were a bunch of other books I read I love, like all of the Anne of Green Gables books. [But] I was obsessed with the Shoes books [by Noel Streatfield], especially Ballet Shoes. I loved all of them, and I have probably at least four copies of many of them because I kept losing them and then rebuying them.
The book I read in secret as a teenager
The answer to this for every one of my generation is Forever, by Judy Blume. We all read that in secret and then talked about it and then it got taken away at school, [from] under the desk.
My favorite book to read in school
I really loved reading Shakespeare in school. Schools never teach the comedies, the romances, which I think they should, because those are a lot more fun for teenagers to read. I think part of the season schools don't teach them is because the romances are a lot dirtier, and they don't want teenagers to read those. But that's a way to get teenagers excited about reading Shakespeare. Teachers should really flip that script. We read Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet gets a bad rap because they die at the end. But it's not supposed to be a romance, it's a tragedy. It's so poetic. I love language, and I loved reading all of those books in school.
The book that changed my life
The only real answer to this is The Wedding Date, my first book. Before that book came out, I was a lawyer working at a job that I didn't really care about. Now I have a totally different career and life that I love so much, and now my sixth book is about to come out, which is completely wild to me.
A book I've read over and over and over
There's so many. Because I am a huge re-reader. But one that I've re-read a lot in the past few years is Alexander Chee's How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. It's a collection of essays throughout his life as a writer and a writing teacher. It gives me new insights into my own life and my own writing every time I re-read it. Every time I re-read, I see something new.
A book I wish I'd written
I don't think anyone could write The Royal We in the same way Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan did, but if they hadn't written that I'd be writing the Harry and Meghan version of that book.
My literary crush
After Bridgerton came out, it is impossible for anyone to have any other crush than that duke.
The last book that made me swoon
Honey Girl, by Morgan Rogers. I just loved that book, and there's so many quietly sweet moments there because so much of the romance starts out over the phone and them talking quietly together at night. It's just so romantic.
The last book that made me laugh
Here For It, by R. Eric Thomas. That book was just so funny and thoughtful, and there's so many moments that shocked me into laughter, which I really loved. I went into it knowing it was going to be funny because I follow him on social media and he's hilarious, but I did not expect it to be so emotional, moving, and then also hilarious.
The last book that made me cry
The Yellow House, by Sarah M. Broom. I found so many parallels to it about my life and my family. It's set in New Orleans, it's about the author's family — the house that she grew up in that was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. She talks about about her family before and after the hurricane. The timing was really important because I started reading it the week that my grandmother went into the hospital, and then the night that my grandmother died, I read the part in the book where her grandmother dies. I was just like, "Oh, well, maybe I needed this right now."
My favorite movie adaptation of a book
It's a tie between Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You. Two of the best teen movies ever and are also wonderful adaptations of great books that I love.
The last book I gave as a gift
The Secret Life of Church Ladies, by Deesha Philyaw. I read it a few weeks ago, and I immediately gave it to my mom so we could talk about it because it's just so good. It's a collection of short stories, which are very different but all resonant in so many ways. My mom was like, "I read that in like an hour and a half." And then we had to talk about all the stories.
The book I consider to be the gold standard in romance
Destiny's Embrace, by Beverly Jenkins, is a perfect book because there's so much great romance in it but then there's so much of family and found family and the things that the hero and heroine both go through to really fall in love with each other, and you fall in love with them. There are some super-recent ones that really stand out to me, like The Kiss Quotient is so, so great. One of the things that I love the most about romance is that you really get to see people's personalities and lives and cheer for them. That's what really made me cheer for both characters and everything surrounding them.
The book I'm reading right now
I'm reading The Three Mothers, by Anna Malaika Tubbs. It is about the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, and Malcolm X. It's a lot about Black womanhood, Black motherhood, how these women had such important roles in not just their son's lives, but all of American history — and nobody ever talks about them. They talk about the sons, who, yes, were important, but in talking about their son's families they talk about their fathers, and their mothers are just a footnote. It's really fascinating background into their mothers and makes me think a lot about the way Black women have been treated throughout history.