Welcome to Meet The Newbies, a co-hosted event from Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books and I, in which we introduce you to all of the new kids in school aka the 2015 debut authors.
Meet the author:
Kate McGovern has taught theatre and language arts to middle schoolers in Boston, New York, and London. A graduate of Yale and Oxford, she currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was born and raised. This is her first novel.
Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Meet her debut novel:
Genre: YA Contemporary
Releases: November 24th, 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
A heartrending but ultimately uplifting debut novel about learning to accept life's uncertainties; a perfect fit for the current trend in contemporary realistic novels that confront issues about life, death, and love. Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that will tell her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother. With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult—including going to ballet school and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool, and gets an audition for a dance scholarship in California, Rose begins to question her carefully-laid rules.
Thanks so much Kate McGovern for being a part of #MeetTheNewbs and sharing this amazing guest post!
It’s In the Gene Pool
By Kate McGovern
In RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES, 17-year-old Rose has a decision to make: does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns 18, she can take the test that will tell her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the neurodegenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother.
I’m fascinated by genetics. One of the reasons I started writing RULES is that I was thinking about a radical career change, toward genetic medicine. I was in a tough moment in my life (having just come out of a long-term relationship and living back in my childhood bedroom), and I was seriously considering going back to school to become a genetic counselor. Instead, I started writing Rose’s story.
Rose knows more about her genes than the average 17-year-old, thanks to the incredibly difficult situation she finds herself in—a situation that is very real for lots of teenagers whose families are coping with Huntington’s and other inherited illnesses.
I’m grateful to not have had to make a tough choice about my genetic knowledge due to a devastating disease like Rose does. But I do love thinking about the winding path of people and places and choices that created my family and made me…me. Here are five things I have in common—“genetically” speaking—with Rose:
We’re half-Jewish. Like Rose, my family isn’t religious, but I’m Jewish on one side (my mom’s) and not on the other. (My father’s side is Irish and French Canadian.) I know some people don’t like the term “half-Jewish,” because they feel it undermines the laws of Judaism—if your mother is a Jew, you’re technically a Jew; if not, you’re not. That means Rose is not considered Jewish by Jewish law, since her father is Jewish and her mother is not. But Rose doesn’t necessarily see it that way in terms of her self-identity, and neither do I. Rose and I both grew up celebrating holidays from both sides of our families, not the religious parts but the food and the traditions. We both grew up with chicken soup as the answer to a lot of ailments. I’m a deli girl through and through. Pickle me anything. I feel like these things are in my blood.
I also love learning about my ancestors. Unfortunately, I never knew any relatives from previous generations on my father’s side (although my brothers once visited the part of Ireland where the McGoverns are said to originate and claimed the bartender at the local pub looked just like our grandfather). I was lucky enough to know my great-great Aunt Belle on my mom’s side, who died when I was twelve, and my maternal grandmother—my own Gram—lived until I was in my thirties. So we’ve been able to learn a lot about our ancestors on that side of the family from their memories, old photographs, and the Internet.
In my apartment in Cambridge, I have a lot of photos of my great-great-grandmother’s generation. She and her siblings and parents came over to New York from Lithuania in the early 1900s. This is a photograph of the S.S. Noordam, which is the ship they traveled on from Europe to Ellis Island. It hangs in my office at home. I love it because it keeps me really grounded in who I am—it’s a reminder of where we come from.
And here’s one of my great-great grandmother, Dorothy, my great-great Aunt Belle, and their sisters, cousins and friends. We have no idea why they’re dressed like men! The little boy on the right is my grandmother’s older brother, Willard. It’s dated December 23, 1915. On December 23, 2015, my cousin and I want to do a reenactment with our family and friends, for the 100th anniversary.
We’re train people. Like Rose, I have a mom who loves trains. My mother took me on my first cross-country train trip—Los Angeles to Boston—when I was about seven. As an adult, I got a hankering to do it again, so I took the California Zephyr—the same train Rose rides in the book—from Chicago to San Francisco by myself. It changed my life. It’s such an extraordinary way to see the country. I’ve done a lot of long train trips since then, and I’ve written about some of them here.
We’re second-generation Cantabrigians (that is, people from Cambridge). Rose says her mother and Uncle Charlie went to the same high school she did, the only public high school in the city of Cambridge, MA. In my family, my father and I both went to that high school—called Roosevelt in the book, Cambridge Rindge and Latin in real life. It’s a very special school, one of the most diverse public high schools in the country. In many ways it shaped my worldview. I went off to college with a real sense of the vastly different life experiences people can have even in one small city. I think a lot of Rindge kids feel that way when we leave home. My oldest nephew goes there now, my middle nephew will be a freshman there in the fall, and I hope my kids will go there one day, too.
We love storms. Like Rose, I love storms, and like Rose, I think I inherited that love from my mom. My mom grew up in upstate New York, where they get a lot of snow. And obviously here in the Boston area, we’re not strangers to snow either. I love it. Last winter, when we broke the historical record for snowfall in Boston, my mom and I had a blast.
It’s never too cold for ice cream. Okay, so, like storms and trains, this isn’t technically genetic, but it feels like it is! Like Rose’s dad, my dad has a very strict rule about ice cream—it’s never too cold for it. When you grow in a place where it’s winter almost half the year, you really can’t limit your ice cream intake to the warmer months. My dad also passed onto me another important rule—never put books in bags. School bags don’t count, but when we leave a bookstore, my father taught me to always carry my purchases in my hand. That way you can start reading them right away when you walk out the door.
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