Priscilla Gilman’s Story….

Last year I had the pleasure of reading Priscilla Gilman’s book, The Anti-Romantic Child: A Memoir of Unexpected Joy, and learning of her experience raising her exceptional son, Benjamin.  It’s a beautiful literary piece as well as very heartfelt.  I highly recommend her short video on Amazon.  I’m happy to interview Priscilla and introduce you to her.  Here’s a little bio, then my blurb of the book, followed by her interview.  I think you’ll see the literary quality to her work even in her answers to fun questions!

Priscilla Gilman’s book, The Anti-Romantic Child: A Memoir of Unexpected Joy, has just been published in paperback by Harper Perennial.  The Anti-Romantic Child was nominated for a Books for a Better Life Award for Best First Book and chosen as a Best Book of 2011 by the Chicago Tribune and the Leonard Lopate Show.  Gilman is a former professor of English literature at Yale University and Vassar College. She writes regularly for the New York TimesMORE magazine, the Daily Beast, Huff Post Parents, and the Chicago Tribune, blogs at, and speaks frequently at schools and organizations about parenting, education, and the importance of the arts and humanities.

Here’s what I thought:  The Anti-Romantic Child is beautiful, poetic and heartfelt.  It’s more than a mother-child story; it’s a journey of self-discovery.  It’s a book every parent should read.

And now, to hear from Priscilla:

Tea or coffee?  Flavor?  Milk or sugar?

Green Tea, always Tazo China Green Tips, 3 large glasses (or paper cups if I’m on the go) with two tea bags in each.    I *love* the smell and taste of coffee, but it makes me too jittery and hyper.  I’ve tried many green teas and I find that the Tazo one gives me a great burst of energy without the jitters.

Favorite season?

I’m a real East Coast girl, and Spring and Fall (to quote Gerard Manley Hopkins) are my favorite seasons.  I love spring for its sense of promise and possibility, the balmy but not humid air, the fact that everything is budding and blooming.  Plus, my birthday is May 1st.  Fall is a wonderful season to me because it’s back-to-school time, the weather in NYC is warm but not hot, I’m a big football fan, and I love the leaves and foliage.

Can you deal better with wind or rain?

Definitely rain.  Wind drives me crazy if I’m outside in it: there’s the dirt/grit in the eyes problem, the hair flying every which way, hats blowing off heads, papers blowing away, etc.  When my older son, Benj, was little, wind was one of his biggest anxieties.

Deciduous or evergreen?

Both.  I love trees of all colors, types, heights, widths, and kinds.  I have an entire bookshelf full of books about trees, and I used to teach a seminar on tree poems.  Here’s to “the leaping greenly spirits of trees” (ee cummings)!

What’s always in your fridge?

Silk soymilk, Smuckers Chunky Peanut Butter, Arnolds bread, organic apples, bags of Dove Promises chocolate.

Favorite comfort food?

Amys burritoes, Amys Lasagna, and oatmeal with chocolate chips and almonds.

Chocolate or some lesser nectar of the gods? 

Chocolate!    Very dark.

Food you’d rather starve than eat.

Citrus fruit.  For some reason, I’ve always had a pronounced aversion to it; even the smell makes me feel sick. The biggest fight I ever had with my elementary school best friend was when she wiped her orange-y hands on my uniform in 3rd grade.  When my little one, James, eats oranges, he knows to keep them away from Mommy and to wash his hands afterwards.

Cat or dog?

Dog, but not till our children are older and can help out more.  We have our hands full with 3 kids in 3 different schools in NYC.

Flats or heels?

I never wear fancy, expensive, or flimsy heels, both because I wear custom orthotics in my shoes and because I’m just not a shoe girl, and I usually wear flat boots or sneakers (Converses).  But I do have a few pairs of Cole Haan pumps with Nike Air technology that are so comfortable- I wore a new pair to my recent wedding and had no blisters or pain the next day- yay!

Natural fibers or synthetics?


Jeans or fancier?

Both.  I wear a lot of jeans with loose flowy print tops and a lot of dresses with tights and boots.

Short hair or long?

I’ve never had my hair shorter than collarbone length since I was a little girl.

Ideal evening.

would involve live music, a scrumptious meal cooked by my husband or out at a restaurant with him, reading, writing, and kids.

Ideal vacation.

Not beach or tropical- I don’t go in the sun because I’m so fair.  Not somewhere that has a scene or is too ritzy.  For me, it would probably be in Northern California- lots of good healthy restaurants, lots of beautiful nature, and lots of indie bookstores, plus a hot air balloon ride (I took one last summer the night my now husband proposed to me and really want to do it again!), wineries, and live music at the new Terrapin Station venue founded by Phil Lesh.   or somewhere with lots of great museums and public parks- Paris, for example!

Favorite board, card, or computer game?

I love Ex Libris, a game from the Bodleian Library, in which players both try to guess the correct 1st or last line to a novel and write a fake 1st or last line to a novel and trick other players into thinking it is real.  So much fun!  I have always been a passionate player of Clue and Trivial Pursuit.  A game our family recently discovered and is enjoying is Beat the Parents, where the kids play on one team against the parents.

Country you’d most like to visit.

Ireland for the gorgeous vistas, the rich literary tradition (I love Yeats and Joyce), the hikes, and the accent!

Skill you’d most like to acquire.

Playing the guitar.  My parents insisted I play classical piano and I grew up yearning to play guitar.  When I was 35 I gave myself a present of guitar lessons, but it was so hard for me!  Turns out I have scar tissue in my left wrist from when I broke it falling off a slide in Riverside Park when I was 3.

Favorite musical instrument.  

The guitar.  Thank goodness both my son and my husband are guitarists!  Benj is trained as a classical guitarist, Chris (my husband) has a masters degree in jazz guitar, and both of them play folk/rock guitar and we sing together.

What / who gives you spiritual guidance and inspiration?

Writers and books; spiritual teachers including Pema Chodron, Henri Nouwen, Mr Rogers, Thomas Merton, and Jon Kabat-Zinn; meditation; nature; All Souls church in New York City (where I got married); my children.

Some favorite books?

Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, Peter Cameron’s The City of Your Final Destination, Mary Catherine Bateson’sComposing A Life, Alain De Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, Jayne Anne Phillips’ Lark and Termite, Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, Dickens’ Great Expectations, Eliot’s MiddlemarchCharlotte’s Web, Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights,  Rumer Godden’s The Doll’s House, the Betsy-Tacy series, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Alison Gopnik’s The Philosophical Baby, Sidney Poitier’s The Measure of a Man, Epictetus’ The Art of Living, Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Are Friends, William Steig’s Amos and Boris, E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End; Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and To The LighthouseMockingbird by Kathy Erskine!

Some favorite movies?

This is a random list off the top of my head, and it includes movies that are not necessarily the best but have meant the most to me, either because I loved them as a young child, watched them over and over at adolescent slumber parties, taught them etc.

Tender MerciesAll About EveTootsieETThe Wizard of OzRebeccaWest Side StorySingin in the RainIkiruMeet Me In St LouisRosemary’s BabyChariots of FireLeaving Las Vegas; Being ThereSleeper; Double IndemnityFull Metal Jacket; Harold and MaudeMidnight CowboyKramer Vs KramerSecrets and LiesHannah and Her SistersGone With The WindAnd Then There Were NoneFast Times at Ridgemont HighRocco and His Brothers; OklahomaMilk; Before Sunrise; Room With A View; PoltergeistThe Postman Always Rings Twice (original); VertigoSplendor in the GrassThis is Spinal TapWhen Harry Met Sally.

Please visit Priscilla at her website.   Thanks for sharing with us, Priscilla!



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6 responses to “Priscilla Gilman’s Story….

  1. A great interview, all the way around!

  2. Love all these answers and learning more about you, Priscilla! xox

  3. She’s an amazing woman!!!

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