Jell-O Girls

Jell-O Girls

A Family History

Book - 2018
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A memoir that braids the evolution of one of America's most iconic branding campaigns with the stirring tales of the women who lived behind its facade--told by the inheritor of their stories. In 1899, Allie Rowbottom's great-great-great-uncle bought the patent to Jell-O from its inventor for $450. The sale would turn out to be one of the most profitable business deals in American history, and the generations that followed enjoyed immense privilege--but they were also haunted by suicides, cancer, alcoholism, and mysterious ailments. More than 100 years after that deal was struck, Allie's mother Mary was diagnosed with the same incurable cancer, a disease that had also claimed her own mother's life. Determined to combat what she had come to consider the "Jell-O curse" and her looming mortality, Mary began obsessively researching her family's past, determined to understand the origins of her illness and the impact on her life of Jell-O and the traditional American values the company championed. Before she died in 2015, Mary began to send Allie boxes of her research and notes, in the hope that her daughter might write what she could not. Jell-O Girls is the liberation of that story. An examination of the dark side of an iconic American product and a portrait of the women who lived in the shadow of its fractured fortune, Jell-O Girls is a family history, a feminist history, and a story of motherhood, love and loss.
Publisher: New York :, Little, Brown and Company,, 2018
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780316510615
Branch Call Number: 929.2 ROW 2019
Characteristics: 277 pages ; 25 cm


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Dec 13, 2018

You’ll find this book interesting if you are familiar with LeRoy and Rochester, NY. Also helps if you were around during the 50s and 60s and ate a lot of that green pineapple-cottage cheese jello or my favorite, red jello with pretzels and sour cream. Otherwise, better than this book is to buy Joy of Jell-o recipes and try a few.
It’s hard to be a millionaire and live in LeRoy.

Dec 12, 2018

Allie Rowbottom tells her mother’s and grandmother’s cancer-filled stories, stories she feels shed light on women’s roles from the turn of the 20th century to current times.

Rowbottom’s memoir left me both intrigued and repelled. Intrigued by her running narrative of her family’s place in Jell-O history and Jell-O’s and domestic science’s place in our country’s social history. Repelled by her and family’s traumas, tough reading even with her feminist take on the roots. A bit ambitious and confessional; it didn’t all quite hang together although her prose is beautiful, I’d say.

Oct 03, 2018

A lot of history of Jell-O which I lived through most of, having some of those salads mentioned at family, friends, and church gatherings as a child. The lives interwoven in the Jell-O story were very sad to read about, and an actual lack of faith of any spiritual basis, except that of the nether world. I kept reading wanting to believe there was perhaps going to be a better ending than what they all lived. The reader certainly can understand the frustration of those lives as the author was capable of expressing that, utilizing actions and verbiages of anger on the page to make the point. I was not pleased with the sharing of them, thinking she could have done better.

Sep 30, 2018

Jello was the staple of my childhood and the red, white and blue salad still is required at my 4th of July celebrations. It saddened me to read the story of a grandmother, mother and daughter whose wealth came from the sale of Jello, not to have a happy life. Money doesn’t make you happy. I liked the inclusion of the information about evolution of the Jello ads as the author moved forward with her memoir, comparing how her life matched what Jello was trying to sell.

Jul 21, 2018 review July 2018

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