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Posted on Tue, May 1, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Local author Ann Pearlman talks about new sequel to hit novel 'Christmas Cookie Club'

By Kurt Anthony Krug

Grandmother of four Ann Pearlman might not fit the typical demographic for rap music, but she loves it.

“I get weird looks driving around the city, playing Lil Wayne and Tupac Shakur,” the Ann Arbor author said with a laugh.

In fact, rap music plays a pivotal part in her latest novel, “A Gift For My Sister,” a sequel to her hit “The Christmas Cookie Club” that's being released today. (Pearlman will sign copies in an appearance next week at Nicola's Books.)

“Gift” centers on two fatherless sisters named Sky and Tara. Whereas Sky—an attorney who is married and has a 3-year-old daughter—has worked hard to get where she is in life, Tara—the younger of the two—is the problem child who got pregnant in high school and tours the nation with her boyfriend Aaron, an aspirating rapper.

However, the idyllic life Sky has crafted for herself is starting to come apart at the seams, while Tara and Aaron’s stardom takes off. In the end, it is Tara who helps Sky start over.

“I decided to write about young families because at the end, they both will have kids about the same age. I wanted to see what was going to happen to them.

"I really particularly fell in love with Tara. She is a character who’s totally passionate about her music. That whole sense about her being totally passionate about something, about creation is obviously very important to me,” explained Pearlman.


Ann Pearlman

“I just decided to switch the ordinary because if you look at Tara, she’s knocked up by this fresh-out-of-juvie black dude who wants to be a rap star, whereas Sky’s done everything right—she’s a lawyer. I know darn well that playing it safe in life doesn’t mean it’ll stay safe. Life is full of wonderful and horrible surprises. Sky is really tested; everything is flipped in her life. Meanwhile, Tara and Aaron are as happy as they can be with their music, their music is going well, they have this darling little boy… That’s where the ideas of the plot came to be.”

An alum of the University of Pittsburgh and what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Pearlman is a therapist in private practice in Ann Arbor, where she has lived since 1976, in addition to being a novelist. This is her second work of fiction; she has written five non-fiction books, one of which she co-authored. Her memoir, “Infidelity,” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, as well as adapted into a Lifetime movie of the same name in 2004, starring Kim Delaney (TV’s “Army Wives”) and Kyle Secor (TV’s “Veronica Mars”).

“Of course, the other thing that this book deals with very seriously is race in terms of the making of this biracial family and Sky’s feelings about Tara being part of a biracial family… all the weirdness and stereotypes (Sky) has about this rap crew. It’s about two sisters healing and there’s lots of resentments between them from the start, particularly on Sky’s part towards her younger sister who always been a little whacko, a little different,” said Pearlman.

“It has the themes of luck, the themes of dealing with the complex multi-racial, multi-cultural society we’re in and how more and more families are having to deal with this within their own family, not their exterior lives. It’s really about healing. One of the things that connects my books and my practice as a therapist is that spirit of human endurance, that ability to move on and overcome hard times and really appreciate the joys of life.”

Like “The Christmas Cookie Club,” “Gift” has recipes at the back of the book, such as beef stew and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, which Pearlman referred to as “ordinary food funked up.”

“Originally, the title of this book was ‘Family Meals,’ but everybody who read it thought it wasn’t about family meals. It’s so much fun to blog about it. I put out a new blog post about family meals. To me, the most fun of family life is everybody cooking together,” said Pearlman.

Each chapter switches perspectives. For instance, one chapter is written in Tara’s voice, then the next chapter is written in Sky’s.

“Gift” takes place all over the United States—specifically Tennessee, Texas, California, and Detroit. However, it ends in Ann Arbor.

“I had a ball writing this book. I woke up exhilarated every morning,” Pearlman recalled. “It was so much fun to be able to write in their two voices.”

Visit Pearlman at Pearlman will sign copies of “A Gift For My Sister” at Nicola’s Books, located at 2513 Jackson Road in the Westgate Shopping Center, on Thursday, May 10, at 7 p.m. For further information, call Nicola’s Books at 734-662-0600 or go to