On July 19, 2019, I launched Cruel Summer Book Club. Through a year of grief—healing from a breakup, dealing with a global pandemic, getting laid off—I wrote to all of you. And many of you wrote back. You sent messages of support, stories of your own heartbreaks, gratitude for things I wrote that made you feel less alone. I felt myself slowly growing stronger, felt my world opening up with possibility and light.
In CSBC’s second year, I chronicled more massive change in my life. I left New York City, my home of nine years. I traveled solo for the first time, and not for a weekend trip to dip my toes in, but for a three-month road trip to camp and hike in National Parks in nine states. I moved in with my parents in Las Vegas for six months, going through an intense period of family responsibility. I pushed through haunting feelings of limbo and loneliness. I hunted for jobs, but got a steady stream of rejections. I searched for a new city and found it—I’ve lived in Austin for six weeks and I feel happier than I have in a long time.
Life just keeps happening, in all its vast miseries and joys. I’ve learned to be immensely grateful for the certainty of change.
I recently met a man whose longtime girlfriend abruptly broke up with him. We talked for a long time, and I found myself telling him, “I know this feels like hell right now. And it might for a long time. But you will be shocked by the amazing things and people that come into your life over the next couple of years. You will be so much happier—eventually.”
I’m able to say those words because they happened to me. Because I was brave enough to start writing Cruel Summer Book Club and fight through my own shame, I found my voice as a writer. I interviewed authors, friends, artists and others about challenges in their own lives and shared their wisdom with thousands. This project brought dozens of new writers I admire and true friends into my life. I turned my worldview into words, wrapped myself up in the safety of literature. I know how to take care of myself better than ever. I’m proud of what I created here.
Now, Cruel Summer Book Club must evolve along with me. I don’t want this to be a newsletter about heartbreak anymore. My heart is full, and CSBC will reflect that. Moving forward, Cruel Summer Book Club is a newsletter about change and living well. Those are the topics I want to continue to study.
Which leads me to some very exciting news:
The Cruel Summer Book Club podcast launches August 5!
That’s right, I made a podcast! The captivating conversations I have about the curveballs of life deserve to be heard in their entirety. So I interviewed a whole new set of fascinating people about Big Change, how they got through it, and what they learned on the other side. Sometimes after recording sessions, I’m so excited I can’t sleep—that’s how I know this podcast is going to be great. I can’t wait for you to hear, and I’ll have more details to share with you very soon.
For now, here’s some highlights from CSBC’s second year. Thank you so much for being here with me. You’ve made me feel so much less alone in the world. If I’ve done the same for you, even once, this has all been worth it.
Sopan Deb, New York Times reporter and author of Missed Translations, a memoir about the year he spent getting to know his estranged parents
Performer and astrologer Julia Bray on ushering her grandmother from this realm to the next
Whether you’ve been on this journey with me for two years or two days—if you value Cruel Summer Book Club, please consider showing your support on Venmo @jillathrilla, or through PayPal.
Thank you so much to readers Alla, Amelia, Andi, Annabel, Anne Marie, Ann-Kathrin, Brenna, Brittany, Cara, Catherine, Christine, Courtney, Danielle, Edith, Erin, Esme, Grace, Hannah, Jacki, Julia, Kate, Katie, Katie, Mallory, Maria, Molly, Naureen, Rachel, Rahul, Riddhi, Rocky, Samantha, Sarah, Sasha and Scarlett for your support!
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You are not alone!