Please Welcome: The Jane Austen Society of North America (#AustenInAugustRBR)

Please Welcome our first guest blogger for the Austen in August event: Amelia from the Jane Austen Society of North America!


Are You a Jane-ite? 

A few years ago I wouldn’t have said I was, but now that’s changed.  I’m the social media developer/webmaster for my local chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).  It all started when a grad school friend of mine asked if I had seen their blog.  Yes, I’d seen it and their meetings sounded interesting, but I was wary, I didn’t want to be surrounded by a bunch of middle aged women obsessed with Mr. Darcy. 

We decided to check out their next meeting before we decided if we wanted to join JASNA.  Luckily it wasn’t a group of middle aged women obsessed with Mr. Darcy, it was a group of all aged women obsessed with Jane Austen.

We are the Central New Jersey chapter of JASNA. We typically meet four to six times a year to share in all things Jane. Previous meetings have included book discussions, movie viewings, guest speakers, concerts, and much, much, more. We love to read, and we spend a good portion of our meetings exchanging the titles of books.

In my time with the group I’ve noticed that there are three general groupings of Janeites when it comes to what they will read past The Six Novels. (These are my personal names for the groups).

First up are the Purists.  They read The Six Novels, the Juvenilia, the Letters, the Unfinished Works, and they won’t touch a rewrite, adaptation, or sequel.  For these readers I would recommend:

  • Jane Austen by Carol Shields
  • Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef
  • Becoming Jane: The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen by Anne Newgarden
  • A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
  • Jane Austen’s Letters by Deirdre Le Faye

The opposite of the Purists are the Free-for-Alls.  These readers will pick up anything even remotely related to Jane and her work.  They’ve read about Vampires, Sea Monsters, and Zombies.  They’ll pick up books that have characters coming out and go into Jane’s stories and even the newly talked about Fifty Shades of Gray inspired versions of Jane’s Work.  For those readers I suggest:

  • Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star by Heather Lynn Riguad
  • The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters
  • Mr. Darcy, Vamprye by Amanda Grange

I’m a member of the third group, the Inbetweeners.  We’ll read the adaptations, sequels and such but we want some purity in those books.  There’s nothing worse than picking up a book about another Bennett sister only to read that our happy couples are no longer happy.  For these readers I’ll recommend some that I have enjoyed in the past:

  • Lady Vernon and her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
  • His Good Opinion by Nancy Kelley
  • The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow
  • Nachtsturm Castle by Emily C. A. Snyder
  • Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Nancy, Shannon and Emily are all working on stories with Col. Fitzwilliams as our hero.

For more information or to locate your regional chapter visit http://www.jasna.org


Thank you, Amelia, for stopping by and for introducing us to The Jane Austen Society of North America! So, Austen-fans, what do you think? Are you a Purist? An in-betweener? Something else entirely?

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36 thoughts on “Please Welcome: The Jane Austen Society of North America (#AustenInAugustRBR)

  1. First let me say, I’m definitely a purist.
    I come from the Jersey Shore, but have been living in Norway for the past twenty years. After reading about your (JASNA) in Central New Jersey, I’m thinking I may have to move back! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • I’m with you – I’m a purist, myself, but I can’t say that I’m entirely opposed to reading something more contemporary. After reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, I’m actually interested in what (good) adaptations might be out there, for some of my favorite books. Also, I enjoyed books like Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which is a contemporary prequel to Jane Eyre, and Jack Maggs, which is a contemporary sequel to Dickens’s Great Expectations…. so, maybe I should say I’m a purist “for now.”

  2. I’m a purist as well 🙂 When I first saw the cover for Pride & Prejudice & Zombies…ohh no, it made me feel icky!

    I’m going to have to take a look and see if there is a JASNA chapter anywhere near me. 😀

    • I did the same! I’m kind of “GRAWH WHAT?!” about all those (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, for instance?? AHH!) I guess I’m a bit uptight when it comes to literature and such, but when I think about it – it really is quite fun. I just hope people are reading the originals AND the re-imaginings, rather than substituing the actual classic works for something lighter… that’s my main concern.

      I did find a JASNA chapter near me – in the Chicago-area!

  3. I guess I’m sort of an in-betweener, though I happened to think that the first P&P&Zombies was clever and fun. The prequel to it was pretty dreadful, though.

    I’d recommend for inclusion on your in-betweener list a trilogy called Mr. Darcy, Gentleman by Pamela Aidan, which tells P&P from Darcy’s point of view. It’s extremely well done and the best piece of published fanfiction I’ve ever read (including Wide Sargasso Sea).

  4. Thank you for this great post! I would probably be an inbetweener – but I haven’t read any of those books, so I might have to check those out once I read all of Jane Austen’s works. Thank you Adam for all of your hard work!

    • Oh, you’re very welcome. I could be a tentative inbetweener, too – but, like you, I haven’t read any of the adaptations. I’m definitely the kind of person who wants to read all the original books before moving on to any retellings (e.g. I’m trying to get through Dickens’s works, or at least most of them, so that I can read Drood by Dan Simmons!).

  5. What a lovely guest post! Thank you for all the recommendations. Personally, I think Inmay leaning towards the Purists. Am reading Jane Austen by Carol Shields right now and enjoying it 🙂

    • I’ve seen quite a few people mentioning various biographies they plan to read for this event – I’m really looking forward to reading what everyone thinks of them, and maybe picking one up based on all of your recommendations. I’m not much of a biography person, in general, but I think I would enjoy learning more about Austen.

      • I recommend Claire Tomalin’s biography. She made me fall for Austen. I didn’t originally like her.:)

  6. I tend to be a purist. I have read P&P and Zombies and a few others, but they never work for me. I always want to go back and re-read the originals instead. The other day I just heard about an annual Jane Austen festival in Louisville, KY and I couldn’t believe it. A Jane festival in the Midwest and I’ve never been! Must remedy that.

  7. I think I’m an in-betweener who leans toward purist (a lot.) I’ve never read an adaption/”sequel”, etc. I am interested in reading a bio-fiction perhaps, and I’m going to try a sequel of my favorite by Austen (S&S), just to be able to say what I think of sequels. But honestly? I have a feeling I’m a purist.

    Great post! 🙂

    • Jillian if you want a bio-fiction I suggest JANE AUSTEN IN LOVE: An Entertainment by Elsa A. Solender. Elsa is a former JASNA president, we had her at our last meeting. The book is only available through the Kindle Store.

      • Thanks! The one I have is The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James. I was thinking I might read it soon. 🙂

  8. Very interesting! I’m an inbetweener! I became a Jane Austen fan via the movies of 1995/96(P&P, S&S, and Emma). After reading the big six, I read some sequels….(“The Third Sister” and a P&P sequel). As a Jane Fairfax fan, I loved Joan Aiken’s “Jane Fairfax”. One of the Bookclubs I belong to, Austen in Boston: A Jane Austen Bookclub, has read at least half a dozen sequels/adaption. Some I love include(not all have been read within the bookclub) The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz/The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice by Abigail Reynolds/Jane Austen Made Me Do it/Etc/Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe) ….others well…..

  9. I am a Purist who enjoys the in between too.
    Many of the re-tellings are wonderful, Jane would approve.

  10. I really enjoyed reading this post and appreciate all the book recommendations.  Since I’m reading my very first Jane Austen novel, I’ll be a purist until I read all her major books, then I’ll take it from there. 🙂

  11. Wonderful post, Amelia! Thank you for sharing.

    I wonder where biographies live within these three categories. I haven’t actually read any yet, but I plan on it.. Otherwise, I’m a major Purist. I actually watched The Jane Austen Book Club before I realized it was a book, but that’s as close as I’ve been to leaving the Purist circle. I have no interest in zombies or sea monsters, and I’d rather imagine Elizabeth and Darcy’s post-book life on my own instead of reading about it from someone else. I’m sure there’s a lot of well-written and justified material out there on the matter, but it’s not for me.

  12. JASNA of Central New Jersey was very lucky that Amelia checked out one of our meetings. She is a wonderful & talented member and has added some much to our groups reading lists. I am one of the inbetweeners and Amelia always adds new and interesting books to our reading lists.
    Keep up the good work!

  13. I’m a Purist with one small step with Syrie James into Inbetweenness. In general I don’t like spinoffs at all.
    Great post although surprised there’s no mention of Claire Tomalin’s biography.

  14. As one who is a reader of both the Sherlockian Canon and Jane Austen, I have long observed that the writers who add to their body of work, as well as their readers, fall into three categories. I have also called the first group the purists: they have read everything by Jane Austen (or Holmes) and firmly believe that any supplemental material should be limited to essays, biographies or scholarly work. The traditionalists have read the Canon and do not have a problem with paraliterature, but believe that any sequels or other derivative work should adhere to the original author’s style in matters of subject matter, character, prose and so on. (Incidentally, I think that a modern adaptation can fall into this category). The third can be the most problematic because I have found that often they have not read all (or sometimes any) of the original works and came to the author by way of a derivative work, and take a sort of “anything goes” attitude. I suppose I would feel better about the introduction of zombies, racy romps and assorted shenanigans – which I think Jane Austen herself may have found to be excessively diverting – if I had some confidence that the author had actually read the source material.
    As for critical works, I really enjoyed Peter J. Leithart’s “Miniatures and Morals” – how can you not like a guy who leads off with the observation that “Real men read Austen”?

  15. Pingback: Review and Giveaway: Goodly Creatures | Indie Jane

  16. Ack! Two t’s on Bennet? Purists will have you by the whirlygigs! I’m posting later this month about such things!

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