Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Q&A with Jeannie Zusy- The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream

November 29th, 2022
Books & Authors

The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream is a very funny, sometimes romantic and often moving portrait of how one woman’s life gets turned upside down when she becomes the caregiver to her middle sister with special needs.

Maggie gets a call from ER in Maryland where her sister Ginny lives. Ginny, who has intellectual disabilities and diabetes, has binged on Strawberry Jell-O. So, Maggie decides to bring Ginny to live with her in upstate New York. The oldest sister Betsy is vehemently opposed to the idea. But Betsy, a professional surfer, conveniently lives thousands of miles away. Maggie uses all the patience and dark humor she can muster to deal with her new life as caretaker, mother, freelancer, and separating wife who is starting to date again. Zusy lives in upstate New York, had a brother with special needs and knows a lot about love and sacrifice and how laughing at one’s situation can be the best option available.

Below is my Q&A with the author Jeannie Zusy …

Ginny is wiser than she appears. Can you expand on this?

         -Ginny may not have a very high IQ or deep self-knowledge, but she has a great ability to see. As a child, she tuned into oldest sister Betsy’s surf culture, and she embraces a mellow lifestyle. She doesn’t get caught up in a lot of the things that stress others out. Ginny has a big heart, is loyal and forgiving, and from here come her “Ginny-isms”, simple words of wisdom like, “You need to chill.” “Let the waves, wave.” And even, about her own inability to control her sugar consumption, “If I die, I die sweet.”

You wrote a great article about how jumping on a trampoline saved you.

I’ve been told it’s not the norm for a woman approaching 60, but catching air on the backyard trampoline has proven to be more than exercise for me.

Can you tell us about that jumping? And at what point when you were midair flying above the trampoline, did you think I’m going to write about this?

         -Jumping on the trampoline became such an important source of escape and joy for me during the earliest parts of the pandemic and then after our daughters moved out. I think at one point, I just thought, this jumping thing is so great, everyone should know about it. And then I thought, this is so weird, if I write about it, everyone will know how weird I am. But then I thought, we’re all a bit weird, aren’t we? And shouldn’t we embrace the unique things we do to keep our minds, bodies, and souls happy? So I spoke my truth about my love for my trampoline!

*Similarly, your book was inspired by your own brother Davie who was intellectually disabled and who you helped take care of. When did you think, I’m going to write about my experience with Davie? As an artist, do you think it’s important to not just be living an experience, but also observing the experience?

         -Yes, you put that so well. Davie was always an important part of my life, and he inspired me in many ways. Previously, I’d written about him in other forms. He knew this, and while he didn’t understand what I found so interesting about him, I think he appreciated it. When my siblings and I decided that the best thing for our larger family would be to move Davie to live closer to me and my family, I think we all kind of knew that I’d be writing about our adventure someday.

You can read the rest of my Q&A here on 26’s November issue.

November, 2022

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