Demographics of the Heart

For sixteen years my readers were mainly imaginary.

In order to write a book proposal, though, you have to answer the question –What’s your demographic? Who are your readers?

So, I imagined:  they’re female, Jewish, Baby Boomers. In other words: me. I’ve been sitting at my desk on and off for sixteen years, thinking about my life, and writing about me, with me, and for me. The ultimate Baby Boomer navel gazing self-consumption.

Naturally, all the people I sent it to for endorsements are women. They’re accomplished women, rabbis, teachers, authors – but right in line with my demographic: Baby Boomer women.

Now that the book is out of the closet, it’s different. As Winnie the Pooh put it, “When  you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

At first, just as I imagined, the responses were from people just like me. Women. Women who feel things and relate to my voice and my angst, and know what I’m talking about. But, I began to notice some responses from women who aren’t Jewish, and not just women my age.

And wait, now it’s men. Men? Even though I’ve targeted women, men seem to joining my demographic.

First, a few men surprised me by telling how much the book meant to them. Ok, these were friends. Then my son texted to tell me he was reading the first chapter, in tears. But he’s my son. He’s in it. He’s part of the story, part of me, even.

But, last week when I called my cousin, her husband answered the phone. He, who usually gets off the phone so fast I think I have the plague, deliberately took the time to say how moved he was by my book. He’s a financial advisor–definitely not my imagined demographic.

Then I got a phone call from a man I’ve never met. He’s an acquaintance of my husband who said he was in tears after reading the memoir. I was stunned. I asked my husband who he was, and he said, he’s the authority on Jewish death and dying.

This week I’m adding some endorsements from men. The first is from the surprise caller, Dr. Simcha Raphael, the author of Jewish Views of the Afterlife and the founder of DA’AT INSTITUTE for Death Awareness, Advocacy and Training.

“In Bringing Bubbe Home, a Memoir of Letting Go Through Love and Death, Debra Gordon Zaslow tells of the intense and profound experience of caring for her 103 year old grandmother in the last months of her life. This memoir is a richly-textured, powerful and poignant tale of love and death, and a family’s brokenness and healing.  Debra Zaslow holds a candle of light to anyone dealing with the reality of the human encounter with aging, sickness and death. The book reads beautifully, and will undoubtedly open your heart and bring tears to your eyes.”

The next is from Rabbi Rami Shapiro who interviewed me for his “Holy Rascals” Radio program last week. He’s the author of Embracing the Divine Feminine: The Song of Songs.

“Debra Zaslow brought her bubbe home to die. You need to bring Bringing Bubbe Home into your home in order to live. This is a deeply honest memoir of love of and death; nothing sugar-coated, nothing left out. If you or someone you love is dealing with a loved one in the final stage of life, or if you or someone you love realizes that we will all be in that stage someday, this book can be a real treasure.”

After this change of events I’m going to to rewrite my book proposal. Who are my readers? My demographic is people. The kind of people who are moved by books. The kind with hearts.

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