It's My Party: A Memoir
in conversation with Alexander Sanger, grandson of Margaret Sanger
Wednesday, January 17, 7pm
Watson's account of her near-mythic family and disciplined upbringing unveils a journey of extremes. From the terribly depressed young girl who buries herself in books to the awkward debutante to the new divorcee who discovers her wild side in '70s New York, Jeannette blooms into a bookstore owner and a healer. Featuring a treasure-trove of never-before-published letters and photos.
Born into a celebrity family (her father was IBM founder Thomas Watson's son, who turned the company into the powerhouse it still is today, and her mother, Olive, had dated Howard Hughes and John F. Kennedy), Jeannette Watson's larger-than-life family hid a number of secrets. Behind a facade of order and glamour, Tom Watson often experienced dark moods; his depression was something he passed on to his daughter. Jeannette felt she could never measure up to her mother-a legendary beauty-and kept her nose buried in books.
Through her years as a debutante, then young wife and mother, Watson kept her feelings under wraps until she had a mental breakdown. As part of her fight to heal herself, she left her husband, taking their son and moving to New York City to experience its heady 1970s freedoms. She opened the legendary Upper East Side bookstore Books & Co., which became a gathering place for literati. Her personal life soared once more when she met her second husband, Alex Sanger, grandson of Planned Parenthood's founder, with whom she had two more sons. After a long and fulfilling run, the bookstore closed and Watson found her way down a new path to become a spiritual healer.
It's My Party is a portrait of another era, a guide to dealing with depression, and one woman's deep effort to understand herself.
In this charming memoir, Watson, the former proprietor of Manhattan's bookstore Books & Co., reflects upon her remarkable, troubled life as the granddaughter of IBM's founder and daughter of Thomas Watson, who ushered the corporation to wide success. Born in 1945, one of six children, Watson used books to escape, not just reading them but "inhabiting" them. In spite of her idyllic surroundings (a seven-acre family estate in Greenwich, Conn., with a pony and 30 dolls; an impressive summer home in Maine), Watson was wary of her father's tempestuous nature; without warning, he could fly into a rage. The shy and sensitive Watson was often depressed, though she enjoyed observing her parents' social life and well-known guests; her mother, a former model, had dated Jack Kennedy, and Ted's and Bobby's families visited. After coming out as a debutante (to a 13-piece band), attending a private high school, and studying at Sarah Lawrence, the author married and had a child; her postpartum depression landed her in a sanatorium where she received electroshock treatments. The memoir balances the bleak periods with tales of exciting travels with her parents, her interest in fashion and fashionable people, and her love of literature. Watson's colorful descriptions recreate a singular era and gently probe the darker currents that run deeply beneath the surface of wealth and privilege. Publishers Weekly
Jeannette Watson's memoir opens with the experiences of a perceptive girl and concludes with the experiences of a woman who uses her insights to heal others. Along this journey the reader will find glimpses of life within a celebrated family, the antics of siblings, the agonies and adventures of school, the challenges and joys of marriages, the excitement of being single, the role of friendships, the enlightenment of travel, the triumph over sadness and the individual's search for purpose. Ms. Watson tells her story with candor, humor and sympathy for the human condition. Colony Club