A [reads] Literary dinner party with Durga Chew-Bose

Yola Mezcal Cocktails prepared by Jonathan O’Brien and Hugh Francis — Photograph Meredith Jenks

Have you ever analyzed the leftover dinner party fragments from a party that your parents had thrown the night before? Crumpled napkins, stained table cloths, lipstick smeared wine glasses, lingering snippets of conversations that were had just hours earlier of grown up things you barely understood, and wish you had written down.

These adult dinner parties were the things we dreamed of throwing as children. We would imagine inviting our friends over and being in charge of important things like table settings and telling guests where to hang their coats, although we never imagined our friends grown up enough to have such sophisticated conversations.

[reads] co-founders Emma Stevenson + Rachael Yaeger with Grace Murray — Photograph Meredith Jenks

We’ve always thought that a good dinner party is about what is said and not just what is eaten and as adults ourselves who really love gatherings we decided that it was time to start throwing our own. It’s easy to throw a dinner party with friends and much more difficult to plan a dinner for strangers to come together around a table together. The foundation of [reads] is centered on building conversations and cultivating a community. We wanted to create a space where we could invite a stranger into a home and make them feel like family. Easier said than done both IRL and online.

Flowers by Jill Borenstein from Apres Bloom — Photograph Meredith Jenks

For our first [reads] literary dinner we decided to host it at Sisters in Chinatown, a space that is larger than our apartments but still ‘feels’ like an apartment, which was important.

Table for 30 people at Sisters, Chinatown — Photograph Meredith Jenks

Picking our first literary guest was important for us. We wanted someone that we felt represented the [reads] vibe and someone whose book we just couldn’t put down. We are interested in reading books that remind us of the moment when who you think you are begins to erode and you become someone else—in this case Durga Chew- Bose’s Too Much and not The Mood was exactly what we needed.

We were thrilled when she agreed to come and read to us, it was as equally important for us to create an environment that made room for new conversations and friendships to be made. We wanted an unfamiliar but familiar feeling evening.

Yola Mezcal Sponsored Cocktails— Photography Meredith Jenks

We partnered up with our friends at Baking Supply Co. to cook us a 3 course vegan, vegetarian and gluten free meal.

Hummus Bowls w/ Smoked Mushrooms & Warm Pita — Photograph Meredith Jenks
Braised Leeks w/ Mustard Vinaigrette and Walnuts — Photograph Meredith Jenks
Roasted Beets w/ Grapefruit & Rosemary — Photograph Meredith Jenks
Roasted Sweet Potatoes w/ Coconut Chile Yogurt and Wild Rice with Cashew Pesto — Photograph Meredith Jenks

Our evening turned out to be a room full of people, most of whom we hadn’t met before, which turns out is the most exciting part of hosting a dinner party! Even though it didn’t work this time, we tried to have the entire table be part of one conversation rather than everyone breaking off into smaller conversations with the person next to them.

We opened the evening talking a little bit about [reads] and then we had our friend Adam Beal share a reading from his series “ Through the Window”

Adam Beal reading — Photography Meredith Jenks

We listened to Durga read an excerpt from Heart Museum and it made us want to read the book all over again. She is the most articulate human we have had the pleasure of knowing, her observations are so specific and communally shared. You should see our shared copy of Durga’s Book it’s scattered with comments in the margins, underlined paragraphs and bookmarked pages.

We will be having these dinner parties once a month so that we can regularly host new people and build a [reads] community who celebrates books!

Thank you, Durga!

Durga Chew-Bose “ Too Much and Not the Mood.” — Photograph Meredith Jenks
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