I am so proud to introduce our FACE of Nashville, a dear friend of mine and StyleBlueprint’s, Jennifer Puryear. You may already be familiar with Jennifer, as she’s active in the Nashville community, writes quarterly book reviews for StyleBlueprint, and has her literary blog, Bacon on the Bookshelf. We’re big fans, and you’re about to see a glimpse as to why!
Tell us a little bit about your background — where you’re from, went to college and how you got to Nashville.
I moved to Nashville in 1994, a newlywed, and finished law school at Vanderbilt while my new husband began practicing law downtown. We moved here because of his family ties and because I was willing to take a chance on Nashville — and him! At the time, I hoped we might settle in Atlanta (pretty glad I lost that vote).
I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, which was similar to Nashville in some ways — a smart Southern capital with sweet tea and biscuits and grits on the menu. Better barbecue there, I have to say. I attended college at Harvard — a shock to the system, but mostly good! — then went to UNC Chapel Hill for a Master’s degree in American history and law school. My husband and I spent a few years in Washington, D.C., where he worked in politics and I practiced law at the SEC. Otherwise, we’ve been in Nashville the last 23 years. We have two daughters, ages 17 and 18, and a dog named Pepper.
You are the most well-read person I know. Have you always enjoyed reading with such voracity?
That is such a nice compliment, Liza! Thank you! And yes. I was that kid who would always rather be reading a book. It’s a little embarrassing when I look back on it. I hope I’m a little more balanced now.
Do you remember your favorite book you read as a child and then again as a teen (if you can pick a favorite!)?
The Velveteen Rabbit, no question. It might be my favorite book of all time. Close second: The Country Bunny and The Little Gold Shoes.
As a child, I loved fairy tales. In the middle years, I loved the Little House books and the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. As a teen, I loved beyond measure the James Herriot books (All Creatures Great and Small, etc.) and The Lord of the Rings.
On average, how many books to do you read each month?
It depends on the month. Sometimes one. Sometimes three or four if I’m traveling a lot. I do most of my reading in airports and on planes.
What is your favorite book you’ve read thus far in 2018?
The Hollow Land, by Jane Gardam — a gentle, beautiful novella selected by my friend Caroline Trost for our No Rules book club. Set in the English countryside, it’s about a city boy and a country boy who become friends. Next up, and a book I am so excited to read, is Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee (selected by Charlie and Lawrence Cook for couples book club). I was sad that I couldn’t finish it before book club, but sometimes life gets in the way. Everyone in couples book club was crazy about it. The New York Times selected it as one of the Top 10 Books of 2017.
Having just gone through the college application process with your oldest, and another in the wings, do you have any advice for parents jumping into this for the first time?
- Where you go to college has little impact on your success in life. True for us, true for them.
- Where you go to college has little impact on your happiness either there or later. True for us, true for them. As long as there is a basic fundamental fit.
- Have another glass of wine and try not to worry as much as the crazy people around you. It will all work out. It’s hard to believe but often true. My daughter is not at her first choice school. She’s killing it at another.
As an attorney with a Harvard undergraduate degree as well, you made the decision to stay home with your kids. Was this a difficult decision to make?
Yes and no. I negotiated an excellent part-time arrangement at the SEC before my maternity leave but then couldn’t make myself go back when the time came. Motherhood flipped a switch in me — I still can’t explain it. My sister works full-time and has three amazing kids who are growing up beautifully. Thank God kids are flexible and can thrive with all kinds of moms!
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
Sometimes in my dreams I still fly.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot to recommend with any insider tips?
Any beach in the winter. You’re all bundled up, walking, and the surf is roaring its dull roar, and you’re breathing in the salt air, and you’re almost alone, but not quite. You come back and feel that your soul is actually cleansed. I’d always choose that over just about anything. Second choice: New York City, any time of year. I love eating at Serafina’s — multiple locations — but the best is on the Upper East Side. If you don’t know, it’s totally unpretentious and delicious Italian, served quick and hot. My favorite city in the world is Hong Kong, and please be in touch if you want suggestions.
When describing Nashville to friends and family not from here, what is one of the things you like to boast about?
The food! I challenge you to find a more gorgeous, ambitious, beautiful, delicious soup and salad anywhere on the planet than what’s offered at etc. these days in Green Hills. Don’t even get me started on the restaurants in Germantown. My new favorite is Henrietta Red.
Is there an underutilized place in town that you wish more people knew about?
Gigamunch! It’s not a place — it’s a meal delivery service, as you know! (I learned about it on StyleBlueprint.) Every Monday, a meal is prepared by someone in the local immigrant community and delivered to your home with a cool pamphlet describing what you’re eating and offering some music suggestions to accompany dinner.
Describe your perfect day.
Get up, walk dog. Read. See beloved friends or family. Drink wine. Meet new person. Get in bed and have my husband scratch my back. Fall asleep. Dream.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve been fortunate to participate in Leadership Nashville this year, an intense discussion-based group. The 44 members of this year’s class hail from distinctly different backgrounds and bring wildly different outlooks, enthusiasms, political opinions and priorities. “Be who you are, because we’re going to figure it out anyhow. You might as well just be honest to start with,” advised Jerry Williams, the executive director, in our opening session. I think that’s pretty good advice for everyone.
I love the deep truth of her message: What’s more important in this world — apart from loving your neighbor — than to be who you are?
List three things you can’t live without.
- Hot tea in the morning. English Breakfast preferred but very flexible.
- Votive candles on the kitchen table at night. Even with pizza.
- Gigamunch on Monday nights — my new favorite thing!
Thank you, Jennifer! Be sure to hear Jennifer’s voice through her fabulous updates each week at Bacon on the Bookshelf.
Special thanks to Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography for the gorgeous photos of Jennifer today!
More inspiring women in the Nashville community:
Dr. Taly Drimer-Kagan was born in Romania, went to medical school in her home country and did her psychiatric residency in Israel. Today, she serves as the Medical Director of the Senior Life Unit at TriStar Skyline Madison. CLICK HERE and get to know our newest FACE of TriStar, who is making a tremendous difference in the lives of this very special population of patients — and their families!