Life in Uganda, and other stories

Three local authors debut popular novels
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Hoboken resident of 38 years Dr. Jennifer Jolly tells the story of her life in newly liberated Uganda in “The Elusive Baboon.”
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Hoboken resident of 38 years Dr. Jennifer Jolly tells the story of her life in newly liberated Uganda in “The Elusive Baboon.”
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“Best Friend for Hire” is a novel by former Hoboken resident Mary Carlomagno.
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Hoboken resident of 38 years Dr. Jennifer Jolly tells the story of her life in newly liberated Uganda in “The Elusive Baboon.”
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Hoboken resident of 38 years Dr. Jennifer Jolly tells the story of her life in newly liberated Uganda in “The Elusive Baboon.”
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“Best Friend for Hire” is a novel by former Hoboken resident Mary Carlomagno.

Three authors with a Hoboken connection have released unique books in the past year – a novel, a memoir, and a business how-to.
Each book depicts a type of transition, whether a change in location, career, or mission. These wordsmiths either currently reside in Hoboken or have used Hoboken as their novel’s backdrop.

Life during Ugandan unrest

Dr. Jennifer Jolly, a resident of Hoboken since 1979, released her memoir “The Elusive Baboon: A Ugandan Odyssey” in June 2017. It received praise from fellow authors and five stars on Amazon.
“It’s about a totally different time in Uganda and I thought it might be nice for my family and friends to see what I’ve done and experienced,” said Jolly. “Truthfully, it was one of the most dangerous but most exciting parts of my life…I learned a lot during that experience.”
When Jolly was a young British woman in the 1960s, she traveled with her primatologist husband Cliff and small daughter Caroline to newly independent Uganda. She and her family had to find ways to adapt, and encountered challenges in conducting groundbreaking fieldwork on wild baboons.
At one point they were surrounded by a herd of buffalo. They also encountered packs of pachyderms and unfamiliar cultures, vegetation, and disease.
While there, civil war erupted and the country later descended into the murderous years of Idi Amin. She dealt with a complicated life-threatening second pregnancy in a hospital riddled with bullets.
Jolly said she decided to write the book after retiring from the corporate world. She had been working as an organizational psychologist and attended a few writing workshops in the area.
“I never thought of writing a book, but I put a lot of notes down while I was in Africa and I had them all piled up on a shelf for years because I was busy working,” she said. “I joined a few writing groups, one at Symposia books led by John McCaffrey and he suggested I turn it into a larger work.”
She said it took her about two years to write and her daughter Caroline and son Eric were “supportive but a bit skeptical about what their mother was up to.”
“Now that it’s written and they read it, they were pleased,” said Jolly. “Caroline said to me that it was much more interesting then she expected.”
The book was published by Full Court Press, a self-publishing company.
She said revisiting the memories made her nostalgic for former times.
“I think looking back, I was glad we went out there when we did,” said Jolly. “It was such a beautiful country, but I don’t think I would want to go back now. It wasn’t touched by modernity at all [back then], but from what I understand from friends who have gone, Uganda is now been ravaged by invasions and AIDS and the cities have become much more crowded with scooters everywhere. I’ve heard the house we stayed in is gone now and the Budongo Forest has become much smaller.”
She said she hopes readers not only take away a sense of how difficult scientific field research can be, but also a sense of “the beauty of the country and the wonderful people there. The people there were incredibly poor, but some of the most generous with what they had.”
Her book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Jersey girl begins again

Mary Carlomagno, who lived in Hoboken for 17 years, released her first work of fiction, “Best Friend for Hire” in June 2017 (published by Post Hill Press, a division of Simon & Schuster.)
“I didn’t think I could do it,” said Carlomagno. ‘I let it sit for 10 years, and then my husband said, don’t be that person who dies with a novel they never published sitting in a drawer.”
The book follows Italian Jersey girl Jessie DeSalvo. She has a dream job at one of New York’s top publishing companies for ten years, then gets fired.
Jessie retreats to Hoboken to figure out her life—and deal with the attention of her loving but inquisitive Italian-American family. While there she accidentally stumbles into a career as a professional best friend who helps friends and strangers straighten out whatever is wrong with their lives. Her jobs include planning the New Jersey wedding of the year and saving a bankrupt rock club in town.
Things get complicated when she falls in love with the club manager—and promises him an appearance by Bruce Springsteen.
“I wanted to write about real Italian-American life in NJ,” said Carlomagno. “Not the one of a stereotype of people throwing tables in restaurants or going to jail, but in a positive way. And I wanted to write about Hoboken as I lived there the longest of anywhere else in my life.”
She said the rock club is based on Maxwell’s and the main character follows a similar path to Carlomagno’s life.
“I worked in publishing for years before I became a professional personal organizer,” she said.
Carlomagno who currently lives in New Providence, N.J., said the hardest part of writing the book was getting the confidence to do so.
“Fiction is horrible. In fact, I had to get confident and let go of insecurities to go for it,” she said, laughing. “It is completely frightening. I would think William Faulkner would rise up and say, ‘How dare you, for thinking your book could be placed on the same shelf as mine.’ Once I got it in my mind that I don’t have to be William Faulkner, I felt a lot better.”
She hopes her book will be transformed into either a movie or television series.
“Best Friend for Hire” can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Compassionate organizations

Ethan Chazin, a local business coach and resident of 20 years, had his second book, “The Compassionate Organization,” published by AuthorHOUSE (a self-publishing company) in November 2017.
His book explores how organizations build cultures that thrive by having a moral compass, mission statements, and bridge the generational gap, so employees want to go to work every day.
“The days of one employer per career are gone,” said Chazin in an interview. “In today’s economy, people change jobs on average eight to 10 times before they are 35. Mature workers and Baby Boomers are leaving the workplace by the tens of thousands every day.”
Chazin said that with people changing jobs often, and his college students having trouble finding jobs, he thought he should write about transitions companies should be making to become successful.
“I teach at Stevens Institute of Technology and St. Peter’s University and NYU, and many of my students who graduated came out of school and didn’t have any relationship with any local business owners and no job prospects,” said Chazin.
Chazin said people aren’t loyal to organizations and companies anymore. But they want to do work that matters and be involved in great things. He said it’s this drive that can allow companies to either thrive or, if they don’t develop compassion, fail.
“Millennials expect that the organizations they work for and buy from to share their values and possess a moral compass,” said Chazin. “Understanding how to build and maintain a compassionate organization should be top of the mind for anyone.”
Chazin’s book can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at