Andrea reviews BITTER IS THE NEW BLACK: Confessions of a Condescending,  Egomaniacal, Self-centered Smart-ass by Jen Lencaster, Penguin Books, 2006, 398 pages. If the title alone did not grab my attention, the subtitle defintely lured me in. Admittedly, this is not a brand new title. I realize it was published nearly 16 years ago but the plot will resonate with her readers even now.

Jen Lancaster was a hot shot, larger than life egotistical corporate player in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Vain and materialistic, too. She believed she was living the dream, being untouchable in her Prada and Gucci and other namebrand, very expensive wear. She was looking to move even higher in the New York corporate world when it happened.The bombing of the Twin Towers occurred on the day she was to interview downtown.

Yes, 9/11. We in this generation will always remember this day of infamy just as our parents will always remember John Kennedy’s assassination and our grandparents will remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Jen was laid off from her esteemed, well-paying corporate job because the tragedy bankrupted her company as well as many other financial institutions in major cities. She and her soon to be husband, Fletch, went from living extravagant lifestyles to having to juggle between feeding themselves or keeping the central heat or air on. For five years, the couple steadily looked for employment just so they survive. No job was underneath them. Some jobs worked out; some did not. Jen learned about the welfare system and how to eke out funds for meals and necessary medications. She was resourceful but had a buoying sense of humor when times looked so bleak and downright scary.

Honestly, readers will probably not like the Jennifer Lancaster in the beginning of her memoir. I didn’t. She was awful, condescending and pretty much a real witch. Once she got knocked down from her ivory tower, she became more of a sympathic hero. She never once wanted to be a charity case but wanted others to show compassion.

9/11 was a tragedy in its own right just as the 2020 pandemic is. Showing compassion and not judging others was the way we overcame the 2001 bombings. It will also be the way we will rise up from 2020.