THE BOOK TOUR. We’ve all heard about them: the author reading for an audience of three, two, one, none. You fly across the country to San Francisco, feeling important. You are chauffeured to the bookstore, attended by a literary escort. Signs all over the store announce your event at 7 P.M. A voice comes over the intercom: You’ll find India Palmer in the children’s section. She’ll be reading from her new book, Generation of Fire, and signing copies. Five minutes till show time. There, squeezed into the children’s section, between rows of Mazy and Olivia and Lilo and Stitch and Goodnight Moon, are a couple of dozen chairs in front of which stands a microphone and a table with your books neatly stacked, several standing prominently on display.
In the back row sits one old lady. It took six years to write Generation of Fire! Oh well, you think gamely, the show must go on. You notice the old lady is unwrapping something from a paper bag. She takes out a small tin and rests it in her gnarled, arthritic hand, and with her other hand she pries off the lid. Her hair is long and white and unbrushed. The can she has opened, you realize, though she is a good many rows removed from you, is tuna fish. The oily smell wafts toward you. She proceeds to eat it with a plastic fork pulled from the folds of her dress.
Onward! You read for her. With all the emotion you can muster. There is someone else in the audience: a young girl, who arrives late. When you’re finished, she raises her hand earnestly. “Yes?” you ask. Her eyes are bright and her skin is aglow with teenage youth. She has an athletic build and an innocence that makes you ache for her. “I have an assignment I need to do for my English class,” she says. “I’m supposed to interview an author. Can I interview you?”
From Chapter Nine of Dear Money