When food writer and historian Joy Santlofer died unexpectedly in 2013, she was in the midst of completing her first book, a deep-dive into the history of food-making in New York City. To help see the project through to publication, Joy’s daughter Doria Santlofer launched a Kickstarter campaign in October 2015, raising more than $32,000, several thousand dollars past the campaign goal, to fund the work required to complete the book. Now, more than three years after her death, Joy’s book is set to go on sale—Food City: Four Centuries of Food-Making in New York will be published by Norton on November 1.
Alane Mason, v-p and executive editor at Norton, bought the book in 2009. At the time of Joy’s death, the manuscript was 200,000 words, “full of amazing research and fine-grained, close-to-the-ground detail,” said Mason. The contract targeted 75,000 to 100,000 words, and, according to Mason, it is not uncommon for historians to deliver over-long manuscripts. “It is hard for even those with many books under their belts to wrestle the research they find when they go down the proverbial rabbit hole into a length and a narrative shape that consistently engages casual readers,” said Mason. “This was a first book, so Joy had a lot of work ahead of her.” According to Doria, the book still required a substantial amount of editing, some additional research, photo permissions, and a large bibliography to compile.
At first, Mason hoped an in-house team at Norton would be able to finalize the book. “I had a kind of fantasy that maybe, with the help of an assistant, I could get the book into shape myself,” said Mason. “But really, it was too much to do an editor's work and an author's work of revision also, while managing a heavy load of other books.” The author’s husband, bestselling novelist Jonathan Santlofer, attempted to fine tune the book, but also found the task too overwhelming. “We realized that what we needed was someone who could revise who also had the sensibility and contextual knowledge of an historian,” said Mason.
Using the resources raised via Kickstarter, Jonathan enlisted industry veteran Jack Beatty, a “total pro of an editor,” said Mason. Beatty, an author himself and former editor of Harper’s, did “a marvelous job stepping into Joy's shoes, bringing his own brilliant vision about how the book should be organized, but remarkably, staying true to Joy's voice,” said Mason. Doria then took on the Herculean task of photo research and permissions clearing, while Jonathan and Joy’s sister, Kathy Rolland, former Ombudsman of Hunter College, reviewed Beatty’s edits.
“It was good to have Kathy reading along with me because she was an academic, a very savvy reader and a good shoulder to lean on, as was my daughter,” said Jonathan. Jonathan added that Joy’s fellow food historians, including Jonathan Deutsch, Renee Marton, Ellen Stein, Meryl Rosofsky and Cathy Kaufman, were “invaluable” readers, while Jennifer Berg and Marion Nestle, her colleagues at New York University (where Joy taught in the Food Studies program) have been “great” supporters of the book.
After a lengthy and collaborative editorial process, Jonathan said he is “thrilled” about the publication date nearing, but that the moment is still bittersweet. “Food City is coming into the world without Joy,” said Jonathan. “It was not easy for me to be immersed in my late wife’s work. Obviously, there is a strong emotional component for me. There were numerous obstacles along the way but I felt I could not quit, that I owed it Joy to make sure her life’s work made it to publication.”
Doria shares her father’s sentiments about getting the book to press. “I couldn't be happier that my mother's work will finally be shared, but it's heartbreaking that she won't be here to enjoy it,” she said. “Working on Food City has kept us both connected to her over the past few years and it's an emotional process to have it finally completed.”