Two years ago, right before she became R.J. Palacio and released her debut novel,Wonder, Raquel Jaramillo, her husband and two sons were, if there is such a thing, a fairly typical Park Slope family. Both parents worked in publishing, their kids attended school in the neighborhood and they spent part of each summer in Montauk. But the phenomenal success of the book, which has sold more than a million copies, changed everything.
“Life has taken this strange, unexpected turn,” says Jaramillo, who came up with the pseudonym as a means of not embarassing friends in the industry when she was shopping her manuscript around. (R.J. came from her own initials, while Palacio was her mother’s maiden name.) The book, about a ten-year-old boy born with a constellation of facial deformities who struggles to navigate school for the first time, has not only touched grade and middle schoolers worldwide but has gained traction with grown-ups, too.
Wonder has also, quite by surprise, given rise to a grassroots movement, Choose Kind, named after a quote in the book: “When given a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” So in addition to her day job, being a mom and getting a start on a new book, Jaramillo has been doing speaking engagements across the country, in which she gives her family full props for their contribution to Wonder. “From the beginning, my family’s been part of the book-making process,” she says. “It’s been an amazing experience for all of us.”
City day trip
“In addition to the American Museum of Natural History, which will always be a family favorite, we love the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The kids used to love the knights in shining armor when they were younger. And I love the medieval art section.”
“One of my personal favorite spots, though I don’t think I’ve ever taken the kids there, is the hulking remains of the 1963 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. I grew up in Flushing, and I have home movies of my parents taking me to that World’s Fair. That giant metal globe [the Unisphere] is still a work of wonder to me.”
“Our local cinema is the Pavilion, though it can get kind of sticky in there (though it’s getting better!). When there’s something coming out that we really want to see—like really “go to the movies”— we’ll head out to the Ziegfeld.”
"We've spent a lot of time in Community Bookstore, one of the great indies in NYC."
"We love Bareburger (170 Seventh Ave at 1st St, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-768-2273, bareburger.com)—not only for its amazing burgers, but they have great vegetarian options, too."
"Everything in Cousin John's (70 Seventh Ave between Berkeley and Lincoln Pls, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-622-7333, cousinjohnsbakery.com) and is our favorite dessert."