J’aime Rubio was born and raised in California. Besides being a mother of two, she is also an accomplished author and published journalist who has contributed her historical knowledge and investigative research to various newspapers and magazines in both California and Arizona. She is also the host of the new podcast, “Stories of the Forgotten.” Although J’aime spends most of her free time roaming cemeteries and researching the past, she also maintains her website, which links to all of her historical blogs. Her blogs focus on people and places in history, with the hope to give a voice to the voiceless, so that the forgotten will be forgotten no more.
What’s your favorite thing to do in a cemetery?
Finding the graves of the people I research so they are remembered once more. I also love just taking walks in cemeteries as well, because I feel serenity there. Cemeteries are my home away from home.
Tell me about your favorite cemetery.
I have too many cemeteries that I love dearly. I don’t think I can name one particular cemetery I love more than another, but I would have to say it is a close tie between Stockton Rural Cemetery in Stockton and Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Both are in California.
Is there a cemetery or gravesite you’ve always wanted to visit?
If I could, I would visit my favorite author Richard Matheson’s grave, but unfortunately he was cremated and his ashes are kept private, so it is impossible.
What might your epitaph be?
The poem would be changed to a “SHE” instead of a “he” by James Whitcomb Riley ~She Is Not Dead ~ “I cannot say, and I will not say That she is dead. She is just away. With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand, She has wandered into an unknown land And left us dreaming how very fair It needs must be, since she lingers there. And you—oh you, who the wildest yearn For an old-time step, and the glad return, Think of her faring on, as dear In the love of There as the love of Here. Think of her still as the same. I say, She is not dead—she is just away.”
Do you have a favorite song about cemeteries or graveyards?
Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and the theme from Somewhere In Time by John Barry: I would want that played at my funeral.
Death’s Garden Revisited: Personal Relationships with Cemeteries was a finalist in the Travel/Travel Guide category of this year’s Next Generation Indie Book Awards!
The book Death’s Garden Revisited collects 40 powerful personal essays — accompanied by full-color photographs — to illustrate why people visit cemeteries. Spanning the globe from Iceland to Argentina and from Portland to Prague, Death’s Garden Revisited explores the complex web of relationships between the living and those who have passed before.
Last September, Death’s Garden Revisited came out from Blurb.com in a glorious hardcover edition full of huge, lovely cemetery photos. The colors are exquisite. The edition was everything I’d dreamed of. There’s a preview of it available on Blurb.
I’ve been wanting to create an ebook edition for people who couldn’t afford an expensive art book. I shouldn’t have been surprised that a book crammed with full-color photos would make an enormous ebook. Finally, after many hours of effort and several family crises, Death’s Garden Revisited is now available for preorder on Amazon for the kindle. Check it out here: https://amzn.to/3EzIqws.
The first edition will go out of print sometime next year, in preparation for the updated new edition. If you prefer the black & gold cover, get yours soon! Click on the cover.
Things are coming along nicely on 222 Cemeteries to See Before You Die. Since my last update, my editor went over the text, but didn’t make many changes except to rein me in when I went on too long. I loved the photos she chose for illustrations. There were a few cemeteries where we couldn’t find good images — but I had pictures of the Canadian churchyard and some of the Facebook cemetery groups submitted photos of the other two. I am really pleased with how lovely the update is going to be.
Last week, the copy editor sent me her notes. She’s the person on the editorial team who doublechecks all the names, dates, and statistics. She was really thorough and I am completely relieved. There’s nothing better than an editorial team who’s got your back.
I think the next time I see the book will be after the designer finishes with it. I’ve already seen a draft of the beautiful new cover. I can’t wait to be able to share it.
I think we’re ahead of schedule for 222 Cemeteries to See Before You Die to come out in Autumn 2024.
I got yet another draft of the Death’s Garden Revisited ebook back from that book’s designer. We’ve had a huge struggle with those ebooks because all the photos made the book too large to upload to a Kindle.
I think we’ve gotten the problem sorted finally. I want to go over everything one last time before I release it into the world. Fingers crossed that it will be out in September 2023.
The hardcover and paperback are already for sale on Blurb.com. You can get 20% off with the code AUGBSTORE20 until August 16!
In and around everything else, I’ve been chiseling away at the essays for Still Wish You Were Here. This is the sequel to Wish You Were Here, my cemetery travel memoir from a couple of years ago. The first book started with me discovering Highgate Cemetery in 1991 and stretched almost to my daughter’s birth in 2003. The new book overlaps the first one some, then will carry me all the way to buying my dad’s headstone earlier this year.
As you can guess, there’s some deeply emotional stories in it, so the book has been a challenge to work on this year. I feel like I’m finally in a better place to get the work done.
The scope of the book is still shifting, but it looks like the book will include 35 essays, visiting cemeteries from San Francisco’s Mission Dolores to the gate of Hell in Kyoto. I’m not sure how many cemeteries in all I will be able to squeeze into the book — that depends on how many I can cram into the introduction! At this moment, I have plans to write about visiting eight countries and eight American states: roughly 45 cemeteries so far.
I had really hoped to get Still Wish You Were Here out in October, but that’s not going to happen. I’d rather have it perfect than timely. I think the new publication date will be in the spring next year.
The primary cemetery project I worked on last year was the Kickstarter and publication of Death’s Garden Revisited: Personal Relationships with Cemeteries.
The book was the culmination of a dream I’ve held for decades. It collects 40 powerful personal essays — accompanied by glorious full-color photographs — to illuminate the reasons people visit cemeteries. Spanning the globe from Iceland to Argentina and from Portland to Prague, Death’s Garden Revisited explores the complex web of relationships between the living and those who have passed before.
I could not be prouder of how this beautiful book turned out. You can get a copy of your own from Blurb.com.
I’ve been working on another collection of my own cemetery travel essays, a sequel to Wish You Were Here. Still Wish You Were Here will be a collection of 35 (or so) cemeteries, exploring graveyards from the California Gold Country to Rome, Singapore, and Tokyo. I’d hoped to have it finished by the end of 2022, but family trouble complicated that. The paperback will be out this summer.
I only gave one lecture in 2022. I presented “Using Crowdfunding to Support Cemetery Projects” during the online conference for the Association for Gravestone Studies on 6/9/22.
Short Cemetery Nonfiction:
I had a bunch of short pieces published, most of them in connection with promoting Death’s Garden Revisited.
I was almost interviewed about cemeteries at the last minute by the BBC! It was the day after we’d moved into our new house and I didn’t yet know where my microphone was so, in the end, I was relieved that they booked someone else. I had a really nice interaction with the showrunner, though. Maybe this year?
Doing my first kickstarter this year was one of the most intense months of my life. Death’s GardenRevisited raised more than $5k. The campaign was chosen by Kickstarter as a Project We Love.
I hosted my first Ask Me Anything on Twitter. So many great cemetery questions! I look forward to doing another this year.
Dr. Sharon Pajka hosted a Cemetery Happy Hour. A handful of Death’s Garden contributors created cocktails to celebrate their favorite cemeteries. Check out this very fun and short video: https://youtu.be/H5BN8WWZq-c
It’s that time again, when everyone’s fancies turn to cemeteries. I’ve been out there, talking up the joys of visiting graveyards.
Horror Addicts focused the last hour of their October podcast on Death’s Garden Revisited. Horror hostess Emerian Rich (also a contributor to the book) interviewed me, then contributors E.M. Markoff, Francesca Maria, and Brian Thomas read tastes of their essays. If you’re trying to get in the mood for the season, check it out.
The National Funeral Directors Association interviewed me about 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Death’s Garden Revisited for their podcast, Remembering a Life.
The Washington Post asked me for some context for recipes appearing on headstones: They’re To Die For.
199 Cemeteries inspired another Washington Post journalist to begin exploring cemeteries. Along the way, she talked to a lot of taphophiles I’ve met via twitter. You have to love her headline: Why We Love a Good Cemetery.
In and around all of that, I’ve been getting the copies of Death’s Garden Revisited in the mail to the contributors and the Kickstarter backers. If you’d like a copy of your own (and who wouldn’t? It’s gorgeous!), you can click on the book cover above and be taken to Blurb.com. It’s available in hardcover and oversized paperback now. The ebook version should be coming soon.
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