Jesmond Goes Global: the American ex-pat

As part of a series of stories running intermittently throughout the year, JesmondLocal will be interviewing the people from many cultures, races and countries around the world resident in Jesmond. Our ‘Jesmond Goes Global’ series begins with Julie Grady Thomas, an American ex-pat.

American ex-pat, Julie Grady Thomas, has been living in Jesmond for the past two years after meeting her husband, a Jesmond native, at a Texan wedding.

Following a modern romance through Skype and travelling the UK and US together, they decided to tie the knot and pack up her job at a French-American school in New York and make the big move across the pond.

Originally settling in Wales, Grady Thomas then headed up north to Newcastle. Wearing an oversized cardigan and a T shirt which said “Home” representing Worcester, Massachusetts, she was warm and chatty with a direct gaze and frank demeanour when discussing everything from Donald Trump to finding her voice through comedy.

Julie Grady Thomas outside Harvest Cafe on St George’s Terrace

It was immediately clear from her reaction to events going on back home in the States that she was still disturbed by the election of Donald Trump. Grady Thomas apologised for not being able to contribute much more to the arguments already presented but her disheartenment was very clear and at one point she seemed to struggle with finding the right words, admitting November’s election results are “still really raw”.

It was hard for her to come to terms with the fact that in America there still is a group of people who “do not care for women; they do not care for women with any kind of intelligence or power”. She believes Clinton was probably the most qualified person ever who “works harder than Beyoncé” so thinks she should have been given more credit. She paused a couple of times when the music playing throughout Harvest Café, noting how appropriate Buffalo Springfield’s Vietnam protest song “For what it’s worth” was for our topic of conversation.

She drew comparisons between the situation in America and post-Brexit Britain. She knew that after Brexit, America would follow and for her, we need to get to the heart of why people feel afraid and why they are nervous on both sides of the Atlantic.

She believes we seem to have a false sense of nostalgia rather than dealing with the issues we are facing. Despite her frustrations, she would not think of renouncing her citizenship and firmly believes in the ideals that America was founded on and they really resonate with her.

As our conversation shifted from politics to other aspects of her life in the UK it was very clear she was passionate and optimistic about life. Previously working as a journalist back in the States, Julie works as a freelance writer and editor for publications such as Foodies of New England to development think tanks. This has allowed her to work with people from across the world including faraway places from Tajikistan to Tanzania. She admitted that she does miss journalism and meeting new and interesting people everyday.

Yet, it wasn’t until recently when she took up doing comedy that she found her voice again. She described performing as life-changing and believes everyone should have a go at stand up. “Laughter is the most sacred possible thing that we have, maybe ever – especially right now”, she said, adding that not only is she doing a service to herself and “what makes me the happiest is making other people smile.”

Compared to back home – where she was viewed as very negative and cynical – the UK has made her one of the most optimistic people around. Her style of comedy is personal, anecdotal and enjoys the communal feeling of audience participation.