A cheeky Twitter challenge between two authors aims to raise $500k for refugees.


The velvet-voiced ‘American Gods’ author could soon be doing a very special reading.

Like so many of the world’s great stories, this one involves a couple of well-known authors, half a million dollars in charity, social media, and The Cheesecake Factory.

It began when author and comedian Sara Benincasa issued a somewhat silly challenge to fellow author Neil Gaiman on Twitter: If she could raise $500,000 for charity, would Gaiman commit to hosting a staged reading of The Cheesecake Factory’s (surprisingly lengthy) menu?

Much to Twitter’s delight, Gaiman said yes and selected the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as his charity.

OK, but why Cheesecake Factory? Why Gaiman? Why that charity?

“Neil’s a magnificent human,” explains Benincasa over direct message on Twitter. “Cheesecake Factory is the greatest restaurant of all time. I love to contribute to good causes, though I surely don’t have a half million dollars on hand.”

For years, Gaiman has been an advocate for refugees around the world, so UNHCR made for an obvious choice. The whole project combines, as Benincasa writes, “the truly goofy with the truly meaningful.”

You know you want to hear this man describe this piece of cheesecake. Photos by Darryl James/Getty Images and Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Cheesecake Factory.

$500,000 is a lot of money to raise, but Gaiman feels confident Benincasa can deliver.

“Sara Benincasa is a powerful woman and I am glad she uses her powers for good,” Gaiman says over e-mail. “At least, I hope she’s using her powers for Good. Because I strongly suspect I’m going to be doing a public reading of the Cheesecake Factory Menu.”

As a bit of a bonus, if Benincasa is able to raise a full million dollars, Gaiman has also agreed to read Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Socks” in his wonderfully warm and velvety voice.  (Here’s a video of him reading Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” — you’re welcome.)

While this is all in good fun, it’s an important reminder that the refugee crisis is very much ongoing and that refugees need our help now as much as ever.

65.3 million people worldwide have been displaced by one crisis or another, and it’s on the rest of us to pitch in and help — for the sake of humanity.

This 2014 photo shows a Syrian mother and son in a Turkish refugee camp. Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images.

Benincasa says the project is “a selfish way to marry [her] three favorite things (awesome art, a wonderful cause, and the world’s most perfect food),” as well as a bit of a thank you to Gaiman and others who work hard to support refugees — even when there’s no cheesecake involved.

Learn more details about the project and donate at the campaign’s Crowdrise page.





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